By: Musa Bah
I have read in the newspapers that the Government of the Gambia will soon send a Bill to give certain perks to former presidents to the National Assembly. The perks mentioned in this Bill are so generous that I even contemplated running for office, and if by any chance I win, I will resign thirty minutes after my swearing-in.
Granted, it is necessary, and common practice in many countries, to create a special allowance and some amenities for former presidents, but it is always necessary to keep the country’s economic condition when designing it. The economic condition in the Gambia currently is such that it is unfathomable that someone who has a conscience can suggest such perks for former presidents.
The citizens of the country – or most of them – cannot even afford the three square meals a day. Many people are so desperate that they cannot feed their families. There are many people who eat only once or twice a day as they cannot afford better.
The prices of commodities have skyrocketed while the people’s earning power has stagnated. One needs to leave one’s house to observe the stark poverty and want in the country. When one is in a position to deal with people, talk to them, and listen to their woes, then one will realize the dire situation people are in.
There is a lack of employment among the youth, and this has led to a surge in young people risking their lives in rickety boats to reach the shores of Europe as they see that as the only way to succeed and live a dignified life. Many have lost the hope and belief that they can live comfortably in the country.
The first responsibility of a government, it is said, is to protect its citizens from every type of danger. Right now, the biggest threat to families in the country is the threat of starvation. Many people are constantly worried about where they will get their next meal. Nothing is more pitiful than waking up in the morning knowing that one has nothing to feed one’s family.
Therefore, when thousands of citizens live in such conditions, one can imagine how they will feel about seeing the Government – a few people compared to the total population – utilizing millions of taxpayers’ money to make life comfortable for them and their families. They ask: What about Us?
A few months ago, the talk was of the National Assembly Members purchasing vehicles that cost about three million dalasis. Then a Bill that looked like it was designed to make judges millionaires was the talk of the town. Now, a package of goodies that will cost the taxpayers millions is being prepared for former presidents. The people ask: What about Us?
The Executive and the National Assembly Members are the representatives of the people and should do everything they can to keep the welfare of the people in mind. They should make efforts to ensure that no one takes the people for a ride. Otherwise, they would have failed woefully in the performance of their duties and responsibilities. If they show the people that they are only interested in their own luxury, the people will ask: What about Us?
While some of these issues are important and have their benefits, it is important to always remember the people from whom, and on behalf of whom, governments are working. Whatever Government does, it should be for, and on behalf of the people. Therefore, they should not allow people to ask the question: What about Us?