Gambia: The unraveling of the economy and the inevitable decline into political chaos

Mathew K. Jallow

Mathew K. Jallow

For those Gambians with even the most basic understanding of economics, it seems inevitable. And it is. It is now only a matter of when, before the looming economic implosion; not whether. For something which began on that fateful July day back in 1994, the unraveling of the Gambian economy has been a long time in the making.

The dire consequences of Yahya Jammeh’s Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council’s (AFPRC), voodoo economics are coming back to bite, and no amount of glowing, yet mendacious World Bank and IMF economic health reports can restrain the hardship precipitated by Yahya Jammeh’s prevailing economic blundering.

For nineteen long, arduous year, Gambia has willfully operated outside the ambit of Weberian bureaucratic administrative model and Kenseyian economics; adopting, instead, a paternalistic brand of economic management and bureaucratic administration that is impulsive, arbitrary, capricious and erratic. Since Yahya Jammeh’s imperial reign of horror began, the Gambia has witnessed a steady decline from the robust civil service and state bureaucracy and market economy of the Sir Dawda Jawara era, to an austere descent into social and economic entropy.

Yahya Jammeh’s spiteful disregard of the universal principles of bureaucratic administration and economic management, have combined to devastate the Gambia’s economy, and plunge a once vibrant civil service and public bureaucracy into deleterious dysfunction, and Gambia’s submissive population, into a state of mindless helplessness.

Gambia’s slow slide into administrative and economic paralysis is partly evidenced by a perennially chaotic and senseless hiring and firing process and the intermittent runaway price increases of basic commodities. For the first time since independence 1965, Gambians are literally starving, and a significant number of families can afford only a single meal a day. The prices of food commodities, which are increasing every few months, are out of reach of most Gambian families.

Gambia’s worsening food security crisis is far removed from the Sir Dawda K Jawara era, when agriculture, not the service industry, accounted for seventy-five of the GDP and employment was at par with the productivity levels. Additionally, Sir Dawda K Jawara’s successive governments subscribed to rigorous patterns of economic and administrative policies that supported robust GDP growth, individual productivity and higher employment rates.

Under Sir Dawda K Jawara, the Gambian civil service and public bureaucracy were accredited authority to set national goals and objectives, mandatory annual agency and departmental planning, requisite annual budgets specifically designed to respond to departmental and agency goals and benchmarks, diffusion of authority throughout the civil service, total non-inference in the business and commercial sectors, and absence of impulsive and arbitrary manipulation of the financial market. Sir Dawda K Jawara’s renowned deference to the tried and tested market economy and bureaucratic management system, truly set him apart from most African leaders.

The policies Sir Dawda K Jawara adopted, heralded in a new dawn in Gambia’s social and political awakening, economic development and expansion, and an intellectual evolution unmatched by any African country. The administrative and economic template Sir Dawda’s successive governments embraced, supported rapid economic growth, even though his efforts were subverted by pervasive corruption and a civil service that was nonetheless saintly in comparison to Yahya Jammeh’s notoriously criminal gangster regime.

And in contrast to Sir Dawda K Jawara ruling political party, Yahya Jammeh’s military AFPRC party lacks defined political dogma, and by extension, a governing political philosophy that dictates a viable course of social and economic development. Yahya Jammeh village chief governing mentality, rather than empower the bureaucracy, has instead emasculated the civil service and rendered and the entire bureaucracy inefficient, dysfunctional and in disarray.

Yahya Jammeh’s dependence on primitive African witchcraft and sorcery as governing guide posts, have plunged Gambia back into its pre-religion animism and devil worship, and his ignorance and lack a sense tribal history, has regenerated the old, dangerous tribal divisions of our ancestors of long ago. Few in the civil service, from the Secretary General’s portfolio to the rank and file positions, possess the qualifications other than being griots and Yahya Jammeh’s praise-singers, or belong to Yahya Jammeh’s Jola tribe. But even worst still, the never-ending harassment of businesses and recent clamp down and the seizure of millions of dollars from business entrepreneurs has turned Gambia into Africa’s most business unfriendly environment.

Today, Gambian businesses face relentless harassment for kickbacks, and many wealthy Fulas are closing their businesses; forced out for the new and endless opportunities in Senegal and West Africa’s wealthiest country, Guinea-Conakry. The proliferation of banks to launder money from the drug infested economy, Yahya Jammeh monopoly of most business sectors, the constant currency manipulation, the total lack of guiding principles, the arbitrariness of important economic and administrative decision-making process, investor hostile bureaucratic environment and political and human rights crimes, which include mass executions, murders and disappearance, and the shadow of arrests and detentions that perpetually hanging over the population, have singly, and in combination, made Gambia’s slogan as West Africa’s “Smiling Coast” a ridiculous joke.

Potential investors lured to Gambia by empty promises, outright lies and propaganda, are forewarned that Gambia is awash with illegal drug money, and the country is a major West African transit point for illegal Colombian drugs bound for Europe and America and other destinations in West Africa. Due largely to Gambia’s deadly human rights and averse business environment, it now only a matter of when, not if, the Gambian economy will collapse under the weight of the regime’s political tyranny and hostile business and entrepreneurship environment. In a meeting last week at the State House, Freedom Newspaper reported that the “so-called” Secretary General, Lamin Sabally, had pleaded to religious leaders to ask Gambia’s online papers to desist from criticizing the murderous regime and Alieu Mboge interjected that his son knows online media owners and will prevail on them to stop criticizing the regime. We are still waiting anxiously to hear from the religious leaders and from Alieu Mboges’s son.


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