A prominent Gambian economist Nyang Njie says the resurgence of COVID-19, has brought another uncertainty on Gambia’s distressed economy. Economist analyst Njie told this medium that the future of Gambia’s economy remains bleak. “As I speak to you, the Gambian economy is trying to kick start, but it has made false steps in kick starting because at some point the economy that we have contained; COVID-19 and in the past few days, the resurgence of COVID-19, has once again put a dark cloud which brings another uncertainty on the economic visibility of The Gambia,” Njie remarked.
Njie says Gambia’s economic decline is due to the collapse in tourism and declines in tax revenues and remittances from the diaspora as COVID-19 also hits the countries where Gambian natives live and work.
“Sectors such tourism has suffered significantly. Equally Gambia is endowed with a big population of disaporans, these diasporans contributes significantly to remittance inflows into The Gambia and we all know what is happening to countries like the US, Canada, UK and others Scandinavian countries, which are residents to many Gambian diasporans, so therefore, inflows of remittance have also gone down,” Njie remarked.
Njie says cutting government borrowings and enforcing economic discipline could help the economy. He also urged transparency and accountability.
“Gambia needs what you call a road to recovery, the road to recovery starts with a very buoyant and vibrant strategy to make sure that The Gambian economy once again kickstarts and right now the policymakers should be in a position to come up with a winning strategy that will usher in a new dawn by seeing The Gambian economy bounce back, but the bouncing back of The Gambian economy will not happen if fiscal discipline, that is budgetary expenditures, are not curtailed,” he added.
Businesses have reported low sales, while economic hardship and uncertainty grip poverty-stricken residents.
Meanwhile, Gambia’s president Adama Barrow, has announced a 21-day state of emergency to combat the COVID19 pandemic. The Gambia with population of about three million people, experienced its largest single daily increase in reported cases this week. The Vice President and other top government officials have been infected with the virus.
The new State of Emergency in The Gambia orders mosques, churches, and schools to close, and imposes a nighttime curfew. Essential businesses like food markets, banks, and pharmacies may remain open, but only in the daytime. The government also says markets and shopping areas would be closed on Sundays to enable cleaning or fumigation by Area and Municipal Councils.
There are also concerns about how people will get by financially in the next three weeks of emergency. “This has some serious economic implications especially on the transportation sector and retail businesses. Transporters basically taxi drivers, and others will be at loss of revenue because there will be less, if not no traffic on the road at that time. Supermarkets, convenient stores, and other markets, that opens late will also have a loss in revenue,” Economist Njie observed.
Tourism and agriculture account for the greater chunk of Gambia’s Gross Domestic Product. Both sectors have been hard hit because of the virus.
Farming work would be partially disrupted because of the hours associated with the curfew.
The country is also battling with massive youth unemployment.
Economist Njie added: “Equally, Gambians are asking who is going to pay for this economic loss or the opportunity cost that would be businesses would be incurred. While we all know, Gambia is an impoverished country, with a medium income of no more than $175 dollars per individual and also having a very large population of people living under one dollar a day. So, the social aspect of this all lockdown is a cause for concern.”
Njie fears that there would be hunger in the country. He says there might be eviction notices for tenants, who are unable to pay their rent. “People are calling for voucher systems whereby people will have vouchers to buy food. People are calling for the government to help in utilities and rent, but these are all things that are of luxury because the government of The Gambia is not endowed, but what we know as economists and what we know as observers of the way government does things is that we are in for a long haul and the long haul is the destructions that this economy is going to face,” he warned.