Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gambia Central Bank to reduce money supply in the economy

To control price stability and reduce inflation

The Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG) has issued a directive raising the amount of money that commercial banks in the country have to hold as reserve - amount of cash that they should not loan out to customers. 

Governor Amadou Kolley of the Central Bank
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the CBG has raised the reserve requirement of commercial banks by two percentage points to 12 per cent, a press release from the Bank on Monday stated.  
The higher the reserve requirement is set, the less cash banks will have to loan out, leading to lower money in circulation.

The rationale behind this impromptu decision is to withdraw excess Dalasi liquidity out of the economy and thus help preserve price stability, the release affirmed. 

This is one of the additional measures the CBG has taken to restore stability and transparency in the foreign exchange market.

The decision follows a recent decision of the MPC, early this month, when it increased the policy rate by two percentage points to 14 per cent.

The measure was intended to enhance the attractiveness of Dalasi assets and to dampen inflationary pressures.
At that time, the MPC also indicated that it would closely monitor developments as well as take additional measures it deemed absolutely necessary.

According to the press release, the MPC in its monitoring has observed that activities in the foreign exchange market continue to exert pressure on the change rate of the Dalasi. 

Such activities like disorderly market conditions, characterised by high exchange rate volatility and wide bid-offer spreads, create inflationary pressure and stifle economic growth

Thursday, May 23, 2013

IMF allocates $2m to Gambia for poverty reduction

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved the disbursement of US$2.3 million to The Gambia government to support programmes and structural reforms necessary to reduce the high rate of poverty and boost economic growth in the country.
The disbursement is following the IMF executive board’s completion of the first review of the government’s economic performance under a programme supported by the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement, according to a press release from the IMF-Gambia office on Thursday.
This last disbursement makes the total disbursements under the arrangement to about US$16.2 million.  
In May 2012, the executive board of the IMF approved a three-year ECF arrangement with an amount equivalent to about US$28.3 million for The Gambia to support the government's economic programme.
Economy still recovering
“The Gambian economy is still recovering from the severe drought of 2011,” Naoyuki Shinohara, deputy managing director and acting-chair of the IMF, said following the Board’s discussion of The Gambia.
The government’s policies and the support of the international donor community played an important role in enabling the recovery in agriculture to take hold, he noted.
However, he said there are downside risks related to The Gambia’s economic recovery such as the high domestic debt burden, weaknesses in the balance of payments, and inflationary pressures.
The domestic debt of the government increased to D11.3 billion, as at end-March 2013.
“High public indebtedness continues to pose risks to macroeconomic stability and significant costs to the budget,” Mr Shinohara affirmed.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dutch couple renovates Batokunku Nursery School in Gambia

Front view of the new roof
After it is repaired
Géke Lagerburg and her husband Simon, both from Holland, have renovated the roof of Batokunku Nursery School which was in a very dilapidated condition.
The couple changed the entire roofing - the timber and corrugates - of the building which consists of two classrooms and the headmistress’s office.  The timbers of the previous roof were all eaten by terminates and the corrugate was very rusty.
The officials of the school said the condition of roof was such that if not refurbish, the government was going to close it down. That aside, if the rainy season meets the roof in such a bad state, small wind can blow the entire roof off or even without that when it rains, the corrugates leak like a sieve.
Inside of the new roof
It was because of the dire situation of the school that one of the teachers, Momodou Dambelle, has decided to prepare a donation paper to go to the hotel areas to look for sponsor who can come to the school’s aid.
It was in this process that Mr Dambelle met the Dutch couple, who were in the country for tourism, vacation.
Front view of the school
Before it is repaired
“When I show them the paper, they said they want to see the school for themselves,” Dambelle said.  “So we had an appointment for them to come to the school and they came to the school on the appointed day.”
He said many people, tourists, have promised to come to the school to give a helping hand but they never came.
“So, when they came here, they asked us what we want, the help we want,” the headmistress of the nursery school, Jalika Kassama, said.  “We told them that our urgent need is to help us make the roof.  Roofing is our headache now.  If the roof is not made, the children are going to suffer before the closing of school for summer holiday.”
Inside of the old roof
She said the couple then promised that they will do all they can to help the school to renovate the roof.  According to the headmistress, the couple also promised that if the roofing is successfully completed then they may give the school other relevant help needed.
In fulfilment of their promise, the couple sent in the money for the renovation of the roof through their contact in The Gambia, Amadou Demba. 
Now the work is completed, the school is having a new roof now. 
Baboucarr Jatta, a senior teacher at the school, said the help of the couple came at a very good time.
All the officials of the school thanked the couple for their “timely intervention” for making the school environment conducive for learning, once again.
Amadou Demba, who was the one representing the couple in the country, said he is happy because the entire process of the renovation was very successful.
“Also, I am very happy because though I am not a native of Batokunku, I see that the project is not helping only the natives of Batokunku but the whole Gambia,” he said.
He thanked the teachers and the carpenter for their cooperation during the work.
The Dutch couple pose with the teachers and the pupils of 
Batokunku Nursery School 
The sponsors, the Dutch couple said they supported the nursery school because during their visit to the school they have seen that the roof was in a poor condition. 
They also said during their visit they observed that the teachers are very kind and they really love the little children.

