Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sene-Gambia trade war or economic suicide

Sall and Jammeh in better times
"We will teach him a lesson" were the first words that greeted me when I reached out this morning to a source close to the Macky Sall government to inquire about reports that Gambian businessmen in Senegal. particularly Dakar, are being denied renewal or issuance of "passevent" that allows them to free movement.

It is obvious that without free movement of goods and persons, Gambian businessmen in Senegal will be severely constraint in operating their businesses.

This is just one example of Yaya Jammeh keeps shooting himself in the foot which would have been perfectly fine with most Gambians had it not been that in the process he's inflicting a severe blow to the rest of Gambian society.

For instance, presently the groundnut crop is being sold across the border in Senegal because of the regimes inability to buy it from the Gambian farmer at a competitive price.  Senegal's producer price for groundnut is significantly higher this year resulting in Gambia farmers crossing the border into Senegal to sell their crop.

The official buying agent of the regime, Gambia Groundnut Corporation (GGC) has been a bankrupt agency since its inception.  It relies of government finance to operate and since the regime is experiencing budgetary constraints of its own, the GGC's ability to buy this year's crop is correspondingly limited.

The abrupt and apparent unilateral increase in the tariff levied per truck using the TransGambia road is being viewed by Senegal as a hostile act designed to deliberately harm Senegal's economy and undermine its security in the midst of a terror threat the Sall government is committed to fighting vigorously.  The terror threat is commonly seen as a shared responsibility between the countries, given the unique nature of their geography. But recent developments are causing Senegal to pause and rethink Jammeh's continued erratic and irresponsible behavior.  The ill-timed declaration of The Gambia as an Islamic State is one such behavior that has puzzled its neighbor.

The fact that Jammeh is faced with his toughest presidential elections in two decades only adds to the unpredictability of his future actions.  There are already signs of panic mood of which the increase in the toll for Senegalese commercial trucks which was effected with little or no notice (depending whom you talk to) is one such example.  It is also seen as a tactic employed by Jammeh to divert the attention of Gambians away from an economy that is deteriorating faster than the regime anticipated. So why would Jammeh continue to act irrationally and belligerently towards a neighbor that has a stronger economy.