TAT Editorial: Observations On 2024 Draft Budget Estimates

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Alieu Famara Sagnia, Chairman TAT Editorial Board

By: Alieu Famara Sagnia

Was the “Asset Recycling” agreement for the Senegambia Bridge with the AfDB’s subsidiary Africa50 ever brought to the National Assembly?

If not then now the “Asset Recycling Program” is before our lawmakers in a statement inserted in the draft Budget Estimates for the fiscal year 2024.

The Minister of Finance, Seedy Keita, on Friday 17 November submitted it to the National Assembly in Banjul.

The minister’s statement to the Gambian lawmakers, stated in paragraph 7: “The 2024 Budget… the ministry intends to pursue… innovative non-debt revenue creating initiatives (Asset Recycling Program)…”

Looking at this statement, it is clear that the “Asset Recycling” of the Senegambia Bridge is now being presented to our legislators as a fait accompli.

When the Gambian Finance minister disclosed his negotiations with the AfDB’s subsidiary Africa50 for the program, it became a hot topic for national debate by Gambians.

And, it was said in some quarters that such “recycling” of this vital national asset cannot be concluded by the government without going through the National Assembly.

Finance minister Keita did argue at the time that there is no constitutional or other legal requirement for the government to go to the lawmakers before it entered into any such agreement.

Consequently, we now see the Finance minister state in his draft Budget Estimates for 2024 in paragraph 26 that:

“Non-Tax Revenue is expected to increase by 86 percent due to partial anticipated receipts of $10 million from arbitration award (?) and the payment of the first tranche of $15 million from the Trans-Gambia Asset Recycling Program…”

Again, we ask – was the National Assembly ever consulted or informed by the Executive about its intention to have an “Asset Recycling Program” for the Senegambia Bridge?

In any case, there is this US$15 million inserted as part of the revenue plans/projections for the 2024.

If this is the first time the “recycling” of the bridge is being officially brought to the attention of the legislators, what action(s) are we expecting from them?

Indeed, having heard the public discourse and exchanges about “recycling” – the pros and cons – as they relate to the Senegambia Bridge, is it now their turn to ask the relevant questions in their ongoing scrutiny and debate on the 2024 Estimates?

Are they able to raise queries about its inclusion in the new Estimates, and will that not be coming too late in the day in the budget process?

And, thus we further ask – was it designed this way so that it will go through, even when many Gambians have deemed the “recycling” of the bridge a controversial issue?

Definitely, the NAMs cannot at this stage of the budget process start asking questions about the US$15 million – with its short timelines – and not risk causing a shut down of the government process in Banjul – a la America!

It would be recalled that when the president of the African Development Bank, Adesina, visited Banjul recently, he was given the red carpet and feted like a head of state.

It would be in order to further observe that Gambia’s Asset Recycling Program with the AfFB’s subsidiary Africa50 is another manifestation of the predatory nature of international finance capital.

The ADB provided a grant to The Gambia for construction of the Senegambia Bridge as part of the grand ECOWAS West Africa road corridors projects.

Years later, Africa’s regional bank – the continent’s premier representative of world finance capital – returns to make money from our National Asset through an agreement to manage the bridge on behalf of the Gambia government. Food for thought, eh!

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