Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - The Gambia’s payment of debts it owes foreign and domestic lenders, salaries and allowances of civil servants cumulatively take 80 percent of its 2020 budget, an official source told PANA here Thursday.
Debt servicing, and salaries and allowances of civil servants each takes 40 of the budget. The remaining 20 per cent is what would be used on other development endeavours of the government.
Musa Camara, deputy permanent secretary for program and policies at the Personnel Management Office (PMO), said that over the years, 40 per cent of government budget was spent on wages, salaries and allowances, not just in the 2020 budget.
PMO is the body responsible for recruitment and employment in the civil service of The Gambia.
The Gambia government’s budget for 2020 stands at D21.3 billion. Out of this, D7.7 billion is allocated to national debt service. Similar amount goes to salaries and allowances of government employees.
According to DPS Camara, the total number of central government employees stands at 50,000.
“The workforce budget of the government is already considered to be overloaded,” he added.
Reacting to demands that the government should create more employment avenues, particularly for the youth, Camara said: “The government cannot employ everyone. What the government can do is to create the enabling environment to attract investment and support and encourage the private sector so that it can flourish.
“This opens up more employment opportunities as more industries, companies, factories will be open and more young people will be engaged and the economy will be enhanced as well.”
He further explained that the government’s capacity to employ, to a large extent, depended on tax collection by the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) because the country was tax-based, saying “what GRA collects determines what is spent by the government as expenditure”.
Camara said looking at the 2020 national budget, it might appear as if youth employment was not considered or opportunities were not given to youth, but issues of youth were crosscutting in different ministries and departments.
In addition, he said, there were projects that supported the government in enhancing employment for young people, adding that the budget of those projects could be more than the budget of two or three ministries.
“But you won’t see the funds for such projects in the approved budget because they are interventions that are budgeted to support other government programs and policies,” he said, adding that some of those funds did not directly come through the government.
Camara noted that the budget allocation for ministries dealing with youth matters might not be sufficient to empower youths of The Gambia but in budget development, consideration was also given to what the government could afford.
Alagie Jarju, program manager at the National Youth Council, said the 113.3 million allocated to MoYS in the 2020 budget was not enough.
“It needs to be increased significantly considering the youthful population of The Gambia,” he said.
He however noted that there were other ministries that also engaged and provided services for young people, different from MoYS.
Jarju said The Gambia government was working hard, together with other development partners, to bring down the level of unemployment in the country from 38 percent to 25 per cent.
“But this will not be attainable if the youth sector continues to receive the least allocation in the national budget,” he said.
The NYC programme manager said as council, they would continue to engage the government to do more to ensure that sustainable employment was created for young people so that by 2021, the rate of unemployment would go down from 38 percent to 25 per cent.
On their part, he said, the NYC was working with partners to establish a Youth Smart Garden in Wuli Sare Ngai so that youths in that region could stay and earn a livelihood.
Sutay Jawo, deputy permanent secretary, ministry of youth and sports, said three years ago, his ministry instituted the Gambia Songhai Initiative in Chamen and it was a success story in terms of creating employment for the youth.
“We have revisited the initiative and realized it is a good model that can go a long way in alleviating unemployment for young people,” he said.
“Because of that, we have decided that the initiative should be expanded and currently we are working on establishing another one in Kundam in Basse, Upper River Region,” he stated.
Jawo however urged the government go out and look for the required funding and make it available for young people but any such support coming for the young people should be in line with the policies in place that govern young people.
“They [funders] cannot come with their own set of principles that they want the young people to follow leaving our own principles that was set and enacted by young people,” he affirmed.
Momodou Juju Jallow, a youth activist, said low wages and inadequate job opportunities for young people had led to the increase in recent involvement of young people in theft cases.
He emphasized that the 2020 budget allocation to MoYS was very minimal compared to other ministries.
“Reducing funding to young people portends immense dangers when understood from the point of view that young people are the next generation of potentially productive economic and social actors,” he said.
“In today Gambia, youth unemployment has been a major problem and this has given rise to other criminal tendencies in the youth and that is eventually going to threaten the socio-economic peace and stability of the country.”
Jallow reiterated that unemployment, particularly of youth, had been categorized as one of the serious impediments to social progress and peace.
Kaddijatou Jabbi, also a youth activist, stressed the need for budget increment for young people, saying the budget allocation for young people was small and “most of it goes to the sport sector”.
“The young people should be factored in as key component in government budget allocation because if government neglects the youth, the country’s development will be retarded and slow,” she said.
Ms Jabbi said even though government could not do it all, there were basic things that it needed to do to improve on such things as employment creation for young people without necessarily depending on foreign aid.
The women and child activist urged government to build institution and skill centres, even if not in all districts, but in every region and also mechanize agriculture so that the youth could go back to the land.
“If you look at it, the unemployment rate in Gambia continues to be on the increase despite the abundant financial support to The Gambia government because the youth sector is not given the required financial support that’s why chronic youth unemployment still remains,” she said.
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