Monday, February 21, 2011

National Assembly seeks over $14 million from donors; gets less than $1 million

The National Assembly of The Gambia is currently seeking, from both local and international donors, an amount of $14,388,097 representing 55% of the total amount of $26,253,812 that they need to finance the ‘Strategic Investment and Development Plan of the National Assembly 2009 – 2014’.

The other 45% is to be financed by the government of The Gambia.

In other to raise funds to finance this five year programme, the National Assembly on Wednesday held an official resource mobilization, dubbed donors’ roundtable conference, at Kairaba Beach Hotel, geared towards soliciting the support of donors and development partners in implementing the first ever Strategic Investment and Development Plan of the National Assembly.

However, the total financial pledge that was made public at the occasion was less than $1 million, most of which is from local institutions and individuals. This is due to the fact whilst there are many international donors, in the country, who work in the field of governance, the number of donors working specially on the issue of parliamentary development is limited. Also, majority of these donors are bilateral donors who may or may not be active in promoting good governance in The Gambia.

Delivering the keynote address on behalf of the President, the Vice President, Dr. Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, said the government has always been fully committed for a vibrant, robust and pro-active legislative that is responsive to the needs and aspirations of the Gambian people.

Though no international donors, present at the occasion, made any significant pledge, the Vice President applauded them saying “your support and contribution in virtually all the sectors of The Gambia’s economy, including notably, the support you give or, are willing to additionally give towards strengthening legislature and governance, has our recognition.”

The VP said the Investment and Development Plan is one that sums up in a single documentation the strategic direction that the government wish to follow, to promote lasting excellence in parliamentary functions and capabilities.

“The development of such a Strategic Plan, which is by our standard, holistic and reflective of our needs, is therefore very important. It is also very timely in that its implementation will become an added impetus to the huge capital investments that my Government has undertaken in recent times for the National Assembly,” she said, adding: “The most notable example here is, the ongoing construction of a multi-million dalasi, state-of-the-art National Assembly complex in the city of Banjul. This complex, when completed will be second-to-none in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

She disclosed that the government has demonstrated attention to the National Assembly by effecting an increase in budgetary allocation to the National Assembly from D3 million in 1996 to around D40 million as at January, 2011.

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Abdoulie Bojang, said the total cost of the Strategic Development and Investment Plan, which is over $26 million, includes the building and resourcing of new-state-of-the art National Assembly, to which the government of The Gambia has already provided funds for up to $10 million.


At the end of the programme, some local institutions and individuals has pledged in cash and kind including capacity building programmes and technical services to the National Assembly. The pledged was open by Minister of Justice, Edu Gomez, who pledges D5000, though he is yet to fulfilled a D10,000 pledged he made to the Young Journalist Association of the Gambia since the first quarter of 2010.

The Gambia Bankers Association, pledges D500, 000; Social Security and Housing Finance Cooperation (SSHFC) D300, 000; National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) D500, 000; Action Aid - The Gambia D100, 000; Pro-Poor Advocacy Group pledges capacity building package for the Parliamentarians for the next five years to the tune of D500, 000.

Mass Axi Gai, Gambia’s Ambassador to Guinea Bissau pledges D2000; KMC Mayor Yankuba Colley D2000 and Matarr Baldeh of Education for All Initiative pledges to give D1000 annually for five years.

The National Assembly’s five years Investment Plan, which if fully funded, is expected to strengthening the capacity of the National Assembly to deliver its core functions and to ensure that legislations proposed by the government are scrutinized in a transparent manner.

'Public' rejects NAWEC’s proposed tariffs increment

Most of the people at PURA’s Public Hearing held on Saturday at Father Farrell Hall in Westfield vehemently condemned the proposed tariff increase by National Water and Electricity Company Limited (NAWEC), the sole provider of electricity, water and sewerage services in The Gambia.

The Public Hearing, which was organized by the Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), was meant to obtain public comment on an application that they (PURA) received from NAWEC to increase the current tariffs of electricity, water and sewerage services.

“PURA received an application from NAWEC on 27th December 2010 for an increase in electricity, water and sewerage tariffs,” said Mr Maleh Saine, Officer-In-Charge of PURA.

He explained that PURA Act 2001 and the Electricity Act 2005 mandated PURA to consult with all stakeholders on matter of such importance and sensitivity that affect both the operator and the consumer. “Initial consultations have also been held with Central Government, industrial and commercial consumers,” he said.

