Sunday, November 23, 2014

Why Vision 2016 will fail miserably

Yaya Jammeh's false and pretentious claim of making The Gambia self-sufficient in rice has been questioned by serious agriculture as well as development experts.

The president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has said so in many words by couching his response to the question of whether a country that has experienced a 70% decline in agricultural production and spending $ 50 million annually to import rice can be self-sufficient in rice in 2016. 

His response was : yes, it is an ambitious objective but attainable BUT "it also calls for strengthening of institutions, consistencies in policies, an enabling environment for the private sector and massive investment in rural infrastructure."  This qualifier was conveniently and deliberately omitted by the regime in it's rush to give the impression that IFAD's boss is a validator of goals of Vision 2016 which says The Gambia will attain rice self-sufficiency by 2016.

IFAD was not the only one to distance itself from the target and the timeline of achieving the goal of Vision 2016 designed with the cynical political objective of giving something that a hopeless population can cling on to as elections approach.  The in-country heads of the UNDP and FAO have all essentially said the same thing as the IFAD boss, and have couched their language vague enough to keep them from being declared persona non grata by the idiosyncratic dictator, to borrow a description of Jammeh by Taiwan after last years diplomatic fall-out. 

To demonstrate how preposterous Vision 2016 is, we are willing to give in on all the institutional constraints, consistencies in policies, an enabling environment for the private sector and massive investment in rural infrastructure.  Even if all of these conditions have been fulfilled, the labor requirements cannot be fulfilled under the current production model being employed, especially as it relates to labor.

Presently, Jammeh is using involuntary labor by coercing villagers into providing their labor free of charge.  To refuse to 'volunteer' means severe penalties including but not limited to being labeled "opposition supporter" which will ultimately land you in jail.  A model of production where the cost of labor is zero is unsustainable in the long term even where the goal is reached in the timeline prescribed in Vision 2016. 

Traditional agriculture is labor intensive and thus a critical input.  If it remains "free", the total cost of production is necessarily distorted as the Jammeh model is, which is not a surprise to those familiar with how public policy is generated in Banjul these days - around a brewing 'attaya' (Chinese green tea) in a vous-like surroundings with junior army officers and hangers-on with no idea of how a modern state is run.  Their idea of governance comes through the eyes of Nollywood. and that's why Gambia is in such a mess as it finds itself.