CREEPING DISILLUSIONMENT AND CTRITCALNESS OF REFOCUSING DIRECTION OF REFORM
When Halifa Sallah and his party officials refused ministerial jobs in the new government, there was much hullabaloo, consternation and wailing of betrayal and abdication for responsibility. That PDOIS executives were primed to put their vast theoretical experience into test and effect the direction of the embryonic Barrow government to find it bearings at a time of great expectations.
I personally thought Halifa and Seedia were disgruntled saboteurs bent on creating agitation and taking opportunity of any missteps the new government might make and capitalise on it. Alas nothing could be far from the truth. Perhaps they realised that African leaders show their true colours when they taste glory and trappings of executive power. Perhaps they also sensed some whiff of betrayal and the propensity of a power-hungry leader using them for some nefarious agenda and dumping them to destroy their political image and reputation of gnostic purity. Today the wisdom of their rejection is unmistakably poignant. Your excellency I don’t know whether you are aware or not but there is a creeping murmur of disillusionment in your stewardship of the country’s affairs and you need to find fresh impetus, a fresh passion to restore confidence in your ability steer the vehicle of our nation. The way your personal style is panning out is giving credence to the initial suspicion many hard about your lack of exposure to administrative experience and wider realm of world politics and economics. Yaya Jammeh too was taunted as a nymph whose lack of experience could cost the country. He grew quickly into the job. Although you came to power on the democratic platform, he started in a militaristic fashion which employ brute force and intimidation. Hence killing and banishing perceived opponents at the earlier stages of his rule and after consolidation of power.
Mr president you shoulder a huge expectation, aspirations of so many in the diaspora, even spirits of some gallant men and women of exemplary sacrifice (Solo Sandeng and November coup plotters) on the eve of the president election, December 2016. On that faithful night, your own spirit bore courage, determination, sacrifice and yearning to break the knot of a diabolical tyranny perpetrated by one of the most vicious dictators of this century. The country was fully behind you. We supported you with all our resources, even tears and blood because we knew it is easy to move mountains than to uproot a dictatorship. Yaya’s dictatorship was unmatched because he confounded all expectations and succeeded in corrupting even our most elect of God, dazzled the technocrats and controlled state resources in a manner unseen in Gambia’s post-colonial history. Religious leaders, shameless and nefarious technocrats, local leaders and even Jalibas became force of unscrupulous utility to usurp the rights of our people, misappropriation and wanton economic prostitution. With that spirit and hope, Mr president our wary eyes were fixated on your person to see whether you will live up to expectation and become an imitable model or paragon of not only moral virtue but guiding star in the dispensation of justice fairness and stewardship of our meagre resources.
Mr President, we expected radical reforms and dynamism that will transform our economy by putting a brake on wasteful spending, state resource cannibalism, effective service delivery, good heath care and not the least important provide reliable water and power supply. You should have achieved these by now as the Tanzania president Joseph Magufuli was able to do so with great boldness. There is an overwhelming feeling, that the directions you took, certain decisions your government took and certain decisions you refused to take or was slow in taking are signs of an incompetence and fire-fighting strides of a clueless administration, struggling to find its bearing. Mr president some of us dismissed these criticisms as a groaning of an ungrateful agitators and bad losers, old Alkalos and defeated wrestlers but when we look into periscope with both eyes open, we begin to discern that there is a palpable nuance of misadventures and poor judgement. There has been a series of mishaps, one perplexing saga after another, from unexplained dismissal of a pragmatic interior minister Mai Fatty who gave strong credibility to your nymphic administration, then came the preposterous and wasteful youth movement, Faraba saga, dismissal of vice president and Agric minister, your wife’s foundation saga, Gunjur Golden Lead saga etc etc which left an aura of resignation and souring disappointment for many of us, your admirers and foot soldiers The recent revelations about probity of certain transfers to your wife’s foundation account shows not only poor judgement but an intricate desire to defraud the nation, wider ramification of which may taint your own reputation. There is overt feeling that your wife is the power behind the throne, just like Grace Mugabe, she is infatuated with power. The impression was reinforced when pictures of her surfaced sitting beside you in the UN chamber with other world leaders. It does herald good governance and percipient political judgement to have your wife seated in an executive posture as she is your foreign minister, vice president or some political heavy weight. Pictures speak volumes and this one indeed spoke volumes especially no other world ever propelled her spouse into such alluring and distinguishing position of power. Insinuations that your family especially your wife is interfering in state matters and running your politics. No doubt her activities in Foni has been well documented and its fit the Mandinka proverb that “sisayring merimerila leyka afangola kilo tei” meaning very active chick break her own egg. All this mishaps are creating doubt and disillusionment because the people who fought for new political change envisaged a new dawn for Gambian democracy, rule of law, accountability and responsibility on both political and economic realms. Mr President the recent revelation from a UDP MP that you paid D10,000 to members of the legislature presumably to buy their support is very disturbing development and even the dictators Yaya Jammeh may be crunching on his chairs. It smacks a very ugly chapter in our new democracy and smacks of corruption infesting the very heart of the government. The first question is, where is the money from? Was it budgeted?.... once again did some benevolent friend gave you this huge amount of money not for building crumbling infrastructure but political prostitution, what is the cost to the government. This type of stuff is what we hated in the previous regimes and which you swore to avoid. These allegations need to be investigated and dealt with promptly to clear the air. We cannot say only negatives about government’s achievement, that will indict unfairness and lack of balance, failure to acknowledge the distinctive contribution you made and some of your team members. For the first time SSHFC record a massive profit and that parastatal is surrounded with controversy. Again, it is a manifestation of lack of decisiveness and poor governance input into management of the crisis. That saga should be addressed by the board who are the appointed custodians paid to arbitrate and take appropriate action to redress grievance that aroused.
