Gambians react to IMF report on economy

By Sanna Camara

a Cross section of Gambians are critical about the recent IMF mission’s report that portrays Gambian economy as ‘strong’ and ‘growing’. Views gauged by Gambia Beat argued that this does not reflect the economic reality in the country.

Al Amin Jahateh, a businessman, said: “All the GDP increases being forecasted never reflect on people’s livelihoods in the country.”

Akshiya Jallow, a student at the University of The Gambia charged that the IMF is one of those institutions “that is selling the pills of under-development” to the already under-developed countries: “Most often, their economic reports tend to lose sight of the economic realities of the reviewed countries. This could either be deliberate for the institution with a view to putting forward the neo-classical economic agenda. Or, they are satisfying governments who in reality are not meeting the expectations of the people.”

GDP growth on agriculture recovery, strong tourism

Mr. Bhaswar Mukhopadhyay who constituted a one-man mission to the Gambia over the weekend released a statement, claiming among other things, that: “Real GDP is estimated to have grown by 6¼ percent in 2013 and is expected to grow by nearly 7½ percent in 2014 on the basis of continued recovery in agriculture and a strong 2013/14 tourism season.”

Mai Ahmed fatty, a barrister argued that even with “my layman’s appreciation of economic fundamentals, something is amiss here”:

“Agriculture is dead. The only farmer in the country is Yaya Jammeh. How irresponsible was it to peg prospective growth on a sector that has been in massive progressive decline? ‘Recovery” is an admission of serious decline, and there is no evidence of an inkling of “recovery” for any projected increase. Tourism, the tertiary sector has been struggling to stabilise itself. The fundamentals are clear to all except to the disgraced one man mission. I wonder what he ate at Kanilai (the president’s home village)?”

Penchant for extra-budgetary expenditures

IMF also claims that the government has “implemented concrete measures” to boost revenue and contain expenditure, “and has instituted a cash budgeting scheme to strengthen budget execution.” Mr. fatty found this to be at variance with the Finance Minister’s own disclosure at the Budget Speech few months ago, during which he stated government’s unrestrained penchant for extra-budgetary expenditures.”

“Public finance mismanagement ensures that finances at all levels are in poor state. The IMF implicitly admits this when it acknowledged that: ‘It will be important to ensure that public enterprises are operated on a sound financial basis and steadily implement reforms, particularly in the energy sector, to minimise emerging pressures on the budget’. That is to say, public enterprises are in urgent need of ‘sound financial management’ and ‘reforms’. It means they are in very bad shape.

“Rewind to September 2013 when the IMF Directors expressed concern that fiscal slippages and inconsistent policies have increased risks and vulnerabilities. Six months later, contrary to facts on the ground, an impossible economic miracle happened in The Gambia. Three months after that (December 2013), Finance Minister Kebba Touray presented a D11 Billion estimates for 2014 in which he admitted that public debts is expected to reach 80% of GDP requiring urgent corrective measures. The IMF now tells us that within two months, those “corrective measures” were conceived, implemented and are so successful that it restored macroeconomic stability?”

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