By: Foday Manneh
Economic analyst Momodou Sabally has raised concern over the impacts of the latest commercial drivers sit-down initiated by the Gambia Transport Union on the country’s economy.
The nationwide strike action by commercial drivers further pressed commuters already stretched by higher transportation costs as fares hit an all-new high blamed on increased fuel prices.
In an interview, economist Momodou Sabally told Alkamba Times (TAT) that the ongoing protest will severely hurt the country’s economy.
“If the transport sector is virtually the lifeblood of economic activity – if that comes to a standstill, that means the further bad outlook for economic activities, which will affect all sectors. Because all sectors of the economy are linked,” Sabally argued.
Sabally explained that fuel sellers and vehicle owners are losing revenue as the sit-down continues in a ripple effect, which markedly reduces bank deposits needed to boost growth.
The former Gambian Minister blamed the problem on fiscal indiscipline as the country’s spending outpaces the economy.
“Government needs to initiate measures to ensure wise spending and reduce unnecessary expenditure,” he suggested.
He added: “If they cannot do that at the very less, when fuel prices come down in the world market, the government should bring down fuel prices in the country. Then, if that is done regularly when prices go up, and fuel prices increase, drivers would understand.”
According to the economist, the government failed to reduce the price of oil because they intended to collect as much tax as possible from economic players whose cost of production is going up without any means to regulate the industry. This causes disequilibrium in the market.
According to him, “the Senegambia Bridge was constructed by a grant, not borrowed money, adding that drivers are not saying they should not be charged for crossing, but the fees proffered are exorbitantly high, and that is not fair.”
Sabally said the Gambia government needs to negotiate with the transport union to quickly resolve these problems.
“I believe a resolution can bring about a win-win outcome. Anything sort of that can paralyze the economy, and people will suffer.”
The timeline of the strike action remains unclear. However, the transport union refuses to back down in a standoff, which the economist blames on a lack of effective negotiation urgently needed to salvage an essential sector of the economy.