According to the agenda of the current parliamentary session the NAMs were supposed to adopt the draft budget estimates yesterday December 7.
On December 15th the Minister of Finance is expected to deliver the budget speech and the laying of the Appropriation Bill before Parliament for debate for only 5 days until December 19 for approval. When the bill is passed it means our money is now made available to Pres. Adama Barrow to spend as the national budget.
In the past one week our NAMs had truly stood up to scrutinize the estimates even though they had only 11 days. This time is not enough at all for a discussion of a matter that concerns the life and death of a whole nation.
We hope in the new Constitution, the timeline for the budget process will change so as to give adequate time to NAMs to discuss the issue. It is also important that the new Constitution makes it mandatory on the Ministry of Finance and the Parliament to share draft estimates publicly so that citizens can engage in the budget process as well.
While commending the NAMs for playing their part quite effectively, in the meantime we hope the Appropriation bill will not contain the following:
1. No to Government renting expensive private premises. Use public buildings for public offices.
2. No to allocation to unconstitutional ‘Office of the First Lady’.
3. No to allocation to ‘Presidential Donation’ or ‘State of the Nation Address.’
4. No to exorbitant allocations for ‘office furniture and renovations’.
5. Reduce the number of Gambian embassies and consulates.
6. Indicate the full salary of President and Vice President in the budget.
7. Reduce the purchase of vehicles for central government offices.
8. More allocations to hospitals, primary and secondary schools, UTG and skills training centres, police and fire stations, social welfare programs, facilities and services.
9. More resources to diversified and quality food production, processing, storage and marketing facilities and agricultural development.
10. More allocations to the construction of roads and energy infrastructure.
We need a budget that creates opportunities for children, youth and women. We need a budget that builds skills and knowledge. We need a budget that provides adequate and quality social goods and services. We need a budget that builds national capacity to produce, manufacture and build. We need a budget that develops lives and livelihoods of citizens! We need a budget that energises the private sector and encourages local investment!
We do not need a budget that enriches public officers and widens the gap between the haves and have-nots. We do not need a budget that generates inequality, poverty and debt!
For the Gambia, Our Homeland!