Saturday, February 4, 2023

The National Assembly, The President’s Tour And The Prices Of Commodities

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This period is the most significant to the nation. Section 152 of the Constitution states that

“The President shall cause the Minister responsible for finance to prepare and lay before the National Assembly   at least thirty days before the end of the financial year, estimates of the revenue and expenditure of The Gambia for the following financial year.  The estimates shall include any estimates which, under this Constitution, are to be submitted directly to the President by the Chief Justice or any other authority for presentation by the President to the National Assembly.”

In short the minister of finance and economic affairs should lay the estimates before the National Assembly no later than 30 days before the end of this year.

The budget session starts with the laying of the estimates. The NAMs have fourteen days to consider the estimates. They have seven days to consider the bill that will provide for the public fund that will cater for the expenditure for the year 2023.

The whole cabinet should engage the National Assembly to defend the allocations proposed in the estimates or even demand a review of their budget against other budgetary allocations.

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It is interesting that while the national assembly members are given fourteen days to review the estimates, time has already elapsed since the estimates were laid without any debate taking place. They have been attending a workshop to be farmiliarised with the budgetary session and now they will only have to do this as from Wednesday to exhaust the fourteen days required by the Constitution.

Interestingly enough the president has started a tour which in most cases would require the presence of a cabinet minister. It is difficult to figure why a tour would be initiated during a budget session since the ministers are accountable to the national assembly and committees of the national assembly should engage them on the estimates of their ministries for clarification on the content of their estimate.

Section 74 of the constitution states:

“……. the Vice-President and each Secretary of State shall be accountable to …… the National Assembly for the administration of the departments and other business of Government committed to his or her charge.”

In a budget session the committees should summon the ministers to discuss the budgets of their ministries before final adoption of the estimates. If this were to happen how can they join the president in his tour if they are to determine the impact of their implementation?

A clear example is the increase in the prices of commodities which affects people nationwide. How the government intends to tackle this problem is of interest to the population. The issue of high tariffs at crossing points of bridges is also another matter not to mention the price of groundnut.

It is the conclusion of the budget session that should have given a picture of what the nation should expect in 2023, thus meriting a tour of further investigation of government policy.

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