The government has reversed the new policy that seeks to curb the use of vehicles by officials, a decision that was supposed to help the government save hundreds of millions spent on the operations of the vehicles.
Finance Minister Amadou Sanneh, who pushed for the cuts that could save some D300 million is now facing a new challenge from some bureaucrats that have taken up a new crusade to have the decision that was approved by President Barrow and the Parliament reversed.
Sanneh’s Finance Ministry in a statement of state TV said they have suspended the decision, which would have seen ministers and senior officials given only one government vehicle. It would have also seen government vehicles parked after working hours and only used for official purposes.
“They ran into some resistance from entrenched bureaucrats that stand to lose their cherished official cars but the cabinet and subsequently Parliament saw the prudence in this reallocation of resources in an era of belt-tightening and rebuilding and enacted the proposal as part of the Budget Act,” said political activist and government supporter, Karamba Touray.
“Austerity is critical to rebuilding our shattered economy and any attempt to avoid or delay tough but necessary decisions will jeopardize our fragile economy and undermine donor and development partner confidence as well as certainty in investor perceptions.”
The new policy provided transport allowance for workers that did not have vehicles as well as set up a D60 million loan facility for them to purchase vehicles, a move that will stop the government from buying expensive vehicles to people having affordable means of transportation.
To then abruptly suspend a policy so critical to the budget even before any attempt at implementation without explanation is strange and not consonant with what many expect of this government.
Touray and many others are now hoping that a carefully prepared and approved public policy will be implemented as intended without delay.
“The government should come up with a plausible explanation as to why the policy implementation is suspended. In good governance, hard decisions, especially which are aimed at austerity measures matter. This government is beginning to be seen as a toothless dog,” said Sanna Jawara.
President Adama Barrow slashed more than D400 million from his own executive budget to help save money, shortly after coming to power. He also restricted air travel for senior officials, banning them from flying business class.
Gambia’s development partners, especially the World Bank and the European Union had to come to the country’s aid, inject more than 120 million into the economy to inject life into it following its near-insolvency by the erstwhile regime of ex-leader Yahya Jammeh.