President Jammeh Has to Admit Failure of Vision 2020
Friday, July 01, 2011
All the time the issue of this fantasised Vision 2020 comes up, there has been too much lenience to the subject.
Now we have to go purely technical to settle for the truth about failure of Gambia’s day dreaming imagination; a vision out of focus.
Development is one realistic experience with which nobody carelessly plays words for results. It has to be or not to be.
For almost 20 years, Gambians have paid curious attention as Yahya Jammeh continues to play musical tunes of political deception in grand form and fashion.
In national development, success indicators are to be seen, felt, and where possible touched. It is not enough organising workshops and retreat sessions as president Jammeh does.
Let the whole government ministers and public servants meet thousand times in one year. That is no development. From what we have seen so far, Vision 2020 has nothing on the ground to indicate success.
This assessment is based on tracking deliverables on which president Jammeh pledged his fantasised development vision.
Now on, let anyone match word for action and stand exposed to the bare fact of failure in view of this unrealistic vision.
It is possible that when Jammeh began to echo so much about Vision 2020, he never sought to measure time and resource implications.
Also, there seems no development platform or policy framework where this vision without mission conveniently rests on.
Mission Statement and overall orientation of Vision 2020 reads:
“To transform The Gambia into a financial centre, a tourist paradise, a trading, export-oriented agricultural and manufacturing nation, thriving on free market policies and a vibrant private sector, sustained by a well-educated, trained, skilled, healthy, self-reliant and enterprising population and guaranteeing a well-balanced eco- system and a decent standard of living for one and all under a system of government based on the consent of the citizenry.”
Transformation of Gambia into a financial centre
Amid the proliferation of private commercial banks in Gambia, the financial environment they operate in does not hold grounds. Business in Gambia is least rewarding as inflation rises day by day.
Competition is adversely unhealthy as president Jammeh appears to venture into numerous enterprise schemes.
In less than 20 years, president Jammeh transformed himself from a simple occupant of the national seat of political power, to a mega tycoon of enormous scale.
There is no account of president Jammeh’s financial possession. Many people think that he is richer than the state because he provides more finance and material gift to public and private institutions than what the government of Gambia does in the course of a year.
If Gambia is to be called a financial centre, the only indicator of that is by estimates of president Jammeh’s private financial empire.
Evidently, the nation sinks in deeper into economic and financial decline. Yet president Jammeh is not showing any signs of shortage in personal finance as he dishes out raw cash in foreign currency to demonstrate his Dollar wealth.
Gambia is therefore no financial centre, although the president of the Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, is richer than the state.
People and government of Gambia know more about failure of tourism than any other sector. Facts and figures speak more than words. From World Tourism Council records, here is what holds on Gambia
The contribution of Travel & Tourism to Gross Domestic Product is expected to decline from 17.9% (GMD3,164.6 million or US$128.6 million) in 2008 to 17.7% (GMD6,445.3 million or US$268.3 million) by 2018.
The contribution of the Travel & Tourism economy to employment is expected to fall from 89,000 jobs in 2008, 14.4% of total employment or 1 in every 6.9 jobs to 116,000 jobs, 14.3% of total employment or 1 in every 7.0 jobs by 2018.
Real GDP growth for Travel & Tourism economy is expected to be -0.2% in 2008 and to average 3.7% per annum over the coming 10 years.
Export earnings from international visitors and tourism goods are expected to generate 21.8% of total exports (GMD2,068.7 million or US$84.1 million) in 2008, growing (nominal terms) to GMD4,141.0 million or US$172.4 million (19.5% of total) in 2018.
The direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP is expected to grow by 6.1% per annum (pa) to GMD3, 323.1mn (6.3% of GDP) by 2021.
Without needing to labour much over what it takes to stay major player in the game, there is no indication that Gambia is a tourist paradise for what the fantasised Vision 2020 sought to achieve.
Anyone is capable of dreaming big about being what you are not. The reality is that tourism is set on critical decline with global financial crises that is keeping Europe kneeling down for too long too deep.
Unless a magical formula comes handy high, spending tourism remains farfetched for the moment.
Tourists may still fall for the sun and sandy beaches of coastal Gambia. They still need to recover from the shock and turbulence of financial trauma that continues to threaten lifestyle and leisure in Europe.
Trading, export-oriented agricultural economy
The Ministry of Economic Planning and Industrial Development will no doubt accept defeat in the face of trials and failures.
Frequency of change in the highest seat of that ministry has reached alarming proportion.
Not only the ministers that change seat. Technocrats are not free to perform without interference.
Like their heads of establishment, the ministers who keep rotating, technocrats are not settled for sustained operation and continuity.
Trade and industry is not promising any gains. Gambia does not produce even safety pins, needles, or processed fruits to name the least.
Lot of fruits and vegetables get rotten before the producers get market value for their yearlong hard work. There are no processing plants for groundnuts or any other cash crops.