The duo said the teachers believe the kids are the future of The Gambia.

In this same vein, they - the couple – noted that whatever they do for the school, for the kids they are doing it for the future of The Gambia.
Now that the first engagement of the couple with the school is finished, they said they will discuss with the school officials to know what is most important to do for the school next.
However, the couple from Holland said now their plan is to involve the community in what they doing with the school so that the community can feel responsible for their own school.

Inflation increases as Gambian Dalasi loses value

Inflation - the rate at which the prices of goods and services increase, is forecasted to have increased more than the target of 5 per cent in The Gambia. 

This is primarily because the national currency, the Dalasi, continues to weaken in value against all major international currencies, the Central Bank Governor has said.
The Central Bank Governor made this remark on Monday during the opening ceremony of the ‘regional course on fundamentals of macro-economic analysis’. 

The weeklong training course organized by the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM) underway in Banjul, is being attended by economists from central banks in the ECOWAS sub-region and other financial institutions. 
The Dalasi has depreciated against the British Pound by 12.62 per cent, the US dollar by 11.87 per cent and the Euro by 12 per cent. 

Governor Amadou Colley said in view of this unforeseen circumstance, the Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG) would therefore continue to implement prudent monetary policy critical to maintaining low, stable and predictable rate of inflation.
Among these prudent monetary policies the Bank is expected to undertake is price stability so as to promote economic growth by reducing uncertainty and preventing arbitrary redistribution of wealth.

The CBG Governor said in view of the uncertain economic environment, policy actions should be indicated by the prevailing economic circumstances of the country.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

WAIFEM equips West African economists for uncertain future

Economists from central banks and other financial institutions in West Africa are being train to reinforce their understanding on the working of the economy. 

The weeklong training, organised by the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM), is to prepare the economists to appropriately intervene in any uncertain economic environment.

The regional course on the fundamentals of macroeconomic analysis started on Monday in Banjul.

Speaking on the occasion, the Director General of WAIFEM, Prof Akpan H. Ekpo, said recent global financial crisis has raised serious concern about the need to develop adequate manpower base among institutions charged with managing the economy.
“It could be seen from the crisis that countries with weak macroeconomic fundamentals were more vulnerable to the propagation of the financial crisis,” he stated.

Prof Ekpo explained that the regional course seeks to offer the participants with the requisite theoretical and practical background that will broaden and deepen their knowledge and analytical skills on macroeconomic management.
The course has been designed to cover a number of key macroeconomic topics such as basic macroeconomic framework for policy analysis, openness in goods and financial analysis, the balance of payment and exchange rates, the interest rate and the exchange rate, the foreign exchange market, introduction to financial programming, and interrelations among macroeconomic accounts.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Civic education council capacitises ward councillors on Local Gov’t Act

The National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) on Thursday completed a two-day training for the newly elected ward councillors of the Brikama Area Council on the amended Local Government Act 2002 and Human Rights.

This training was held to enhance the capacities of councillors on their roles and functions as defined in the Local Government Act. 
It further strengthened the councillors’ understanding of human rights and human rights-based approach to development, thus increase their accountability to the people.

