Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fool me once

The euphoric and celebratory editorial of the Daily Observer of today, about the increase of the 2014 producer price of groundnut (peanuts) is further confirmation, if one was ever needed, of the government's approach to public policy, in general, and the agriculture sector policy in particular.

As like most things this government is involved in, public policy is short-term designed to produce instant gratification for the beneficiary and political gain for the regime.  It must also be visible for propaganda purposes even if the policy will end up, as it will most certainly always does, in total disaster.

There are many examples of shenanigans and propaganda ploys in the 20-year history of the Jammeh regime, too numerous to enumerate but we will attempt to remind our readers of a few. The producer price is open to such manipulation for propaganda purposes.  It is, no doubt, an important factor in the scheme of things because it provides an enhanced income to the farmer, but it is only one tool out of many in the tool box. 

The prohibition of credit buying - which is reportedly still going on - is the other side of the producer price coin without which the farmer will take his/her peanuts elsewhere or find an alternative use for it.  Apart from these two, there are numerous other policy measures, including, but not limited to, a strong input supply (fertilizer, quality seed), agricultural research and equally strong extension services should also be in the tool box.  Of course, these vital policy instruments are not sexy and visible enough to command high propaganda value - a commodity that Jammeh thrives on. 

Remember the 'Wartsila' and the 'Pielstick' generators that were escorted on foot by none other than Jammeh himself, from Banjul to Kotu which were to end the darkness that Greater Banjul still finds itself a decade later?  What about the ferries and the elaborate dedication ceremonies and APRC "Yayi Compins" (female political agents) being sucked into the believe that the end of river crossing nightmares of Gambians and Senegalese were over.  It is worse today than anytime since 1994.  These generators and the stories behind them is the subject of our ongoing inquiries into the corrupt practices of this regime. 

It is still very vivid in our collective memories when Jammeh waved a CD in our faces before national television cameras - a disk which purportedly contained the "full data room" or OML (oil mining license), terms I learnt from a Gambian petroleum expert, assuring Gambians that lifting the black gold from the bottom of the ocean was only a year away.  I think he called the blocks "Alhamdulilah A and B ".  This was also almost a decade ago.  He entered into a contract with a Canadian firm in secret, and last week he terminated the contract by accusing the company of engaging in speculation. A law suit against Jammeh for breach of contract and intellectual property theft is imminent. 

These instant propaganda tools employed by Jammeh were effective in the past but not any more.  Gambians have wised-up to the tricks of this snake oil salesman, including the farmers quoted in the DO editorial who kept saying to the interviewer, yes the producer price is up, but what about the government helping us with fertilizer, what about more incentives for farmers etc.  Te farmers are saying to this irresponsible and incompetent regime that there's more to our plight than the producer price.