Mr Saine said PURA is mandated specifically under Section 18 of the Electricity Act 2005 which states that “the Authority may in accordance with the provisions of the Regulatory Authority Act determines, review, approve, modify or refuse the tariff and the terms and conditions of the service provided by licensees.”

“Through hearing your views it will enable us to arrive at a proper decision in ensuring that we have available, affordable and accessible services in respect of electricity water and sewerage services,” said Mr Dodou Bammy Jagne, the Chairman of PURA Board of Commissioners.

Mr. Alhagie Jallow, Finance Director of NAWEC, said the company is proposing certain prices for the different services; for Greater Banjul Area (GBA) “we are proposing 36% increment for electricity, 26% for water, and 27% for sewerage.” He said the objective of NAWEC is to provide affordable electricity, water and sewerage services to Gambian peoples. “We know if we are to charge very high prices, under normal circumstance, it will not be affordable, and the objective of providing these basic services is to make it available and affordable to the people who are going to use them,” he explained.

When the Moderator of the occasion, Mr Peter Gomez, opened the floor for comments and questions relevant to the proposed tariff increase from the people, one speaker after the other strongly condemned the tariffs increment, but NAWEC said they are left with no other option given the ever increasing cost of both light and heavy fuel and lubricants, increasing cost of energy purchased from the Intermittent Power Producer (IPP), and high of cost labour and maintenance.

NAWEC officials said if the company is to remain in operation, they have to increase the tariff because “the current revenue base of the company is not able to sustain the company’s operational obligations resulting them to short term borrowing from commercial banks at exorbitant cost.”

Later on, as the program was coming to an end, the Moderator announced that those who are in support of the proposed tariff increase to raise their hand, but unfortunately, only two people raised their hands in support of the increment.

The comments and concerns of the people are to be incorporated for due consideration in accordance with Section 20(C) of the Electricity Act in making a final determination.

The Public Hearing is the sixth of the nine steps that PURA is to take before final tariffs come into effect.

However, shortly after the Hearing many people who spoke to Marketplace said that NAWEC has already reached a decision to increase the tariff, “so whether the people agree to it or not it will be increased, this is just a formality”, Ousman Gibba said. “I know they will increase, but if they do that it is going to affect average Gambians, because many people are already struggling to pay for the current tariff as it is,” said Demba Jarju.

The last three steps before the new tariffs come into force is for PURA to take a decision with regard to the increment, publish the new tariff, and finally the tariff come into force.

Given the fact that the proposed tariffs increment was received with a strong condemnation from the general public will PURA give NAWEC the go ahead to increase the tariffs?

Gambia gov’t orders civil servants to open salary account

The government of The Gambia, through the directorate of National Treasury on Monday issued a public statement urging all civil servants within the Greater Banjul Area from grade 2 of the government integrate and above to open a salary account, “through which their salaries will be paid.”

“This is in line with The Gambia government’s financial management reform objectives, and which are riding on a platform of efficient and effective services delivery,” the statement says.

“All civil servants who comply with this requirement are required to submit their account details to their respective accounts sections to effect the necessary changes on the government payroll,” the statement added.

According to the statement, this move will help to expedite the salary payment process, reduce the risk of cashier handling bulk cash, as well as providing civil servants the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of banking.

However, the statement did not indicate any deadline for opening the account, and it is not clear whether there is any repercussion for those civil servant who are eligible but do not open.

GTBank in ‘duel’ with former employee over D500,000 wrongful termination claim

Guaranty Trust Bank has continued to contest a D500,000 claim by its former employee Mam Nabou Sambou, who has sued the bank to court for wrongful termination of her services.

Mam-Nabou Samba, who was contracted to work for GTBank as transaction officer, is claiming special damages of D500,000 general damages for breach of contract, interest, and cost.

The ongoing trial between the plaintiff and the defendant proceeded on 7 February at the Industrial Tribunal in the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court before Magistrate Dayoh Small Dago with the testimony of one Neneh Njie, a bank official at GTBank.

Asked by the defence lawyer Christopher C.E. Mene to explain when and how appraisal are done in the bank, since on the evidence of the plaintiff, her immediate boss is responsible for her appraisal; Neneh Njie, who claimed to be the immediate boss of the plaintiff, denied the point, saying that in GTB, appraisals are done every June by members of the bank.