Ward councilors of the Brikama Area Council
Speaking on the occasion, Isatou Bittaye, programme officer of the NCCE, said the training is important in that good public governance helps to strengthen democracy and human rights, promote economic prosperity and social cohesion. 

The training would lead to the achievement of the objectives of decentralization in The Gambia, she said. 

The country’s decentralization has generally been considered to be a positive step towards making Local Governments more accountable to the poor by moving decision-making as close to the scene of action as possible.
The aim of the decentralization is to redistribute power, responsibility and resources to the local level.  It also redefined the division of labour and responsibilities between the central and the local governments. 

Enormous task ahead
For the acting-chairman of the NCCE, Alhaji Modou Joof, the tasks ahead of the newly elected councillors are enormous and expectations are very high. 

He noted that challenges and opportunities are evident but with self-reliant, faith and patriotism there will be light at the end of the tunnel. 
He told the ward councillors that with dedication, determination and hard work they will triumph against all odds and detractors.

Take risks
Mr Joof also told the councillors that they should not be afraid to take risks or being criticized.

“If you do not want to be criticised do not say anything, do anything or be anything,” he said.  “Do not be afraid of failing.  It is through failure you learn to do things right.” 

Teaching of Gambia constitution should be compulsory in schools

The teaching of the Constitution of The Gambia should be made compulsory in all schools in the country, the chief of Kombo South has said.

Alhagie Mustapha Touray said if the primary schools are too “junior” to start receiving teaching about The Gambia constitution, then the exercise should start from junior secondary schools up to the university. 

Chief of Kombo South, Alhagie Mustapha Touray
The tutors should come from the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE), he added. 

Chief Touray noted that it is only through teaching of the Constitution in schools that people will be more aware of their civic rights and responsibility.

The Chief made these statements during a two-day training on the amended Local Government Act 2002 and Human Rights for ward councillors of the Brikama Area Council, organised by the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE). 
The training started on Wednesday at the complex of the Brikama Area Council in Brikama.
His comments came shortly after the ward councillors outlined their expectations and objectives for attending the training. 

Most of the ward councillors said they are expecting to be conversant with the Local Government Act so they can perform their duties based on the Act. 
Chief Touray pointed out that if people are aware of the Constitution then understanding of the laws in the country would not be difficult hence it is necessary for the Constitution to be taught at school.

The Cleric Was Neither on a Vigil, After All

Imam Baba Leigh
Source: Front Page International blog
By Saikou Jammeh, a Gambian journalist 

The ‘disappeared’ Gambian Islamic scholar, who had been wildly speculated to have died, has finally
appeared, alive and ticking. But, after all, the astute cleric had neither been on a vigil. In fact, the past five months that he’d been away, whether he was regularly saying his prayers, is a question that is subjected to his confirmation.

For, Imam Baba Leigh was being kept against his will, arbitrarily, in a secretly-shrouded place where not even his wife could access to him. The Gambian state authorities, who had all along been telling the public, unfaithfully, that the imam was not in their custody, is the culprit here.

The prolonged detention wasn’t just a violation of the rights of the scholar, but it breaches Gambian constitution, which prohibits detention of suspects, even of a common criminality, beyond 72 hours. Yet more shocking is the government’s failure to give any genuine justification, legal or moral.

No wonder when Baba Leigh, visibly weak and frail, was paraded on the state-TV on Friday 10 April, following his release, he was a mere shadow of his former assuming self.

The outspoken cleric is no stranger to arbitrary arrest and detention, which in today’s Gambia, has become a norm rather than an exception. It seems however, that the near a half year of detention, without access to even a lawyer, is the stroke that perhaps not broke, but painfully lacerated the proverbial camel’s back.

Uncharacteristic of him, Imam Leigh was economical of the truth of the circumstances that surrounded his saga. He ironically praised the state that put him under the trauma of detention, apparently in jails whose conditions had been generally described as inhumane and degrading.

He even heaped blame on himself, and admittedly allowed to be left holding the bag of guilt, for a ‘crime’ which the state authorities were unable to muster courage to spill out, even after wallowing in Dutch courage that was the apparent stage-managed episode.

