Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Salary increase for Ministers is fiscally irresponsible

Sidi Sanneh 
The budget proposal of the Finance Minister to increase the salaries of cabinet Ministers is both fiscally irresponsible and morally repugnant.

Regardless of the size of the increase - which is unknown to us at this time, which says a lot about the lack of transparency of the regime - the idea of an increase alone is something that should not have been a part of this years budget proposals.

We therefore agree wholeheartedly with Hon. Samba Jallow, one of two members of the  opposition in the National Assembly, in opposing the proposal.  He criticized the increase as "totally unfair" because "it should not be specific [to cabinet ministers], but it has to be across the board."

The Opposition Member of the National Assembly points to the fact that civil servants in general and those at the low end of the pay scale in particular deserve pay raises as well.  In fact, they are more deserving when you consider that this class of workers cannot even afford to buy a bag of rice - Gambia's staple food - at the end of the month.

Proposing to increase the salaries ministers in the midst of an IMF-sanctioned staff monitored program is bad optics, to say the least because it is fiscally irresponsible thing to do.  Of course, it is also inappropriate from an equity standpoint.

The priorities of the regime should focus on trying to get a handle on a ballooning debt, especially domestic debt which is projected to increase in 2016.  A staff audit of the entire civil service must precede any salary adjustment which must be across-the-board, as suggested by Hon. Samba Jallow. Piecemeal approaches to Gambia's budget problems are not going to solve the problems, especially the systemic ones facing the economy.