Madi Jobarteh: Gambia’s Public Officials: The Obstacle To National Development

Madi Jobarteh

Since independence in 1970, Gambian public officials have produced more poverty and deprivation than created wealth and opportunities for citizens. The evidence is with them already – in their census reports, poverty surveys, development evaluation reports and in the many other studies and surveys on income, housing, malnutrition, hunger, sanitation, health, and education among others which will all show high levels of infant and maternal morbidity and mortality rates, or high poverty and hunger rates, etc.

Yet every year, public officials in the person of the Minister of Finance would come with a huge national budget that keeps increasing annually. Public officials in the persons of National Assembly Members would then approve such high budget estimates. As they produce a very high budget, they also impose very high taxes while their expenditures rise through the roof.

And on what do they spend all of those billions of dalasi? All that money goes to maintain the institutions and the officials who work there. This is why costs for salaries, vehicles, fuel, travels, meetings, entertainment and utilities are so high, especially for the top officials.

On the other hand, public infrastructure is terribly poor. No paved streets in our communities. No consistent and constant water and power supply. Public hospitals and schools are hugely under-resourced, lacking basic tools and drugs. Litter scatters everywhere while public transportation is so weak that one can spend 60 minutes just waiting to catch a vehicle at Westfield to go to Banjul 10km away. Or, one can spend 2 hours in a vehicle from Westfield to Brikama 30km away because of slow traffic because there’s only one road to use! Practically, it’s the same scenario on every road every day!

Why are our streets not paved since 1970? How come there are only 2 roads between Banjul and Brikama and to the rest of the country: via Bertil Harding highway or Mamadi Maniyang Highway. Until today, why do our public officials fail to pave streets and build roads? Why do they allow citizens to die from preventable illnesses because of poor public hospitals. Why do they allow public schools to be so poor and dilapidated?

This is precisely why top public officials do not take their children to public schools, or take their wives and husbands to public hospitals. Just find out to which schools and hospitals these top officials take their children, wives and husbands: The President, Vice President, NAMs, Judges, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Managing Directors, IGP, CDS, Director Generals, Generals, Directors, Managers, etc.

Certainly they don’t go to public hospitals and schools even though the national budget for health and education are in their hands. Even though we all use these terrible roads provided by these elected and appointed public officials, they have bought for themselves big fat air conditioned vehicles with tinted windows with free fuel and free maintenance from our public money. This is why they are not bothered by the pools of muddy water and deep craters on our crooked streets and roads! They just drive through, regardless. Insulting.

In addition to their high budget and expenditure, they still take so many loans. What’s scandalous about these ungodly loans is that the masses see only few and far between public infrastructures, which are mostly of poor quality. Just visit the so-called newly constructed roads within the greater Banjul area alone to see the insult. Thus, what’s even more insultingly scandalous is that the country cannot pay back the loans such that The Gambia is classified as a ‘Highly-indebted poor country’! How can you borrow so much money yet you are unable to pay back only to become more broke and poorer? Are you crazy?

Because of the huge loans, which are shamelessly mismanaged by these public officials, they now take almost half of the people’s money to service those criminal loans. By doing so, they put so little money into health, education, public works and into other sectors that will create opportunities for youth and women to grow and develop.

For this reason, poverty, deprivation and high cost of living are the results of the poor management, wastage and corruption of these public officials. Otherwise, how can we understand the fact that this well endowed country cannot feed itself, cloth itself, shelter itself when all the resources necessary are available in the hands of our public officials.

One would imagine that with high taxes and huge loans plus huge grants they receive, they will invest them so wisely as to ensure quality public services that are affordable and available to all. One would have thought that they will use our taxes and loans to invest in productive sectors so that we can generate more wealth as they create more jobs and expand services hence increase opportunities. One would have thought that they will manage our huge natural resources in such a way that wealth creation will be the order of the day.

But none of that happens. Rather these public officials who are in charge of our public institutions and public wealth get all the incentives, benefits and luxuries of life for themselves while the law-abiding masses live in squalor and high cost of living with poor services that are not only erratic but also expensive.

Yet these public officials have the audacity to continue to abuse their powers by infringing on the rights of citizens without shame or fear. This is impunity. In fact the President, the topmost public official would have the temerity to open his mouth and look us in the face to tell us that he will ‘shut down politics’ and will not allow any Gambian to protest. What the hell!!!

Does the President think he is the damn emperor of The Gambia? This infantile arrogance and sheer shamelessness and stinking ungratefulness and bloody dishonesty of our public officials have been the cancer killing our country since Independence in 1970. Go to each and every public official, especially those top ones and you will see a certain kind of vain arrogance as if they think they are doing us a bloody favor! Bumboclaat!!!

Why is The Gambia so poor? Rather, why are our people damn poor, because The Gambia is a highly rich country. Our land is fertile. Our sea is rich. Our rivers are full of resources. Our wind is powerful. Our sun is hot. Above all, our people are hard working, law abiding and industrious. Therefore, why should poverty exist here if not for the injustice and incompetence of elected and appointed public officials!!

What does a country need to develop and grow? It’s not magic. All that a country needs to develop is capacity: knowledge, skills, resources and values. Is it that our elected and appointed public officials are telling us that they don’t have knowledge, skills and values? Yet they all went to higher education institutions and acquired degrees! So, why are our technocrats failing their country?

I am certain that indeed there are many among other public officials, some who are indeed pro-people: patriotic, honest and hard working and they must be celebrated.

That notwithstanding, overall, the only cancer in this country is the Public Official, the Technocrats, the elected and appointed people in charge of our institutions of governance and development! They are the ones delaying, derailing, defrauding and destroying The Gambia! Since Independence. Just look at Singapore, between 1965 and 1990, they transformed themselves into a first world country thanks to their public officials! Why has the Gambian public official failed to do the same and even better in The Gambia for their own people?

Fyah bun dem.

For The Gambia Our Homeland

Comments are closed.