‘I am a human being and mistakes cannot be avoided, but the best human being is one, who makes mistakes, knows it and tries to rectify the mistake,’ Baba Leigh was quoted as saying. The imam however, left the ‘mistake’ unsaid. So did the Presidential Affairs minister, Njogu Bah, who as the cliché goes, roamed the bush before making his point, when he said:

‘When you comment on issues that you don’t have clear facts on, whatever happens to you, you are the cause of it…In the event that we cannot stay away from commenting, let us say things that will add to the peace and stability in the country, but not to comment on issues that can destabilise a country.”

Friday, May 10, 2013

Gambia gov’t in cash shortfall

By Lamin Jahateh
Gambia national flag
The Gambia government is currently in financial shortfall as its revenue and grants have decreased by D4 billion in one year, from March 2012 to March 2013, a data from the Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG) has indicated.
According to the quarterly report of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the CBG – released on Tuesday, provisional data on government’s fiscal operations in the first quarter of 2013 indicates that revenue and grants amounted to D1.5 billion, lower than D1.9 billion in the same period in 2012. 
Expenditure and net lending amounted to D1.9 billion, a contraction of 14.5 per cent when compared to the amount registered in 2012. 
As a result of the shortfall in revenue and a need for more expenditure, the government has increased its borrowing from local sources, such as the commercial banks in the country, to balance the difference.  
In this vein, the MPC’s quarterly report of the state of the country’s economy has it that the domestic debt of the government increased to D11.3 billion, as at end-March 2013.
Even with the increased local borrowing, the government’s overall fiscal deficit, including grants, increased by over D130 million – from D200 million registered in the first three months of 2012 to D330.4 million deficit in the first quarter of 2013.
However, though the overall revenue of the government decreased, domestic revenue has increased from D1.2 billion recorded in the first quarter of 2012 to D1.4 billion in the first quarter of 2013.
Treasury bills, through which governments borrow money, account for 77.2 per cent of The Gambia government’s debt stock.  It has increased to D8.7 billion, an increment of 23.5 per cent.   
Dalasi continues to lose value 
The national currency of the country, the Dalasi, continues to weaken in value against all major international currencies.
The MPC report said the Dalasi depreciates against the British Pound by 12.62 per cent, the US dollar by 11.87 per cent and the Euro by 12 per cent. 
“In Nominal Effective Exchange Rate terms, the domestic currency depreciated by 2.6 per cent in March 2013 compared with an appreciation of 0.4 per cent a year earlier,” the MPC said. 
However, the depreciated exchange rate provides an opportunity for the export sector to become more competitive in a challenging global environment.
Inflation projected to further increase

‘Working hours should be reduced for women workers’

By Lamin Jahateh

The Gambia National Trade Union Congress has appealed for the reduction of working hours for women workers to enable them to return home to do their domestic chores.
“On behalf of the women workers, we appeal to the Honourable Minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment to consider reducing the hours of work per day to facilitate them to return home on time for their domestic chores,” the secretary general of the National Trade Union Congress said.

In January 2013, President Jammeh effected a change in the official working days and hours of The Gambia.

In that vein, since 1 February 2013, official working days in the country have reduced from five to four, Monday through Thursday, and working hours increased from eight to ten hours; that is from 8am to 6pm. 

Hitherto, official working days in the country are from Monday to Friday, and hours from 8am to 4pm.

The Gambia is now one of the very few countries in the world with a mandatory four-day working week. 
The country is now shut down for a whole day while most of the rest of the world continues doing business and financial markets remain active. 

The reason advanced by the Office of the President for this sudden move was that Friday will be a rest day, a day Muslims can use to worship Allah.  Also, people will have more time to do their agricultural work as part of the President Jammeh’s call for Gambians to “eat what you grow and grow what you eat”.

Workers need to be motivated to do their best, says Gambia Trade and Employment Minister

By Lamin Jahateh

Employers must always understand that workers, being an integral part of their production processes, need motivation to do their best in a production setup, the Minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment has said.

