25 September 2014


IMF says Ebola and delayed rains will affect The Gambia's economy

The Gambia's economy is vulnerable to contraction as a result of Ebola and poor precipitation, the IMF team led by Bhaswar Mukhopadhyay that visited Banjul from September 4 - 17 2014 has disclosed.
The report stated: “The Gambia remains Ebola-free but news from the sub-region appears to be deterring tourists and this will pose an additional challenge.  At the same time the delayed start of the rainy season will have a substantial impact on the harvest. Agriculture is The Gambia's largest economic sector and its second largest exporter after tourism. Together the impact of these two external shocks will be felt on economic growth, the government budget trade and the banking system though more information is needed to quantify these risks.
In light of substantially higher borrowing by the government and looming risks it is imperative to reinforce corrective measures and to make bold choices about spending priorities. The target of limiting net domestic borrowing to 2.5 percent in 2014 is no longer realistic but efforts will be required to limit borrowing and steer the budget toward zero net domestic borrowing in the medium-term. Moving forward, a deeper restructuring of the government budget would be required to limit the sources of spending pressures and make space for priority spending.
Implementation of reforms is also urgently needed to put Nawec on a sound financial footing and limit its strain on the state budget. The mission welcomes the authorities' commitment to implement recommendations of a comprehensive energy sector study being conducted with the help of consultants and the World Bank to restructure the energy sector. It will equally be important to ensure that other public enterprises are operated on a sound financial basis to minimise contingent fiscal risks and provide effective support to private sector activities.
Commendable progress has been made in liberalising fuel imports, reducing the size of fuel subsidies and improving revenue collection. The authorities are encouraged to sustain such progress ensuring that competition drives lower prices for businesses and consumers and strengthen the social safety nets that better target vulnerable populations. These reforms promote competitiveness and investment and allow the government to focus resources on those who need it most. The mission thanks the authorities for the candid and constructive discussions during the mission and looks forward to an active and continued dialogue with the aim of restoring macroeconomic stability as a foundation for economic development in The Gambia”.
The report added: “The macroeconomic environment stabilised in early 2014 with a successful tourism season leading to improved revenues, a stable exchange rate and moderate inflation. Government spending was contained and interest rates appeared to be edging downward slowly. Since that time spending pressures have re-emerged led by financial difficulties of the public utility provider (Nawec) as well as some spending in excess of budgeted levels. These borrowing needs have kept interest rates high while putting pressure on the dalasi. Public debt which stood at more than 80 percent of GDP at the end of 2013 is projected to exceed 90 percent of GDP by the end of this year. The burden of government borrowing will exert further pressure on inflation, international reserve and the exchange rate”.

14 September 2014


EU chargé d'affairs launches project to fight FGM, empower women

The EU chargé d'affairs, Madam Agnes Gillaud, has raised concern about the continuing practice of female genital mutilation (FGM)in The Gambia and the consequences for victims. Speaking at the ‘Women empowerment for change’ project launching in Kalagi on Friday, she declared: “The project aims to promote women’s rights here in the Foni Jarrol District by empowering vulnerable women and raising awareness about their rights as human beings.  It is focused on economic empowerment and reducing violence against women including female genital mutilation/cutting. The EU is committed to gender equality, which is the key for sustainable development.  Gender equality has been identified as one of the five essential principles of EU’s cooperation strategies.  Equal opportunities and access to resources for both men and women are essential to eradicate poverty and to achieve all MDGs (Millennium Development Goals). Women play a critical role in addressing the main challenges humanity faces today, such as health, education, agriculture and nutritional issues as well as climate change.  However, this extremely important role of women is too often underestimated. Crucial issues remain to be effectively addressed, in order not to hamper the efforts to achieve our shared development objectives, including the MDGs.  Indeed, domestic violence remains a widespread problem in the country.  FGM and other harmful traditional practices are still widely perpetrated, especially in rural areas. Such is also early marriage which can lead to health complications, and sometimes death, not to mention the missing out on education”.   She added: “In Africa women constitute 52 % of the total population, but contribute 75% of the agricultural work and produce and market 60 to 80 % of the food.  By contrast, over two thirds of the world’s illiterate are women: girls are about 11 % less likely than boys to attend secondary school in developing countries.  In sub-Saharan Africa women earn only 10 % of income and own only 1% of assets. Marginalisation of women is also present in decision making: although women constitute half of the electorate only 12 % percent of parliamentary seats are held by women in Africa, and even less so in The Gambia”.

10 September 2014


Hundreds celebrate female circumcision in Bakoteh

Hundreds of dancing and drumming women turned out Saturday to take part in festivities marking the end of circumcision rites for young girls in Bakoteh. This, despite the spirited campaign being waged by the NGO, Gamcotrap. A supporter of the practice, Bakoteh alkalo Metta Jassey told The Standard: “We understand from the teachings of Islamic clerics that this is approved by the prophet and whatever the prophet does is in pursuit of Allah's commands. We do not embark on anything without seeking the opinion of Islamic scholars and we know this to be a very good thing which we have always practised from our forefathers to date. This is good for our children and we will do it as the prophet advised without deferring to anyone else because Allah and His prophet came before Gamcotrap. They can say whatever they want to say but we will do what the prophet said because we believe that is the right thing.” Also wading in on the issue, former KMC deputy mayor and Bakoteh resident, Yusupha Sanyang, posited: “This practice goes back a long time in our culture and it is believed to have benefits for those who undergo it. This is important in meeting the requirement of the religion and making women clean. This practice has been sanctioned by the prophet. According to Islamic scholars, the prophet asked Ummu Attiya to do the practice but with moderation. I defend and support FGM as far as it is according to the way the prophet recommended. However, I do not support the kind of FGM that leads to adverse health implications or lasting injury to girls.” FGM is defined by the WHO as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. It is recognised as a violation of the human rights of women and girls. In December 2012, the United Nations general assembly unanimously voted to work for the elimination of FGM throughout the world. Between 100 million and 140 million women and girls are thought to be living with the consequences of female genital mutilation, according to the World Health Organisation.

PAGEANT'S COMMENT: The custom of female circumcision (female genital mutilation - FGM) is deeply embedded in Gambian culture. However, FGM is a criminal offence in the UK, and we know that it is an emotive topic which many of our readers may find upsetting. Sainey is a respected Gambian journalist. He reports on Gambian events as dispassionately as possible, and we have invited him to use Pageant's News Blog when his reports touch on matters that are of interest to our members. Pageant cannot approve of or condone FGM, but we do not wish to get involved in arguments for or against. Neither do we express any views about politics or religion. Pageant's overriding aim is simply to help with education in The Gambia, confident that a well-educated nation can make its own decisions about this and many other matters.
Several members and sponsors have asked us questions about FGM and what is happening about it in The Gambia.  Those and other concerned people could use the link below to read about the current situation out there.

Further information about FGM in The Gambia