At Basse Upper River Region of Gambia a cotton ginnery was once thriving. Farmers had some hope of diversified agriculture during the good times of cotton production. The ginnery has long stopped operations. Even at the time of full operations, this was limited.
Gambia does not have textile industry to realise the higher gains of cotton that could have replaced dependence on peanuts.
Productivity and performance of Gambia’s agricultural sector is not encouraging. Involvement of president Jammeh in agricultural business ventures is counterproductive.
The president continues to amass land as private possession. Almost in every district president Jammeh runs private farms. Public servants and state ministers labour on the president’s many farms for no pay.
There is no planned agricultural management scheme. Mixed farming centres have disappeared and agricultural research is dormant to scale of nonexistence.
There are trained agricultural experts and professionals, but the institutions are dormant to engage their expertise for national interest.
Research institutions and production centre like Sapu agricultural camp have lost their useful operational bearing. This is all happening at a time that president Jammeh persistently calls on the population to “go back to the land”.
That call is seen to mean going to work on the president’s many farms at every part of the country on free labour basis. Put in short simple terms state of agriculture in Gambia is not sustainable.
President Jammeh is not helping national development through agriculture by his active engagement in private amassing of land with induced forced labour. Everything is for president Jammeh. That is personal enrichment and no national development.
Agriculture is complete failure. Providing tractors to farmers is meaningless if those tractors only serve political interest. Experts will tell you about the impact of using tractors on certain soil types.
Sometimes farmers risk loss of fertile soil by use of tractors where simple mechanism does it best. The president’s distribution of tractors to political associates is degrading, unhelpful and counterproductive if it only serves superficial motives.
It is not the role of a national leader to engage in private agricultural enterprise to the extent of declining performance and productivity.
Kanifing Industrial Estate was demarcated for allocation to the purpose as implied in the named sector. This has not happened since the Jawara days.
Most of the land allocated for industrial use eventually turned out to residential property holdings. Big chunks of land were provided and some of the owners set up low scale industrial ventures at their backyards only to be abandoned later.
Some of them ended up selling part of their large land allocation and used the proceeds to build residential homes.
Due to the scale of residential settlements, the few industrial operatives posed significant environment risk to the residents without recourse to appropriate compensation.
The best part of business seen at the Kanifing Industrial Estate is commercial and not industrial or manufacturing. There are still visible marks of industrial work with bottling of beer and coca cola drinks within the location.
A soap and plastic factory run by private initiative has since not done much of what it was meant to achieve despite the pollution endured through its operations in a largely officious and residential area.
When you are thinking of serious manufacturing, Gambia is not near that landmark. Not even razor blade is produced in Gambia. All the raw material with potential growth for industry is sitting idle or simply untapped.
Gambia remains a largest importer of basic commodities with no light at end of tunnel for exploration and exploitation of the nation’s potential leading to basic industrial growth.
In that regard alone, Vision 2020 is complete failure. With just Nine (9) more years to year 2020 there is nothing to indicate that Gambia will turn into world power industrial nation by any stretch of realistic reasoning.
Free market policies and a vibrant private sector
Policy declaration on free market economy does not suffice without the enabling environment. From 1994 to date some businesses came up with short lived span of operation.
Other established businesses have been crippled by unhealthy competition or simply usurped. Whatever the reasons, private sector business has not performed up to expectation and trends are not encouraging.
By twist of irony, Gambia holds grip on a financial operating mechanism that has no bearing on reality of things.
For example, one wonders why and how more than a dozen commercial banks continue operating in a country where business levels are down.
Situations like that prompt curiosity about prospects of underworld financial dealings only unknown to and playing in the hands of unidentified beneficiaries.
With uncovering of large quantity cocaine in Gambia there is no hard guess that what fuels the private sector is through invisible hands being protected by the super system.
Where banks are free to operate in the absence of commodity or service enterprises through open door, there is no doubt some closed door financial dealings prove attractive enough to keep the banks open.
Out there under the cover of darkness life goes by what seems business as usual. However nothing provides good explanation of how the economic engine sustaining operations gets its breath from.
As in agriculture president Jammeh takes keen interest competing with genuine entrepreneurs.
If reports are true that president Jammeh sells cement, bread, vegetables, raw meat, poultry, beach sand, hospitability, and lot more products and services, then he enjoys free hand to generate excess profit at whatever cost.
If that is called free market, then it is time for experts to review plans and national development policies. Viewed from whatever angle, it is not proper that a nation’s president doubles as leader of commerce and trade.
However attractive the prospects of private business may be, it does not invite the president of a country to compete. Matters would get worse when the president is not paying tax and other dues.
It has happened on occasions and likely continues to happen. People affected by business experiences in Gambia are numerous to be listed. They can attest to their fate. Some of these are well-educated, skilled and part of the enterprising population where there is no enterprising environment.
