Torchlight With Michael Scales: Another Interesting Week

Mscales(JollofNews) It’s been another very interesting week for the Gambian online media. My highlights are focused on their various pieces about the economic situation in the Gambia.

Kairo News gave a very articulate and academic account from Janko Camara, presently in Zimbabwe and I endorse and recommend Gambians to read this first class editorial piece.
Mr Camara sights the removal of the fuel subsidy and asks why fuel prices have risen steadily against the free fall of global oil prices.
We remember the removal of this subsidy as recommended by the IMF in Nigeria, which lead to mass protests from unions and others. Gambia does not have anyway near the strength in depth or commitment from its unions.
Kibaaro News published an editorial on the foreign exchange fiasco caused by President Yahya Jammeh’s decision to peg the exchange rate against dollar and other currencies at 50 Dalasis to the pound. The paper claimed that this will “rob” remittances from the Diasporan contributors to families back home and that President Jammeh will “pocket” the difference. The paper also claimed that the government’s intervention in the foreign exchange market comes just before the holy month of Ramadan when many Diasporan Gambians send more money to their families.Mscales
Looking closely at the exchange rates over the last week on the international trading markets, the Dalasi had remained at around D65.5 to the Pound. Over the last 12 months, the rate has steadily declined from around D62 to the Pound to its present value. There was a spike of around D69 to the pound about eight months ago, but this was for one day only. So I don’t know where the online concerts are getting their information from. Some are claiming that it was over D80 to the Pound as of last Sunday last. If anyone can show me, then please send me an email to JollofNews.
Freedom Newspaper has published the Gambia Government’s letter to Christine Lagarde, managing director of International Monetary Fund, for relief under the Rapid Credit Facility [RCF].
Clearly, the document contained an appraisal of the difficulties faced by the Central Bank of Gambia allied to wayward government fiscal and balance of payments “slippage” It further confirms action on trade restrictions and foreign exchange and asks for guidance and full supervision from the IMF for at least the next 12 months. The Gambia Government also confirms its commitment to reorganisation of its public utilities and under performing public enterprises.
The Daily Observer reported the president’s tour of agricultural production this week and announces a presidential plan to import 3000 tractors per annum. Clearly, this kind of volume would present itself to a government sponsored manufacturing plant to build this requirement in Gambia. One wonders what this will do to alleviate the Gambia’s trade deficit with the rest of the world in producing a significant rise in imports, which will further strain the need for foreign purchasing capital.
It sounds like another of Mr Jammeh’s illusions. Perhaps there will be more as the tour progresses. The backdrop to this unfolding economic situation was set in my one of postings in April. There will be an undoubted disquiet from the Diaspora, whose remittances are said now to contribute some 20 towards the Gambia’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Though I would suggest this significant rise is due to the decline of other revenues from tourism and failed crop production. So I think the amount has not risen in real terms. It’s just the rest of GDP revenues have declined sharply.
President Jammeh remains faithful to offering something for the future. In that, he sets great confidence in the expected bumper rice harvest in 2016 and food security. As to whether this will ever materialise is anyone’s guess. But he keeps all eyes on better times ahead.
As a great dream maker, he is ever consistent in his “visions”.
The irony of his economic failures is that at this very moment, it is the Diaspora that is putting fish on his table under the ever watchful eyes of the IMF.
Clearly, Mr Jammeh frowns upon gambling, whilst playing roulette with the exchange rate and succumbing to the IMF’s love of the pain that comes with their international austerity policies. This suckering up to the western led money men must cause Mr Jammeh many tears for his total loss of African financial independence and self-reliance.
Hard times ahead for the poor, depression for the youth and more executive orders to complicate what is now a very dismal situation. I would like to say it’s just another boom and bust story supported by the IMF but for the last 20 years, there was never any boom.
If you borrow money only to service your debt, all you are doing is just prolonging the agony and its final conclusion.
The Opposition never had a better chance to shine, but they are still clinging to the shadows.
It’s time to change the landscape and shine a torch for liberation and freedom.


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