“It is a process and in that process the appraisee, appraiser, a group head, MD, and an appraisal committee are involved,” Mrs Njie said, adding: “In this process, my recommendation is not the final stage but part of the process.”

At that juncture, reports were tendered by the defence to the witness to confirm whether they were the appraisal reports on the plaintiff, but Ms Njie said she would not call those reports appraisal reports since some of the exhibits were not complete.

The report on exhibit H, she said, stopped only at where she made her comments on her own evaluation of the plaintiff’s performance but had not covered up to where the final stage would end.

After the evidence of the witness, the case was adjourned until 15 February 2011.

Guaranty Trust Bank, through its Orange Rules, is committed to the growth of the individual and societal capital, the bank’s corporate statement states, saying the rules include simplicity, professionalism, service, friendliness, excellence, trustworthiness, social responsibility and innovation.

Ministry of Economic Planning changes as government reshuffled the cabinet

Ministry of Economic Planning and Industrial Development, which was created last year, is being reconstituted and brought under the Ministry of Finance as departments while the Ministry of Finance is re-named Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, the government announced.

This development comes as the President of the country; Yahya AJJ Jammeh reshuffled the cabinet. A news released from the office of the President stated that “His Excellency The President of the Republic of The Gambia Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J Jammeh, acting under the provision of section 71 (1) and 71 (3) respectively, of the Constitution of The Republic of The Gambia has effected a Cabinet Re-shuffle.”

Minister of Economic Planning and Industrial Development, Hon. Mambury Njie, has been re-assigned to the Ministry of Finance as Minister, while Minister of Finance, Hon. Abdou Kolley, re-assigned to the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment as Minister.

In the same vein Hon. Yusupha Kah, Minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment has been re-assigned to the Ministry of Works, Construction and Infrastructure, which was under the president’s office, as Minister.

The release urges all Ministers are urged to live up to expectations of their portfolio so “as to ensure maximum delivery of the national development programs set in Government’s Vision 2020 Blueprint, as time is ticking fast.”

“Therefore, all are reminded that there will be no room for complacency. Ministers are however assured of the executive’s maximum support to ensure that we collectively achieve our development aspirations,” the release stated.

Businesswomen gearing up to tap the int’l market

Gambian businesswomen are setting up a cluster that will bring businesses, particularly women businesses that are export-ready, to export to the international market, the American market in particular.

“This cluster will help us come together, put our resources and expertise together to access the international market,” said Amie Ceesay-Jaiteh, the proprietor and general manager of C J Enterprise, a company mainly involved in the business of exporting foodstuff (mostly fish) to the UK and America. She opined that when this cluster is ready there will be much foreign exchange coming into the country.

“Exports make the economy more viable,” she said, adding “the American Embassy in the Gambia is helping us in that regard; they are encouraging us to export more into the US market.”

With many years experience in exporting, Amie said the American market is huge, so when exporting there normally they will ask for about 4-5 containers, which is very difficult for individual businesses in The Gambia to provide but with such a cluster, “we can put together our resources and expertise to export in larger volume”, and take advantage of such a huge market.

Challenges of exporting

Amie recounts some challenges she encounter in exporting: “Actually there are challenges because we take fish abroad most of the time that it is difficult. Sometimes we take the fish to Europe, supply to the customers and some of them don’t pay on time. Sometimes you are there for a short period, say, two weeks. Some of them cannot gather your money and give it to you before you leave; they ask you to go, then they will transfer the money to you. You have to be calling them to send the money. That sometimes holds us back.”

Asked how easy it is be exporting, Amie said: “I would not say it is easy because before you venture into export you need to get the market, you need to go and find your customers to be able to sell your products. So if you don’t have the market it is difficult to venture into it. If you see me doing it and you think you can also do it as well, you should have it in mind that it involves a whole lot of things being put in place. You have to get customers who are ready to buy from you anywhere you want to export to.

“Before venturing into business you have to do research and market feasibility study to see what product you would be interested in selling. If you want to be an exporter it is even worth travelling abroad just to look for a market; you also have to go to the internet and search for wholesalers.”

The proprietor of CJ enterprise said exporting fish and agricultural products is something that she find “very interesting”. “I was running my own restaurant after I returned from UK where I studied Tourism and Hotel Management and Catering,” she said.