Hon. Kebba Touray argues that motivation exists when workers feel recognised, respected, and are given ample opportunity to develop their careers.
“Recognition, respect, and opportunities for career development are largely traceable to social dialogue, an embodiment of negotiation, consultation, information-sharing, and decent work,” the Trade Minister said in a statement read on his behalf by Mass Axi Gaye, Minister of Fisheries and Water Resources, on 1 May during the Workers’ Day commemoration held at the July 22nd Square in Banjul.   

The Trade Minister said employers should always make themselves available to workers for consultation, negotiation, and convergent and conclusive discussion of mutually beneficial matters, including in-house or on-the-job training. 
Also, he said employers should ensure that workers are commensurately rewarded for their efforts and always assured of a healthy and safe work environment.

For the secretary general of Gambia National Trade Union Congress, Ebrima Garba Cham, a large chunk of the workforce in the country is working under poor working conditions. 
Workers are being exploited by unscrupulous employers such as unlawful terminations, unfair redundancies, unpaid accumulated annual leave, unremitted social security contributions, and harassments.

He calls on the government to pay particular attention to workers in both the formal and informal sectors.

Gambian workers call for 120% salary increment

By Lamin Jahateh

Ebrima Garba Cham SG of Gambia Trade Union
The central government and its parastatals, as well as the private sector operators, have been urged to consider increasing salaries by 120% across the board to commensurate with the economic realities of the country.
This is one of the nine-point resolutions of trade unions on behalf of workers in the country as read by the secretary general of The Gambia National Trade Union Congress, Ebrima Garba Cham, on Wednesday during the Workers’ Day commemoration held at the July 22nd Square in Banjul. 

May 1st is commemorated worldwide as Workers’ Day also known as May Day.
Mr Cham said the salary increment demand is necessitated by the fact that the cost of goods and services in the country continues to increase and people’s, particularly workers’, earning power continues to decrease.

Majority of Gambians – including workers in both the public and the private sector - are finding it very difficult to keep their heads above water as the prices of basic food commodities continue to skyrocket. 
This is coupled with the fact that the dalasi continues to lose its value whilst workers’ purchasing power remains stagnant and/or even reducing. 

The Integrated Household Survey in the country has it that more than 40% of those who are employed live below the poverty line of $1.25 per day. 
Many workers in the country do not earn enough to pull themselves and their families out of poverty.

Many Gambian workers do not earn more than D24,000 annually, which is D2,000 per month.  A bag of rice is costing about D1,000 and daily fish money of at least D50, which is the lowest someone can go with to the market as prices of cooking condiments also continue to hike. 

“We are concerned that commodities in the business sector are constantly on the increase but wages for the workers have been stagnant and or not commensurate with the status quo in the country,” Mr Garba Cham said.

He pointed out that the salary and cost of living mismatch in the country is certainly not helping the government’s drive to reduce poverty.  And under these circumstances, it will be difficult to achieve the lofty goals of the national development blueprint, the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment, and the Millennium Development Goals.
A billion dollar grant for manufacturing industry

Aggrieved workers should negotiate before going to court, says Gambia Trade Minister

Trade Minister Kebba Touray
By Lamin Jahateh
Workers who may be aggrieved on account of bad working conditions, paltry remuneration and other genuine concerns should do an exhaustive negotiation and dialogue before going to court, the Minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment has said.
Hon. Kebba Touray said any worker who feels hurt, aggrieved by deplorable working conditions and exploitative remuneration or any employment related issued should realize that social dialogue is a primary option for redress rather than taking industrial action, going to court.  Social dialogue is a tripartite discussion of government representative, the employer and the aggrieved employee.
“Industrial action should be last resort,” the Trade Minister said in a statement read on his behalf by Mass Axi Gaye, Minister of Fisheries and Water Resources, on Wednesday during the Workers’ Day commemoration held at the July 22nd Square in Banjul. 
May 1st is commemorated worldwide as Workers’ Day also known as May Day.
The Trade Minister’s comment came at a time when the industrial tribunals in the country are inundated with cases of unfair dismissal and other employment related matters.  Almost on daily basis, newspapers in the country publish court cases on employment matters going on at the court.
However, the Trade Minister said social dialogue, involving the relevant parties - the government, employers and workers - substantially aids amicable resolutions of industrial disputes if it is underpinned by good faith, work ethics, and professionalism. 
On the contrary, he said industrial action, going to court, tends to complicate and aggravate matters, resulting in high costs, particularly in terms of output and income losses.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Concerns of Gambian journalists left out in Info Minister’s Press Freedom Day speech

