The 2013 Budget Appropriations Bill : Stop this madness
By A Koroma
It is that time of the year again when this fiscally irresponsible government of Yaya Jammeh rolls out its annual budget for parliamentary approval. The approval ritual is as predictable as the sun setting in the east, with the Speaker's coming down with his gavel signaling approval without much of a debate. Instead, what we get from a dysfunctional and highly illiterate members of the National Assembly is a chorus of condescending chants of how the Great Leader Yaya Jammeh is in providing the necessary financial resources - conveniently omitting the fact that these resources are our taxes being squandered - for the general welfare of the populace.
In fiscal 2012, the initial appropriations were GMD 5.65 billion with a supplementary budget of GMD 219 million added bring the total expenditure to approximately GMD 6 billion. The trend, as in past years under the Jammeh regime, has been upward without any sign of abating. Instead, the growth in expenditures have been accelerating at unsustainable rates despite repeated IMF warnings - warnings that have come to signify contempt for the Washington institution by a contemptuously dishonest government that has come to perfect the art of fudging the books for the donor community.
The Finance Minister told us last year that the deficit was estimated to be about GMD 466 million most of which will be financed by domestic borrowing. This is to be expected since most donors have folded their wallets in the face of a mounting level of corruption (attested by the Gambia's annual slide in the corruption scale.) The public debt is not only unsustainable but it is stifling growth and adding to the inflationary pressure already experienced by Gambians.
In fiscal 2013, the Finance Minister is at it again. This time, he's brought a budget that appropriates GMD 6 billion of which GMD 1.7 billion or 40% of the budget goes to service our debt leaving GMD 4.3 billion for government operations. Of this amount, GMD 346 million or 8% of the entire national budget goes to the Office of the President. To do what when the Gambia is faced with a deteriorating infrastructure, a declining educational standards due to poor teacher education, lack of basic educational supplies, poor agricultural production, low productivity of the public sector - to mention a mountain of problems brought about by incompetence and high degree and level of corruption that permeates the entire Gambian society.
The budget allocation for the Office of the President is equal to the combined budget allocations for 1. National Assembly 2. Judiciary 3. IEC 4. Public Service Commission 5. National Audit Office and 6. Ministry of Tourism. If you add the budgets of the Ministries of Defense, Interior and (ancillary security agents) Petroleum and Energy portfolios into the mix, Yaya Jammeh effectively controls over 40% of the total budget. For all practical purposes, this exercise is moot since, by definition, the dictator controls the entire country's budget anyway. What it does reminds us is that The Gambia's budget process and the mechanism through which it was supposed to have taken place has fallen victim, together with the other vital institutions, to a corrupt and incompetent government that must be replaced, and replaced soon.