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Barrow Bemoans Covid-19 for bad Economy, Opponents Say It’s Excuse Seeking

The Gambian President, Adama Barrow has, this Thursday, blamed the Coronavirus pandemic as the reason for his government’s inability to execute most of its development plans for 2020. This, according to him, led to a devastating downfall of the national economy. But some of the President’s political opponents have quickly reacted to his State of Nation’s Address delivered in the National Assembly as a mere excuse seeking. They point to the fact that Barrow did not indicate any economic recovery strategy before the lawmakers.   

President Barrow said The Gambia has been experiencing a slowdown of economic growth due to the reduction of economic activities, as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating that, an initial analysis shows that GDP growth rates this year could decline from six percent (6%) to two percent (2%).

The decline in import volumes and economic activities will correspondingly lead to shortfalls in import duties and other tax revenues. Based on the current situation, an estimated twenty percent (20%) of expected revenue will be lost,” the president disclosed.

The total estimated fiscal impact from the decline in import duties and other tax revenues is Two Billion, Three Hundred Thousand Million Dalasis (D2.3 Billion); that is, and 2.4 percent of GDP. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA) projects that the fiscal deficit will widen from 1.5 percent of GDP to 2.1 percent of GDP.”

He said the pandemic has negatively impacted on budget execution as approved by the National Assembly, as the government had to resort to cuts and reallocation of funds from line items, such as travel, training and workshops, into much needed areas.

According to the president, these decisions were taken to set aside Five Hundred Million Dalasis (D500 Million) as emergency funds to cater for prevention, containment and response to the pandemic.

Certain budget line expenditures have been reallocated to the Ministry of Health for COVID-19-related expenditures. This decision has affected almost all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). MoFEA was forced to make further budget cuts in the face of declining revenue in recent months and the expected loss of revenue for the rest of the year,” he told the deputies in his marathon speech.  “With declining revenues and the need to provide humanitarian assistance and support businesses during this period of economic downturn, the government is faced with a challenging task for the coming months.”

Barrow said the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to have a significant socio-economic impact on the economy both directly and indirectly; directly, through the effects of the disease on production, investment and trade within the country, and between The Gambia and the rest of the world. Indirectly, he said the impact will be felt through the slowing of global economic growth, supply chain disruptions and, by extension, negatively impacting The Gambia’s growth prospects.

There is an imminent threat of a global recession arising from the pandemic, and the extent of this impact is yet to be fully determined. No matter what the impact will be, the government has already devised post-pandemic plans to protect lives and livelihoods.”

However, he fell short to state before the National Assembly those post-pandemic plans to protect the population. The interim leader of the Citizens’ Alliance Dr. Ismaila Ceesay has reacted in separate tweets tagging the president’s personal account. “@BarrowPresident is blaming the COVID-19 pandemic for his accumulated failures claiming he was on course to deliver widespread prosperity to Gambians when the virus struck. This is weak as the seeds of his government’s failure were sown well before the pandemic.”

In another tweet, Dr. Ceesay challenged the president: “Tell us @BarrowPresident what plans do you have on what was lost. We expected your SONA to inspire hope and uplift the spirits of Gambians during this very hopeless, uncertain and difficult period”.

The former Gambian Secretary General and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Momodou Sabally, who is now a member of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) has also shared his opinion on the president’s SONA before the lawmakers. He said the President “was reading a dead-text that carries no message of real work being done by his government, or hope for a better future.

 

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