By: Kebba AF Touray
Sidia Jatta, the National Assembly Member for Wuli West Constituency has stressed that any nation whose development is fundamentally based on loans and grants, is a nation whose sovereignty is sacrificed.
Mr Jatta made these comments during the debate on the budget estimates for the year 2020 at the National Assembly on Thursday 28th November 2019, and urged that key sectors of Government such as agriculture, tourism, fisheries, health and education should be given priority and strategically sourced in the budget.
“But if you look at it the sectors that should enable the country stand on its feet, they are not adequately budgeted for. That is why for five decades to date, we have been living on loans and grants. And any nation that depends on loans and grants is a nation whose sovereignty is sacrificed. The proof is that today Chinese and Turkish languages are taught in our University because China gave Gambia a grant of 75 million dollars and 25-million-dollar loan. This is what put them in this position. This is because we feel we have a new source of money and we must please them for us to continue to tap money from them (Turkey and China),” Mr. Jatta told his colleague deputies; that the new draft Constitution mandates the National Assembly to speak their national languages as it was advocated for by Members; that the fundamental focus of the country should be to teach the citizenry and Lawmakers to become apt in writing and speaking their own national languages.
“But instead we are now talking about Chinese and Turkish because of money and we say we are a sovereign nation. A sovereign nation building a foreign tongue which is alien to the people you are representing and budgeting for,” Jatta said.
He said for people to have ownership of the budget, they should be contacted and involved during the budgeting process to be able to have their inputs as to what they want included; that to make the budget accessible to them and for them to understand what it contains in their national languages.
Sidia said budgeting has two fundamental strategies; that one is to concentrate on the sectors that have the capacity to generate revenue and to invest more into those sectors and the other is to make strategic expenditure.
“Agriculture has dilapidated in the country for five decades and we all say that it is the pillar for economic growth. The reason why it has been in this scenario is because we neither put into practice what we say and nor are we committed to what we say,” Sidia said; that ‘‘because we are not budgeting to develop this country but instead budgeting to sustain people who are in positions’’; that this is exactly what has been happening in this country for five decades now. He asked how a Minister can have two expensive vehicles at a time when a health facility does not have an ambulance to transport the sick as well as villages lacking access to portable water and electricity.
He continued: “As long as we talk about the importance of certain sectors without addressing them, we will keep on begging and taking loans and will keep on sacrificing the sovereignty of this country. Because of unstrategic planning and budgeting for every D100 spent in this country, D41 or D42 will go to debt servicing for the 2020 budget; and if you add what goes into debt servicing and serious commitment, you are only left with 10% of the country’s budget. Where do you go with 10% of the budget?” Sidia asked his colleagues.
In conclusion, he challenged parliament to take a decision as from this year; that from henceforth they will manage the resources in such a way that the country will be able to produce what they (Gambians) need, without relying primarily on others; that what is primary to the country’s existence should be fundamental to everyone and should be managed ourselves.