Anyone who visited Gambia during Yaya’s era and then visited Gambia now, will not fail to notice the breeze of freedom and absence of fear. There is marked improvement in human rights, absence of arbitrary arrest, intimidation by security forces and many other commendable achievements which we are proud of. Different commissions have started working and the commission of enquiries into Jammeh government malpractices is making mind-boggling revelations of financial malfeasance of unprecedented and unexpected proportion. There is some modicum of infrastructural development, some at initial stages and some already implemented. The most important achievement is the peace and stability of the economy, price stability and the general stability of the security of the nation that ensure freedom of movement and associations, political expression is ostensibly undimmed while the vibrance of media is unprecedented. All these achievements are saluted and assured of our collaboration and encouragement. These are not insignificant accomplishments in our nation’s history, our nation has been denied this sort of ambience for 22 years of a diabolical and callous dictatorship. Yet we are yearning for a more reinforced attitude to reform, institutional reforms that will sharpen the efficacy of service delivery especially utilities and infrastructure that will attract much needed investment. Mr president, the need for financial discipline is becoming existential. The government cannot afford to spend the massive grants it got from donors and well-wishers.
For Gambia, to succeed, it has to implement economic and financial discipline not only envisaging cutting waste across the board but inculcate a sense of pragmatism and financial prudence in all its functionaries. From president to the teachers in the class rooms, waste, mismanagement and thievery of government resources should be accorded with stiff sanctions while mediocre should be detested and weeded out.
You should start with wasteful and non-value adding travel to non-value adding conferences just to extract by stealth, hefty per-diem from government coffers. This need to be given legislative and financial reform priority
No nation achieved sustainable development by dependent on grants Your excellency all African nations that contracted huge loans and got grants from multilateral agencies like World Bank and IMF in the 1970s to the 90s, world powers like USA, Europe etc, are virtually failed state in terms of socio-economic development. None ranked high in human development (HDI) rakings of nations, in GDP growth rankings and other development parameters even though they got massive grants to finance various projects of great infrastructural significance. Why? Simply because if you don’t have the governance, legal, financial control structures in place to manage the resources of a nation efficiently, it will just be like throwing a sheep in the midst of hyenas.
Secondly grants and loans alone, have never been the panacea or antidote to create development, other ingredients like good leadership, good government and workforce is of vital importance but what I picked as more powerful antidote is creating internal efficiency by cutting waste, good tax system that provide internal reservoir of wealth for the nation. A country must have good tax system to ensure everyone pays a fair share of national development funds to create opportunity for the government to provide basic amenities and infrastructures developments.
The system must be properly administered and seem to be fair. The leadership must put the revenue to good and tangible used because once people realised that their hard-earned monies are squandered by government officials, they will be reluctant to pay tax.
A new broaden Tax Regime.
