Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bad policies = "The Back Way"

Interior Minister Sonko
Boat full of economic/political migrants
Ousman Sonko, Gambia's Interior Minister, looked to the Mullahs at the government-sponsored Supreme Islamic Council (SIC), led by Imam Momodou Lamin Touray, for some form of divine intervention to help reverse the migration of Gambian youth.

He reasoned for engaging the SIC in this way is "since human beings listen to three categories of people : those in government, religious and traditional leaders".  He was addressing members of a non-governmental, non-religious and non-traditional civil group that calls itself "Operation No Back Way to Europe" about the perils of venturing across the Mediterranean in small boats.

According to the minister, parents are encouraging the youth to migrate, implying that left to their own devices, they'd stay at home.  Parents are driven by the prospects of receiving remittances from their children once they reach their European destinations.  This view does not seem to be supported by reports filed and interviews conducted by news agencies along the route through Burkina Faso, Niger to Libya.

Gambian journalists who interviewed Gambian youth in fish markets in Bakau and other locations also paint a picture different from the minister's assertions.  The youth's main complaint is that there are  no employment opportunities in The Gambia. They are in the markets selling fish so that they can gain enough to make the trip through the Back Way, as the treacherous route is known locally.

A reporter from a publication called "Front Page International interviewed a 27 year old Banjul city driver named Bakary Sanyang whose views closely represents of those scrambling to leave by the Back Way when he revealed that his D5,000 or $125.00 per month "can't keep him in The Gambia".   He continued, "I will go to Europe because in The Gambia everything is expensive.  It is difficult for a family man to survive."  He noted that there are no jobs, and if jobs are available they do not pay a living wage.

All available official data about youth unemployment supports Bakary Sanyang's view.  The job-creating capability of the economy has been significantly reduced because of hostile business environment created by the regime that is not conducive for business to thrive.  As a result,  investors have been fleeing to neighboring countries that provide friendlier atmosphere.  Members of the security forces and of the revenue generating agencies have been known to harass businessmen and women  to the point of extortion.  Taxes are high and that goes for the badly-conceived and badly-implimented VAT have contributed, in no small measure, to the current hostile business environment.

If the economy was creating jobs at a reasonable rate, most of the youth would have stayed, even under the deplorable human rights conditions as long they'd stay out of politics.  But as long as the youth jobless rate continues to hover around 70%, they will continue to vote with their feet in order to escape the harsh reality of poverty - a condition brought about as a result of a combination of bad economic policies, high level corruption and incompetence at every level of government.

Instead of appealing to the Mullahs like Imams Touray and Fatty for divine help, the regime should look at its combined macro-economic policies.  The regime must also increase significantly the level of investment in the Gambian youth.   There's more lip service paid in a very deceptive and condescending way that the regime cares to admit.

Though hard to stomach, the Gambian youth have finally realized that they were being duped all along by Jammeh who promised them jobs in exchange for their votes.  The kids kept their side of the bargain by voting for the regime for the past twenty years.  Unfortunately, Jammeh and his regime failed to keep their side of the bargain which was a promise to make life better for the youth.