Deputies at the National Assembly yesterday on Tuesday July 30th 2019, approved two loans and two grant between the Republic of The Gambia and the Saudi Fund for International Development for the OIC related projects that will be carried out within the Greater Banjul Area.
Moving the motion for the approval of the loan agreement, Mambury Njie the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, told Law makers that the Gambia will be hosting the OIC Summit in 2022 and the hosting of this international event requires significant investment in infrastructure and other social amenities in preparation for the summit. Finance Minister Njie explained the circumstance surrounding the project and it objectives and further explained the terms and condition of the loan agreement to allay the concerns raised by NAM's surrounding the ratification of this agreement.
"The total financing package for the above OIC related projects is SAR 348, 750, 000 (Three hundred and forty-eight million, seven hundred and fifty thousand Saudi Riyals), equivalent to USD 93, 000, 000 (Ninety three million United States Dollars)," Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Njie said; that the loan component is for road projects within the Greater Banjul Area and this amounts to USD 50 million and the construction of the VIP Lounge at the Banjul International Airport which amounts to USD 10 million. As for the grants, the Minister told Deputies that this entails a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the Rehabilitation of the Water and Sanitation Network Project which amounts to USD 22, 500, 000 and another MoU for the Electricity Network Enhancement Project at USD 10 million.
Meanwhile before approval was granted, the proposal was subject to a critical parliamentary debate between Lawmakers. While others talk about the positive side that this loan will bring for the country such as improvement in the energy sector and infrastructure, others argued that the OIC summit is not an absolute necessity that should warrant such a huge investment for the country through such a huge loan.
In his intervention, Ousman Sillah, the National Assembly Member for Banjul North, moved a motion for the approval to be differed while the loan package is committed to more scrutiny by the National Assembly Select Committee on the Evaluation and Monitoring of Government Projects.
"Mr. Speaker, this loan and grant package brought before us by the Finance Minister lacks details as to how and what communities and roads will be affected. It just states 50 kilometres of roads but what are the design and standard of these roads, we are not told," Sillah said.
The Banjul North NAM underscored the importance of infrastructure in the development of any country as well as the need for the provision of good sanitation and water for the population in the earmarked communities. He however added that the Minister did not provide information on the necessary details as to who the beneficiary communities would be and the areas to be affected.
"In this regard Mr. Speaker, I want to move a motion for this august Assembly to commit this loan and grant agreement to the Committee on Government Project Monitoring for further review and our consideration during the Third Ordinary Session in September, in order for us to get the full details from the Ministries of Finance and Works and Infrastructure. There is no need to rush," Sillah said.
The motion was seconded by Suwaibou Touray, the NAM for Wuli East. Touray argued that it is the responsibility of the executive to secure loans but they have a role to ensure these loans have the potential to transform the lives of Gambians.
Sidia Jatta, the Member for Wuli West told his colleagues that for 46 years, Gambians still grope in the dark; that nobody is saying there should no borrowing; but that this is an insult to Gambians at the moment.
On his part, Musa Amul Nyassi the Member for Foni Kansala said this loan remains unclear because it is designed to support the OIC summit which is to come in the next three years; that this loan could have been spent on some other imminent sectors like health and agriculture.
Most of Members comments were based on the lack of involvement and participation of Members of the Naional Assembly in the pre-arrangement of the loan agreement and urged the authorities to consider revolving their style of engagement next time. Members argued that the National Assembly is adequately representing the country and that they should be central in all pre and post-decision making processes of the country such as these consolidated loans.
At this stage, a counter motion for the Assembly to approve the loan and grant agreement was moved by Saikouba Jarjue, the NAM for Busumbala, and was seconded by Alhaji Mbowe, the NAM for Upper Saloum.
When the motions were put to a vote by the Speaker, those against the motion of Ousman Sillah carried the day and approval was granted.
Look for more details in subsequent issues of Foroyaa for details.