Yahya Jammeh’s economic mismanagement of the Gambian economy is leading the country to Greece type collapse. This year is not yet 6 months old, however, the value of The Gambian currency ‘Dalasi’, has depreciated more than 60% in less than 5 months. Meanwhile, the question we all need to ask ourselves is why the economy in the downward spiral, the answer is interesting and fascinating. By only looking at one factor you may be able to figure out why the Gambian economy is in tatters.
GAMTEL from 1984 to 2000
Gambia Telecommunications company limited (GAMTEL) was once in a unique position where, despite the government having 99% shares it was run on strictly commercial lines, meaning that even the government has to pay for its usage of the telecommunication facilities. Because of that, government policies have made GAMTEL to be one of the most successful and valuable telecommunications company in Africa in terms of revenue, innovation, quality services, customer services, connectivity and importance to the country’s economy.
The turnover in 1986 was near GMD100 million Dalasis and by 2000, GAMTEL’s turnover was GMD230 million Dalasis. The last declared profit, in 1999, was GMD34 million Dalasis, which was about US$2.8 to US$3 million net profit and after paying dividends to the shareholders. GAMTEL has been very comfortable financially speaking and is one of the key-enterprises in the country representing over 30% of the GNP.
Since 1992, the Gambia has a fibre cable service and up to date some areas in the UK and US are yet to enjoy that facility and that was because of GAMTEL. GAMTEL was tasked to operate radio Gambia and also to setup Gambia Television Station GRTS. In 2004, GAMTEL established the state owned cellular company GAMCEL which is the first in the country and a subsidiary of GAMTEL. All these developments were as a result of GAMTEL. Meanwhile, since its inception in July 1984 through the company’s hay days Bakary Njie had been the managing director who brought stability and continuity to the company.
However, because of Jammeh’s lack of leadership skills and styles he interfered with the internal operations of the company and since then he had appointed more than 6 managing and acting directors such as Phoday Sisay, Abdourahaman Mboob, Omar Ndow, Jamal Miknas, Babucarr Sanyang et al. Also, thanks to Yahya Jammeh’s economic indiscipline, GAMTEL/GAMCEL has been bankrupt to its knees. Yahya Jammeh forced GAMTEL to fund the construction of the AU villas and provide the logistics for the AU summit that was hosted on July 2006 in The Gambia by Yahya Jammeh. A year after the extravagant summit, GAMTEL was partially privatised in 2007 with 50% of its equity sold to Spectrum Group, a Lebanese telecoms company, allegedly due to financial problems at Gamtel but the merger ended after a year.
Gambia government accounts of the state of affair of GAMTEL/GAMCEL
Fast forward to 2015, according to Gambia government, GAMTEL/GAMCEL experienced financial distress in large part because of declining revenues, inefficient and costly operating processes, and the sharp increase in domestic interest rates. GAMTEL/GAMCEL together has been constrained in the implementation of their annual activities (including investment) in 2014 by debt service payments of short-term loans from the Domestic Money Banks amounting to GMD614 million. As a consequence, they were unable to meet their long-term loan repayment obligations, which the government had to intervene to settle on their behalf given the fact that the Government is the guarantor of the long-term loan. To reverse this trend, the authorities will quickly develop a strategy, including taking steps to separate GAMTEL/GAMCEL and reposition GAMTEL in the local telephony market. In the meanwhile, they will exercise close scrutiny to ensure that it limits its spending to revenues collected.
These are few examples where Jammeh is sucking the blood out of the country’s economy. GAMTEL from US$3 million profit to GMD614 million debts, then there is a fundamental problem and of course that fundamental problem is Jammeh. Now, after reading this you may begin to understand why Gambia is heading in the direction of Greece, ah, actually we are there already.