The ideas and recommendation promulgated here were orchestrated in my last articles and are paraphrased here verbatim for emphasis. First action is a proper and elaborate review of the Gambia Tax System, evaluation of GRA in terms of human resources, IT System and administrate competence. The Finance Minister as a matter of urgency need to institute a tax reform to broaden the tax base and assert more administrative controls. Small businesses as I protested in my last article must provide a tax cuisine for the government in ways that does not burden them but is fair and proportionate. How many small businesses ranging from shops to builders, tailors, welders, mechanics earn more than D100,000 per annum yet pay no tax. Is it fair for a teacher who earned less than D36,000 per annum pay tax while a farmer who earn D100, 000 from his cashewnut, mango, cassava, orange farm pay no taxes. What about the plethora of artisans, tradesmen and women who earn more than civil servants pay no business taxes for the simple reasons that govern failed to register them for tax. The same goes for thousands of intricate and informally constituted small businesses own by people from neighbouring countries who siphon there profits to their countries of origin without due regard to their tax obligation to host country. How many local bakeries, Kolanut tables,"Ngendenjai" whose annual income surpasses police service men's and women's income yet are not registered for tax.
How many Ghanaians, Freetonians, Nigerians provide expensive private classes gather huge income for many years yet pay no tax to the state.I saw an advert in which the GRA is encouraging registration for tax, a welcome development but is not enough, there must be a legal framework that provide bases for a compulsory registration, the need for providing annual company accounts or self-assessment returns.
The GRA should also re-examine Capital Gains Tax on land sale. Most land sales especially at community level are completed at the Alkali’s domain and the title change hands without attracting any CGT at that level. It's only when people want to register their land, title changes reaches government bureaucracy where CGT can be applied. The last two decades witness emergence of communal land sales to estate developers which can run into millions. Government need to review these sales to determine whether the right amount of taxes were paid. What about fishermen who in a day can scoop thousands of Dalasis and perhaps hundreds of thousands in a year. Are they properly registered as self-employed or registered as small businesses. All these required re-examination.
The ubiquitous taxis that ply the roads, nooks and hooks of Serrekunda, as numerous as birds, what about the kelekeles and truck drivers who bring sand and gravel to construction sites, are they registered for tax with the thousands if not hundreds of thousand they earn in a year. GRA can link annual licence renewals to providing annual accounts or returns for taxation.
There must be a nationwide campaign to sensitize potential tax payers the need for swift registration and the associated sanctions. There must be an IT infrastructure to provide complete and effective Tax administration and online communications just like UK HMRC does. The current TIN number system is a good attempt and need to be associated will self- assessment of personal tax. If there a proper tax system that register all small businesses and individuals as self-employed, there is a great job creation potential for Accountants, IT technicians and even new graduates. Sir, take the bull by horn and play the reform tune, encompassing the civil service and parastatals. Some Parastatal have the same incompetent board of directors since time immemorial and that same board approved wasteful spending during Jammeh era. Approving prestigious projects, risky investments to name the few. They allowed staff to massacre vital funds of parastatal like SSHFC, hiding their loot as staff loans which remain unpaid for years. The board of SSFHC need a complete revamp to bring in new blood of fresh and forward thinking members.
It is percipient for the President to attune himself to work with honest Gambians in the diaspora especially those who worked selflessly to bring changes. They should not be seen as willing saboteurs but partners in development with an immense role to play. Their criticisms should be channelled positively by not concentrating on the form but on the substance. Notably among them are Seedy Sanneh, Bakary Bunja Darboe, Sidat Jobe, Dr Nyang, Musa Mbenga to name the few. Let the president appreciate fresh ideas, fresh people who are not tainted with Yaya' s pass escapades and useless economic and financial adventurism, a myopic paradigm premised on prodigious and ill-conceived projects to project power than to institute meaningful changes to better the life of the people.
Sir the position of the SG which I will deal in subsequently articles need to be reviewed and make fit for this new dispensation. SG position should be apolitical and remain exclusively civil service in breath and reach. The political duties should be assigned to a new portfolio as in UK and USA. You need a chief of staff whose remit of responsibility will encompass the management of state house, oversee implementation of your policies and other political matters. Regimes come and go but the SG being civil must remain protected from the vagaries of political office. In other words the office of SG exemplify continuity and focus of policies.
Mr president, take advantage of the rich reservoir of diaspora expertise scattered in the western world some of who are doing jobs that are not consonant with their education and expertise.
No nation can afford to franchise it development to external donors and power political countries like USA, UK, CHINA etc. These countries have responsibilities their own people and since colonial time, they have consistently sought to dominate less developed countries economically and politically. Thy have a coherent strategy of global economic domination based on tried and tested penetration strategic model. They are not interested in out development because they know if we become industrialised and developed like them, we are going to compete for markets, China has now perfected IMF and World tactic of injecting developing countries with a toxic dose of debt and then gain control of their assets.
Mr President you need to be aware of this phenomena and act shrewdly to avoid mortgaging the feature of your country. You need to tap internal sources of revenue by cutting wasteful and broaden the tax base as I submitted in this article.
Lamin Darboe Leicester UK