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Published On: Sat, Nov 5th, 2022

Gambia has performed better than most countries in the aftermath of Covid-19-GCCI President

The President of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Mr. Edrissa Mass Jobehas told to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United Nation System that the Gambia has performed better than most countries in the aftermath of the Covid-19, and that despite the lack of medical infrastructure (soft and hard) with the lack of social safety net, they successfully met the pandemic challenge in a spirit of solidarity between government, business, and the  community, which the same principle should be used and with urgency to the impending current economic depression.

Mr. Jobe made these remarks from a private sector perspective on Friday during the launch of the Joint IMF In-Country for the October 2022 Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa, and UNCT outreach on the Rising Cost of Living in the Gambia.

The themes for the event was “living on the edge” and “managing the high cost of living and food insecurity in the Gambia” was held at the SDKJ International Conference Center in Bijilo which converged various personnel from the Gambia government, private sector and the UN System.

Jobe stated that it is a truism, that every society produces its own specific vulnerabilities, and that their own vulnerability is the low standard of living and poverty of most of their people, that the eradication of poverty therefore is their “Adaptive Challenge” and that collectively, they must immediately confront like they did Covid-19 as a community the high inflation rates especially food inflation affecting cost of living, high unemployment rates especially youth unemployment and supply chain constraint requiring a focus beyond food security to food sovereignty that they produce what they consume.

He advanced that energy insecurity amidst the abundance of sunshine first inflation, that it suffice to quote the world bank that “The Gambian’s economy is set to decelerate in 2022 due to high commodity and fertilizer prices, supply chain disruptions due to the war in Ukraine, and the annual floods. Inflation reached 12.3 percent (year-on-year) in July 2022 – its highest level in the last three decades.”

Jobe outlined that the true measure of inflation in the Gambia is directly linked to the depreciation of the Dalasi against the US Dollar (and other currencies), adding that in “1985, The Gambia formulated and began implementing one of the most comprehensive economic adjustment programs devised by any country in Sub-Saharan Africa and by 1986, the Gambian economy had begun to turnaround, and the economy has continued to expand since then.”

He recalled that the Jawara Government set the foundation for the dramatic recovery of the new Gambia, which was widely seen as a “basket case,” adding that in the wars of Berkeley Rice, enter Gambia, the Birth of an improbable nation. That one of the pillars of the ERP was the exchange rate policy.

According to GCCI President, the foreign exchange rate is a managed float where the exchange rate fluctuates based on supply and demand factors, while the government occasionally intervened in the foreign exchange market as the invisible hand.

“Today the business community is seriously worried about the change of this policy and the return to a fixed rate mechanism that brought the countries to its knees. We strongly that government maintain floating rate mechanism and endeavor to ensure a real time calculation of the CBG reference rate.  We propose for the purpose of innovation to look closely the sources and disposition of foreign currency. It is observable that 40% of imports is destined towards the acquisition of fuel and minerals mainly from the CFA zone and in this observation, there is a potential solution, including the re-evaluation of re-export business that has been a key source of hard currency,” he mentioned

Jobe revealed that the issue of food insecurity at the household and at national level, there are two factors affecting food insecurity such as the  income which determines their ability to buy food and the world marine situation that seriously constraints the transfer of food from the producing to the consuming countries.

He concluded that at household level, income is constrained mainly by lack of employment which increasingly creates more poverty and more inequality, that the food insecurity cannot be solved by mass production alone but significantly by production by the masses which is their Keynesian moment.

And due to dependence on expensive liquid fuels for more than 90% of power generation, consumers pay a high cost for power in The Gambia with the average tariff of $0.23/kilowatt hour (kWh), which is one of the highest in the world. And that they must aggressively encourage government to adopt the off-grid and micro grid solutions for rural electrification and the introduction of solar household equipment in the Urban Area.

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