Njundu Drammeh

Nko (I say) what is all this hype over the €1.45 billion pledge to the Gambia we got at the Brussels Donor Conference? Isn’t it just a “pledge”, a promise, words given? Is it secured, on its ways to the Government account at whatever bank?

Chill Brother! Chill sister! Don’t be so over expecting, so excited. The €1.45 billion is not a bird in the hand yet. It is pledge. And pledges can be broken, can be half or quarter met. You think all those billions pledged for the reconstruction of Iraq, Sierra Leone, and I don’t know which country were all delivered in full? You think all those people who pledged to buy 10, 50, 100 copies of FamaraFofana’ s books actually bought? Unless the pledges become “money” and are in our accounts, my hope will not become expectations.

Beyond the hype, we need to convince the “pledgers” that we are ready to receive their pledges, not just assurance but in practice. We need to strengthen our accountability systems and institutions, block leakages, be transparent in both words and deeds, fight corruption, practicalise transparency and enforce the laws. No serious country would give out its money without auditing the recipient’s political, economic and legal environment, their robustness and value systems. We have work to do, serious work. And we are just beginning, the morning of our life as a democracy.

And see, my people in Kerewan aren’t interested in all these hypes, the euphoria these pledges are creating. The battle over ideas and the hows is for you intellectuals and technocrats and activists to battle out, shape and fashion. They want better lives for their families, good health and quality education for their children, less expensive livelihood, peace in the neighbourhood, employment for their youth, secured future for their children who are abroad, elected representatives who are close to the people. Things that would make then live dignified lives, no more. A government that can give them these would be their government. They know these things aren’t free but they want loans and grants received in their name are well spent and they want to know how.

Nko, you don’t want the Government to take loans because our debt has hit the ceiling? And you want the Government to fulfil its election promises, to actualize the National Development Plan, to better lives? Or you want the loans and grants but to be well managed, well spent and to make impact in the lives of children and posterity who would pay? Or yes, forget the loans and rise funds locally. Let the super rich and the professionals pay more taxes. Let everyone pay his or her due to the State accordingly, business, citizens, corporate bodies, etc. Let each be incorruptible. Let each be exemplary. We cannot eat your cake and have it.

Yes, IMF or World Bank advised we put on hold our loan taking. But who overburdened us with these loans if not the Bretton Woods institutions and other predators? Who controls our economies, at least the policies and directions? Aren’t you seeing the double standard?

Kudos to the Barrow Government for getting the €1.45 billion pledge. Next is to secure this. Constant follow up needed. Dont be discouraged if calls and reminders are ignored. Press on. And yes, systems building and strengthening a sine qua non. We have to prove that it is The Gambia, and not Sierra Leone or Liberia, who should get more support.