Taking account of what happened to several investors past and recent since the Jammeh administration declared Vision 2020 there is no doubt the ‘mission’ of the vision lands on failed grounds.
Stakes are too high with serious unfair business competition leaving no breathing space for healthy enterprise rewards. Where on Earth can a well-trained and skilled population turn the wheels of enterprise with all the stumbling blocks to smooth and orderly business operation?
Gambia does not lack trained, skilled and enterprising persons. What the country lacks is a suitable, sustainable and enterprising environment.
In the absence free, fair and rewarding business the risks are too high for prudent investors. Vision 2020 is seen to be scoring failing results with this type of atmosphere prevailing. Gambian entrepreneurs are self-reliant but don’t have reliable system of operation on a sustainable economic platform.
Guaranteeing a well-balanced eco- system
Balancing Gambia’s ecology is a national treasure to bank on.
There is a growing interest for commercial land ownership and president Jammeh is no small player in this. Some communal land turned into private hands. Recently, Asian land grabbers have joined the race.
Unless the speed and scale of land grabbing comes under control, future generation of Gambians will run into critical land disputes.
Government is not doing anything to protect communal land. Setting up land commissions is only cosmetic.
Commercial private ownership of landed property is very much threatening Gambia’s ecological resources if not arrested in time. It was during the previous regime that some communal forestry projects came up.
With land grabbing taking the shape, it currently does, there is so much to worry about. For example, what are the conditions of usage for foreign new possessors of traditional land holdings as the case of recent allocation of land to Asian investors?
When Fatou Jaw Manneh warned president Jammeh in recent web radio talk against self-restraint conduct, she meant to educate the nation.
According Fatou Jaw Manneh, young generation Gambians conduct in president Jammeh’s ways. That includes the president’s carefree lifestyles.
To have the president owning land in the way he does is another message to the nation that land is getting scarce. Every conduct of the nation’s political leader is a message to the population. That is why Fatou would have thought Gambian president Jammeh needs watching his ways.
Decent standard of living for one and all
Without needing to be critical everyone in Gambia knows well enough that there is no decent standard living for the majority. Poverty is no secret, no shame.
Young girls and unmarried ladies are forced into prostitution. Some of the indecent behaviour is implicitly encouraged by president Jammeh especially when he organises musical and entertainment shows so frequently. What that means is nothing near attainment of decent living standard.
On national scale, president Jammeh reduced households to beggars by controlling resources.
Recently, he resorted to throwing biscuits on people along the road. Some observers see the throwing of biscuits for children and adults to stampede over as show of boastful conduct on part of president Jammeh.
Poverty and hunger are twin havocs for Gambians in larger numbers. One way president Jammeh is able to stay in political power is by keeping finger-tight control over money, material, and human resources of the nation.
Perhaps, the trick is that by keeping people hungry, everyone turns to him for food. Equally by keeping people poor, everyone turns to him for pocket money.
That way he commands votes as starving Gambians stick out to receive food, money, and material gifts. No doubt his land ownership extends to every region.
Based on these observations, there is no standard of decent living for people of Gambia.
President enjoys absolute monopoly of good life where excess possession of money, food and material matter.
Living conditions in Gambia hold nothing to suggest a healthy nation. The situation is compounded to critical proportion when president Jammeh claimed to be doctor with multi cure for HIV /AIDS and many others health problems.
What causes the national economy and financial system to collapse is what keeps national health standards declining.
What is more amazing about the medical and health system of Gambia is that the president seems to manifest his lack of trust for it when he prefers his wife giving birth to their children in America after creating what he calls good hospitals and doctors everywhere.
Either the present does not trust his own facilities or he covets the nice name American born for his children.
All we know is that the president and members of his family rely on external treatment for their health order. What Gambians have to learn from that is up to anyone who cares.
System of government based on the consent of the citizenry
Going to a fourth term of office should he win this year November 2011 elections, president Jammeh carrots Gambian voters in different ways.
When it comes to elections president Jammeh sweeps the polls by all means.
He stands so confident of winning elections that he told the nation he was not going to campaign.
Recently, he donated many tractors to farming communities and lot of motorbikes to his party supporters ahead of this year elections.
Although president Jammeh came to power by coup, he never wants to be reminded of that.
Without doubt, president Jammeh appears to set out a vision for his personal amassing of wealth and clinging onto power.
Vision 2020 is wholesome success for Yahya Jammeh as a person. But considering Gambia as a nation, Vision 2020 has failed to meet the ambition of a population living by false hope and shattered dreams.
It is up to Gambians in deciding whether to keep Yahya Jammeh or to show him the exit door to power that he forcefully usurped for almost two decades without tangible evidence of collective gains.
Yet president Jammeh seems richer than the state of Gambia when you take account of his money, material, land, and other personal possessions.