Mrs Ceesay-Jaiteh continued: “The time I was operating the restaurant I used to go to the market to buy fish and vegetables to sell in the restaurant; I used to meet fishmongers and vegetable sellers; I saw the constraints they were facing at that time. For instance, when you want to buy tomatoes in the market you discover there are abundant tomatoes at some point because they are all harvested together at a time, the same thing holds true of other vegetables. The market also used to be flooded with fish sometimes.

“So I use to think of ways of helping these people; incidentally when I went to UK, somebody approached me and said they needed fish in their shop, so I started buying fish and packing them in suitcases for export to the UK, until they made a law in Europe that we have to pack them properly. So we started air-freighting the fish, but we were doing it through establishments that had export permit. As the demand increased, we started exporting in containers. We started with 20-foot containers, but now we use 40-foot containers because the demand is increasing by the day.”

Advice to Gambians

At the moment “things are very hard”, businesses are experiencing very difficult times globally. When things are difficult, “I think Gambians should help each other; if a Gambian is in business, let’s support the person”. Amie opined that this is the only way the country can move forward and improve our lives.

She called on all and sundry to support Gambian businesses because Gambians are going into lots of businesses that would have been dominated by foreigners. Gambians are in supermarkets, minimarkets, import and export, so let us support each other. If a Gambian makes money, it stays in the country; it makes the economy more viable.

For example, she said, there is a Nigerian shop in London, Nigerians are so proud of going to that shop to buy instead of going to other shops; they will support their fellow Nigerians. So let’s do that - look at each other and support each other. That will take us from this level and probably it might reduce poverty because Gambians will be investing more in The Gambia and invest more in their families and that will lead to the growth of the economy. That is something that we are lacking, let’s give that support to each other.

Gambia’s GDP growth slows down

The growth of The Gambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the total monetary value of all goods and services produced domestically in the country over a specified period, has drop from 6.3 per cent in 2008 to 5.6 percent in 2009. GDP includes income earned domestically by foreigners, but does not include income earned by domestic residents on foreign ground.

The growth of GDP from one period to another is an indication of how healthy the country's economy is.

The latest report of the Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG), explained that the contraction in the country’s GDP growth “was due to the decline in the growth of agricultural output and the impact of global economic crisis”. “However, this growth rate was higher than the International Monetary Fund revised forecast of output growth of the world economy, which is -0.8 per cent and 1.6 per cent for sub-Saharan Africa in particular,” the report states.

The CBG report, which was recently presented to the National Assembly, by the Governor of Central Bank of The Gambia, Amadou Colley, noted that the Macroeconomics performance in The Gambia was solid in the past three years, evidenced by GDP growth rates of 6.0 per cent in 2007, 6.3 per cent in 2008 and 5.6 per cent in 2009.

“These growth rates are also within the 6 – 7 per cent range commonly used as a marker, if a country is to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty by 2015. Given the population growth rate of 2.8 per cent in 2007, average per capita growth for the past three years (2007 – 2009) was 3.2 per cent,” the report noted.

The Gambia has maintained macroeconomic stability amidst the global economic crisis with a flexible monetary policy, implementation of structural reforms and technical and financial support from development partners.

Growth in agriculture

The report indicated that agriculture, which is the mainstay of The Gambia economy, employing about 60 – 70 per cent of the workforce, grew on average by 6.2 per cent between 2001 and 2009. “Low domestic production against the backdrop of myriad of factors including low agricultural technology, lack of inputs, and challenges involve in marketing the produce implies that the agricultural sector has not been able to address the food needs of county. With a population growth of 2.8 per cent, average agricultural GDP growth was only 3.4 per cent,” it says.

Food inflation decelerates

Food consumer price inflation declined markedly from 8.6 per cent at end-December 2008 to 2.9 per cent in December 2009, attributable to the removal of import duties on some basic food items, and also enhanced supply.

The report observed that at the beginning of 2009, food consumer price inflation was 8.8 per cent. It decline to 8.3 per cent in March, 6.7 per cent June, as well as 2.7 per cent in September, before edging up slightly to 2.9 per cent in December 2009.

Non-food inflation

Non-food consumer price inflation, which was at 4.7 per cent in January 2009, has increased slightly to 4.8 per cent at end-March before declining to 3.9 per cent in June and 1.9 per cent in September 2009. “Non-food inflation rose gradually to 2.8 per cent in December 2009 albeit lower than 4.4 percent recorded the same period last year,” the report says