As the holy month of Ramadan is progressing sugar and meat continues to be a scarce commodity for the ordinary person in the street. Many uses condense milk in their tea at breaking the fast in the evening. In the first few days of the Ramadan despite the television news bulletin and the display of trucks full of sugar and a prominent businessman coming on the television screen assuring the people that sugar is in abundant Gambians still do not have access to sugar as before. Meat is also another scarce commodity, as many meat stalls are empty.
There is shortage of meat elsewhere; In Upper River Region town of Basse for example is one place where people are complaining of nowhere to buy meat. The ordinary citizens have been complaining of the lack of meat in their respective areas since the commencement of Ramadan. Many who go to the central markets in and around different places continues to complain of lack of sugar and meat.
This is very unusual of Gambia, in most cases the country has always been blessed with abundant of sugar and the supply of meat is always there when the holy month of Ramadan is around. For several years in the past now Gambians use to enjoy un- interrupted supply of sugar and meat in our markets, especially during the month of Ramadan. Why is the situation like this, this time around?
Recently the Mayor of Kanifing municipality was on the television assuring the people that more and quality meat will be available. And it was not only a few days later when very long queues of women were seen at the municipal grounds waiting to be buy meat. One will wonder what is really going on and who is responsible. The best place for such marketing should have been at the central markets and not at the municipal grounds. What has happen to our butchers? Is it that they cannot afford to buy live animals or what, or municipalities could not control the prices of these basic commodities?
Looking at the issues surrounding the scarcity of meat and sugar, one is tempted to ask if there were groups of people who are creating the situation of meat and scarcity. Or is it just the norms of business? Someone or somebody should be the regulators, to ensure that the consumers get what is theirs.
Who that body is, can be anybody’s guess, but what is obvious is that it should be the responsibility of central government through the municipalities. The department of trade should stand up and make sure that there are policies in place that can continue to guarantee the supply of such commodities at a affordable cost taking into account the price of live animals. At the same time there should not be any unnecessary interventions of people or organizations that have authority.
There should be a clear cut distinction for certain level of government officials to take part in businesses. Policies should bar high ranking government officials for taking part in business for it has so many implications which are detrimental to our business.
Of recent we have seen the involvement of ministers, heads of department and even the president actively taking part in business in the name of rescuing the country. In the opinion of this paper it will only be correct for government to come up with good trade policies rather than they themselves get involved in business.
Who for instance dare to want to tax a business item of your minister, or your head of department, or even your president? Once that tax is not properly collected then the state is losing revenue. Since those government officials are also busy with other things to do, the sustainability of the importation of such particular items will not be guaranteed and hence the scarcity.