Gambia and the Foreign aid
Dear editor M’bai, although many Gambians like me are not huge fans of encouraging foreign aid, the majority of our fellow citizens from all walks of life are. Consequently, they were pretty excited about the outcome of Gambia and the EU donor conference recently held in Brussels. According to media sources, this conference was jointly organized by the Gambia’s government in collaboration with its main development partner the EU. A total of 1.45 billion Euros was pledged by the international community at the conference which will boost the Gambia’s economy in the next three years. However, once again the EU promised, it would inject another 140 million Euros at the top of 225 million Euros which it had already committed to boosting the country’s ailing economy. There is no doubt that Gambians are really grateful for the assistance rendered to the country by the EU since we gained independence in 1965. Therefore, the EU deserved a MASSIVE THANKS from me.
Here is my question: Do we celebrate this achievement or can we do some soul-searching?
Firstly, I think it’s essential to acknowledge the efforts made by HE President Barrow and his entire government because since they took office back in 2017, he has used every means possible to encourage foreign investors to come and invest in the Gambia in order to create jobs and improve the country’s economy. Furthermore, President Barrow and his entourage used the commercial flight from Banjul to Brussels to attend the above mention donor conference. Thus, it has demonstrated that, fiscal discipline is profoundly crucial to him and his administration which is indeed a very encouraging sign.
Conversely, it’s very disappointing that after 53 years of self determination a significant proportion of our GDP is still entirely dependent on foreign aid. Where did things go wrong? Can you imagine; with the abundance of human capital which is in our possession, in addition to the natural resources that we have at our disposal; despite all of this, fifty years down the line we are still relying on those who are supposed to be our equal partners in commerce and trade. Paradoxically, we literarily exist like beggars receiving aid in order to survive. If that is not a cause of national concern for patriotic citizens like me and you, then what else should be? In my opinion, surely we can do much better than this, we ought to recognise that, successive governments cannot do it alone. Forget about the controversies surrounding them; rather than celebrating a short term financial achievement, why can’t we do some soul-searching in order to determine why the Gambia from many aspects is still not self sufficient enough economically, and intellectually?
I keep on mentioning that, there is a need for Gambia to emulate the economic style of Botswana particularly, in the areas of how to explore the country’s natural resources, human development and job creation. The southern African country is a small land-locked country but it managed to build the strong institutions which have enabled Botswana to become a middle income country without any foreign dependency whatsoever. To illustrate my point, according to Dambisa Moyo’s book (DEAD AID) Botswana had ceased to receive foreign aid since the year 2002. Yet the country is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Their GDP is purely reliant on exports of natural resources as well as human capital. Equally, the Gambia is a small country similar in size to Botswana and she is blessed with the river Gambia which is linked to the Atlantic Ocean, including vast amounts of agricultural land as well as its youthful population. Imagine for a second, had we utilised all these properly the euphoria of foreign aid would have been a farfetched dream.
Even though corruption is always a major concern in Africa, I am optimistic that President Barrow’s vision for the National Development Plan 2018-2021, will utilise all funds gained through foreign aid appropriately. With the prospect of more transparency and accountability by Barrow’s government, financial embezzlement and misuse of public funds by public officials will soon be a thing of the past. Though, I haven’t seen details regarding Barrow’s NDP 2018-2021, I would assume that, it would prioritise improving education, healthcare, energy security and agriculture for people in the rural areas to ensure that Gambia embarks on a journey of self-sufficiency from all aspects of development before the next election.
Meanwhile, I will continue praying that the EU will seriously consider giving amnesty to illegal migrants living in Europe through using the BACK WAY. It is worth remembering that, in third world countries where there is neither a reliable healthcare infrastructure nor a genuine social security system; when governments fail to deliver to the public, desperate families can only rely on remittances from their sons and daughters living in the Diaspora.
May God bless you and may He bless the Gambia.
Written By Yaya Sillah