By Lamin Jahateh

Nana Grey Johnson, Info Minister
Key concerns of journalists in The Gambia were glaringly left out in the Press Freedom Day speech of the newly appointed Minister of Communications and Information Infrastructure, Nana Grey Johnson.
At the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2013 at TANGO conference hall on Bertil Harding Highway, journalists in The Gambia expected that Communications Minister Nana Grey Johnson’s statement will touch on pressing issues of the media fraternity such as the closure of media houses like Taranga FM, Daily News and Standard newspapers in 2012. 

Journalists expected that Mr Johnson, a veteran journalist, would say something about the possibility of government reviewing the media laws in the country, as well as enacting a freedom of information bill, as it has been done in some other countries in Africa. 
The executive director of the GPU, Gibairu Janneh, said the media fraternity was optimistic that Mr Johnson’s appointment - as he is au fait with the ups and downs of journalists in The Gambia – “will signify the beginning of a new beginning” in enlarging the space for media freedom in The Gambia.

Madi Jobarteh, programme manager of TANGO – an umbrella body of civil societies in The Gambia including the GPU – emphasised that with the appointment of  Mr Johnson, the media fraternity was expecting that the closed media houses will be opened; expecting the media laws or laws that are not compatible with free speech and media to be reviewed. 

“We are happy of his presence (at the World Press Freedom Day commemoration) and we think he is going to turn a new page and see Gambian media fulfilling its constitutional responsibility,” Mr Jobarteh said.

The constitution of the land places an obligation on the media to hold The Gambia government accountable to the people of the country, he said. 

However, he noted, the media is finding it virtually impossible  to do this because of the self-censorship among the journalists each trying to avoid falling into the traps of the law on defamation and sedition. 

Journalists re-enforce call for freedom of expression in Gambia

By Lamin Jahateh

Journalists in The Gambia have renewed the struggle to ensure the “tiny space” of freedom of expression in the country is expanded so the media can flourish.

On the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2013, journalists in the country processed from Africell head-office along Kairaba Avenue to TANGO, about half a kilometer, chanting the slogan “free speech, free press”. 

At TANGO, where the procession ended, a policy dialogue was held during which speakers were engaged in an analytical overview of the media situation in The Gambia and its ramifications on national development. 

The commemoration was organised by the Gambia Press Union (GPU) in partnership with The Association of  Non-Governmental Organisation (TANGO), an umbrella body of civil societies in the country, on the theme: “Safe to speak:  Securing freedom of expression in all media”.

Speaking on the occasion, Madi Jobarteh, programme manager of TANGO, said freedom of speech is critical to all other rights as it is an inherent right that gives meaning to all other human rights. 

“Freedom of expression is an inherent human right that no one can confer on anyone and no one has the right to take from anyone,” he said. 

Of all the rights that people enjoy, probably the right that is so critical to the enjoyment of all other rights is free speech. 

“What is the meaning of your life if you cannot say a word, what is the purpose of your citizenship if you cannot speak your mind,” Mr Jobarteh asked rhetorically. 

The right to live is a sacred right; right to association and right to vote are all fundamental rights that human being enjoy but to give meaning to all these rights free speech is central.

The media and journalists in The Gambia have seen numerous violations of press freedom and free expression for over a decade – ranging from arrests and detention, to exile, arsons, disappearance and in some instances, death or killing.

The GPU is therefore calling on the powers that be to critically reflect on the dire situation confronting the media and journalists in The Gambia.

The executive director of the GPU, Gibairu Janneh, appealed to the government, again, through the new minister of Communications and Information, Nana Grey Johnson, to reconsider the closure of Taranga FM, Daily News and Standard newspapers, which were closed in 2012.

“We are making our appeal because the GPU is in firm belief that the closure of these media houses adds nothing to the development of The Gambia.  At least we are all in the business of national development; each of us must be a contributor towards that development,” he said.