Putting Barrow’s salary in perspective; D200,000 per month may seem a huge amount to the Gambian on D2000 per month as an absolute figure. However compared to rich business proprietors in Gambia it is peanuts. A rhetorical (no need to answer) question would be what would this mean to someone like Amadou, or Bazzi and other so called captains of commerce? Probably little more than pocket money. On the other hand consider the challenges of a running a country of over 1 million people and bringing it back from the brink of ruin due to 20 years of mismanagement. What is the annual budget of the Gambia, which he is expected to administer with integrity? What is his salary as a percentage of the budget?
The salary has to reflect the job. D200,000 per month is around £3300 or just over $4000. In UK this would be the salary of a junior line manager or a middle grade technician. Yet consider the difference in responsibility and task. In reality Barrow’s salary is peanuts compared to the job, and does not reflect the danger to his life and that of his family. All presidents are at risk of assassination but more so in Africa and Gambia in such a period of transition. Let’s not forget that Jammeh still lurks in the background with the funds, expertise (in the form of jungullars free in nearby countries) to kill him. Not to mention the MFDC on the border if he can manipulate them. If Barrow has accepted the job, it’s not for this salary. I’m sure his monthly business turnover is more than this, if not 10 times this amount, with minimal risk.True he is also given “luxury” housing with all expenses paid, transport, travel and a multitude of other benefits which add up. Heads of state turn grey early for good reason.
Africa has been repeatedly criticised for “corruption”, and the accusations have already been leveled at Barrow’s government. The term “corruption” is mainly a western concept speaking from a perspective of the wealthy to the poor. With a healthy salary, and comfortable life style it’s easy to point the finger at the less fortunate. From the perspective of someone earning a salary that barely amounts to pocket money, with a family, extended family and a huge “dependency” ratio ( at time up to 10 people depending on every salary) it is “survival” or in polite terms “making ends meet”. Due to failed economic policies, and gross mismanagement in the post independence period and changing world economies few African economies grew at the same rate as expectations. This left a huge and now unbridgeable gap between salaries and living standards. To close the gap, first top level then middle level and finally lower grade workers took their salaries at source – where they worked. This dried up investment as the “seed nuts” were eaten instead of being planted leading to a subsistence economy for the majority of the population.
IMF and other institutions tried to impose “Structural Adjustment Programs” which led to much economic hardship , social and political instability. They used a model of a Western Economy and social structure which did not fit the African reality with it’s extended family and high dependency ratio. Hence corruption had to flourish because people have to live and survive. How many of us were fed and educated by parts sold under the counter from PWD, Agric workshop, or medical supplies from the Min. Health etc. ? There’s a saying. “If you didn’t leave fish money, then don’t criticise the meal or ask where it came from”.
When Gambian civil servants have entered the private sector and given better salaries, training and incentives they have become far more productive and disciplined. Apart from the early years of the Jammeh administration government employees are known to spend more time looking for ways to make money than working – the Wolloff expression “taff-taff”. Until there is a significant salary review nothing CAN change. Many in the diaspora tend to forget the reality we left behind. If a sheep is not fed by it’s owner it cannot be blamed for eating the flowers.
The solutions are far beyond me, and the responsibility of those far better trained and paid. My point is that these are very complex and difficult issues to solve and we should allow the new government time and leeway to address them.
In the meantime, deal with the sharks, crocodiles and barracuta but leave the nyalla nyalla (tilapia?) for the time being.
Famagg Kumba NDoffene Joof.
Join The Conversation