Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Gambia's Majority Leader justifies ballooning debt

Majority Leader, Fabakary Tombong Jatta
Fabakary Tombong Jatta, Majority Leader of the APRC ruling party in the Gambia's National Assembly said in a newspaper interview that he sees nothing wrong with the country's ballooning public debt.

The country's domestic debt at end December 2014 stands at D 18.7 billion, representing a whopping 38% increase from just 12 months previously.

Fiscal imprudence is what distinguishes the regime of Yaya Jammeh from the Jawara administration they replaced in a coup d'etat, prompting the IMF to step in to negotiate to institute a Staff Monitored Program to be followed  by a bail-out loan.  The recent firing of Finance Minister Touray may have been attributed, in part, to the irresponsible spending habits of a regime that it out of its depths.  The problem is not the Finance Minister.  The problem is Yaya Jammeh and minions like Fabakary Tombong Jatta, Seedy Njie and Yankuba Colley of KMC.

The Assembly Leader defended the rising debt stock by citing other African countries, without naming them, that, he claimed, are faced with similar predicament.  He went to the extent of suggesting that Western nations also have similar public debt problems.

To justify imprudent spending by Fabakary Tombing Jatta is the height of irresponsibility from the Majority Leader of the Assembly who should take blame in approving Supplementary Appropriations requests, year in, year out, by a rubber stamp Assembly.

Faced with increasing public outcry over the irresponsible spending habits of the Jammeh regime, the parliamentary leader, and other APRC party stalwarts, are now forced to respond to a situation that is unsustainable and thus threatens the Gambian economy.

The parliamentary leader had to resort to blaming Sir Dawda Jawara's PPP administration that Jammeh ousted from power through a coup d'etat twenty years ago for the out-of-control spending. It is unfortunate that Mr. Jatta will resort to falsehood by accusing the PPP for the current economic malaise and a burgeoning debt burden that is threatening the livelihood of ordinary Gambians.

Most of the debts inherited by the A(F)PRC regimes from the PPP had been repaid or been written off as far back as 2000 under the heavily Indebted Poor Countries or HIPIC - an IMF-World Bank Program

In December 2000, the Gambia benefited a debt reduction from HIPC in an amount of $ 67 million.The debt relief was to help advance the regime's poverty reduction program and to stimulate economic growth.  The debt reduction will translate into debt service relief over time of $ 91 million.

The Jammeh regime failed to reduce poverty and also failed in its attempt to stimulate economic growth thus wasting valuable resources in the form of debt relief to stem the tide.  It is important to note that the current accumulated external debts in question have been under the watch of the Jammeh regime.

The domestic debt burden under Sir Dawda Jawara was negligible after the successful implementation of the ERP in 1986.  Between 1986 and 1994 when Jammeh seized power, both external and domestic debt were manageable and sustainable.

The statement by the Majority Leader justifying irresponsible spending habit of regime is ill-informed and a display of ignorance of public finance which is breathtakingly embarrassing.  No wonder the public finances of The Gambia are in such a mess.  And as long as these characters stay in power, matters will only get worse.