Where Are We Heading to?
Friday, August 17, 2012
In today’s Gambia, there is a growing hunger and poverty. Even the government admits that the country is unlikely to meet target-one of the MDGs. That is, to reduce hunger and poverty by half by 2015. Over half of the country’s people spend less than a dollar per day. This problem is compounded by last year’s abysmally-failed cropping season, which resulted in severe food crisis and food insecurity across the country.
Moreover, the country is hugely indebted, locally and internationally. Yet, the government continues to go after more loans, which are, in most cases, not spent on productive sectors. At the same time, the government is refusing to cut down spending. For the record of anyone who wishes to keep it, we must state, as a matter-of-fact, that the government’s financial indiscipline is against the advice of the finance minister. Abdou Kolley, at every other budget speech, would hammer home the need for the government to cut down spending in the wake of huge deficit in the budget, as well as the swelling debt stock. Nonetheless, the government continues to take loans on behalf of the people who are never adequately consulted. As matters stand, mathematically speaking, every Gambian has a debt of over one billion dalasi to pay. In reality, however, the debt owed cannot be serviced in the lifetime of anyone reading this editorial commentary. The generation yet unborn have to pay! Is this fair on our part?
Furthermore, for the past decade, or more, there has been a steady rocketing in the prices of basic commodities. A bag of rice, the country’s staple food, is beyond the reach of many Gambians. To say that salaries do not commensurate with the living conditions of Gambians is an understatement. The incomes remain unacceptably low. There is no proper housing scheme for even civil servants, most of whom go into retirement without having a house to call theirs. They die a tenant. The social protection services are poor.
As if these and other inadequacies that make life difficult for most Gambians are not enough, the government’s heavy handedness continues unabated. The fundamental rights to information, association, religion, thought, among others, are all stifled. Even the right to life is often disregarded by the government, as one of most common killer diseases in the country is the presidential motorcade.
And on Wednesday, Teranga FM was once again closed down. This was the third time in two years, since the radio started its news programme which reviews local newspapers and broadcasts current affairs – issues that concerns the public. Teranga FM was the only privately-owned radio station bold enough to do that. The rest are reduced to entertainment shops, though at least, some are doing some good sports programmes.
Evidently, the public is greatly benefiting from Teranga FM’s news programmes which were done in local languages. About half of the country’s population is unlettered. Among the lettered, only a few have the financial clout to be buying daily newspapers. Therefore, the option for the majority of Gambians is to listen to the radio to know the happenings in their environment and beyond, to know what the government is doing on their behalf.
Now that the public is once again denied that fundamental human rights by the government’s unlawful, arbitrary actions, this paper wonders where the country is heading to.