Re: IMF Considers Gambia Bail-out

Chris Gordon

Pursuant to comments in my initial post where I noted, “some other issues should be considered” (regarding an IMF relationship – or that of any other investor), I will only say the following in relation to the original article’s opening paragraph…

{“Third World” countries, especially the African countries, must either take the bull by the horns and abandon their participation in the current Global Capitalist System or continue to serve the interest of the capitalist west and reduce their peoples to the wretched of the earth..}

It would be reprehensible for any party to a contract to enter into it with the belief that it was a failed proposition from the beginning. And thus, if ‘participation in the current Global Capitalist System” only serves the interests of the west (and not serving a “need” of the Gambia), then its a bad deal and it should be abandoned without further consideration. If, however, the relationship has the means to advance a peoples’ plan (in the case of government loans) and you can get what you want for terms that you deem acceptable, then why would you not consider it? Who cares what they get or how predatory they (the lender) may wish to be. Just don’t agree to terms that can set your country back a decade (or worse) in the event of a worst-case-scenario. If we agree to terms that are draconian, then we, ourselves, are to blame before we can point fingers at the lender.

{The escape of a few from poverty into affluence and riches,which is often showcased as the success of the system, is an illusion…The system is designed to keep us the way that serves their interest: sources of cheap raw materials and labour, as well as Markets for their finished goods and services and regular sources of income through interest payments and debt servicing…Dependence on Foreign Aid ensures control and manipulation..}

This is a defeatist mindset, in my opinion – believing that any deal with an external source is going to be one sided – it can’t be if you don’t agree it.

The unfortunate truth is that very few people on earth understand how to effectively manage money. Those that do tend to benefit the greatest. We all assume that our leaders in government understand this science – most do not, however. Then start to factor back office deals within deals and money starts disappearing where there’s a lot to be spread around. Then, bang! That regime is gone and there’s a mess for someone else to clean up – all the while the good people are left holding the bag for a deal gone bad.

Identification of needs, and potential solutions for them, should be relatively simple to calculate. However politics – especially where corrupt regimes are on the debtor side, brings ambiguity and uncertainty. I don’t think Gambia should care less what ‘the man’ (IMF, China, other investors, etc.) might get from a relationship from with them, as long as Gambians get what they need to fulfill their needs/interests in return.

This is where it gets dicey. For,

  1. Can the Jammeh regime be trusted with managing loans from any source?

  2. What if the government can’t/won’t repay the loan(s) – what happens to Gambia’s assets (surely the loans will be secured with something of value)?

So in the end, don’t blame the lender from the outset. If you were an investor with the ability to finance tens of millions (USD$) into the development of a country’s infrastructure, you will evaluate all of the factors involved (risk) and make an offer if you see where you can achieve a ‘win’ (whatever ‘win’ means to the investor – usually profit).

In the case of the Gambia, there is high risk. The region remains unstable, Jammeh’s regime has a poor track record of managing public funds responsibly and lacks accountability, etc.. The electorate, mostly the result of a lack of education of the masses, don’t know how to make their government accountable. So if I’m a guy like Jammeh (not saying he’d do this), I might look at what deals best suit my interests and be prepared to blame the eventual failures on the weather, Ebola, etc. when I don’t fulfill my end of the bargain.

This, my friends, is where most deals go south. Not even the IMF can predispose a deal to be rancid if its counterpart is “sober and accountable” through the process of negotiation and then work hard to fulfill its obligations. Believe me when I say that most investors don’t want to become debt collectors – it’s time consuming and costly. I think it is fair to recognize that investors have a lot of risk – especially where repressive regimes are involved because of the cost of corruption.

So in the end, if Gambians can’t trust their leadership to manage loans on their behalf responsibly, they should make their feelings known – as best as possible. I might even consider a petition signed by legitimate Gambian stakeholders to the IMF (or whomever) to state reasons why they should not lend money to a (Jammeh) regime, if it can be discerned that it is the will of the people. Maybe this is how you get Jammeh to the table – however I have no clue about how the opposition might be coalesced (or not)?

The greatest advantage that an oppressive ruler in a poor country has is lack of education of its people. In the Gambia’s case, a large proportion of its citizens believe they are impoverished because it is God’s will. And, perhaps it is – but I seriously doubt it.

In my opinion, your every effort should be underpinned by a serious commitment to educate all Gambians…somehow. There are plenty of willing NGOs. And understand that this country’s woes will not change tomorrow. Part of peoples’ educations (everywhere in the world) should include what expectations they should have of their governments – where democratic. As we know, we’re not all lucky enough to have this luxury – but none of us should not rest until we do.

…our world would be a much fairer place – not to mention peaceful.



  1. Deyda Haidara

    Hi Chris, I for one will always prioritize my critics on two levels. 1- Gambia’s failures are dishonesty and indiscipline in managing public finances. In other words governments, politicians, private enterprise are all involve in corrupt practices and care less about the taxpayer who will eventually foot the bills and obligations contracted by governments. They are able to do this and go scott free because they conspire and connive and use gorvernment instruments and institutions to silence the poor masses of their peoples.
    2- The West failures are also dishonesty and connivance in enabling those stolen monies and funds from corrupt regimes to be safely stashed in private banks and protected by stringent laws and rules that even some times newly elected government cannot recover. Sometimes even the families of dead deposited cannot acccess these funds. At the end of the day over 80% of these stolen depsits are lost to western banks or fiscal paradises as they are called. These stolen monies are in the 1000th of billions of dollars that will never go back to where they belong. The werstern private banks know very well that these are stolen funds and shamlessly take full advantage of it, they just dont care about the suffering masses where these stolen come from.
    One most now acknowledge that the US and Europe governments are taking steps to stop this malpractice within the western banks and recently HSBC Swiss has been busted and lot of names of doubtfull depositors in the billions of $ exposed in the media. Western government could go further and insist that these stolen monies be consfiscated and sent back to the respective governments or secure them and wait until the theives are out of power and return the funds.
    Now with IMF, I have no criticism to make because, 1- IMF does not take deposits from private people or enterprises, they are therefore clean. 2- If anyone needs their money, they sould adhere to their repayment conditions and go look elsewhere, period. No one is forced to borrow from the IMF or the WB.
    Finally with regards to Jammeh, the Gambia suffers another menace as Jammeh is also a businessman competing head to head with the private sector and only GOD knows if he pays taxes and plays by the rules. Jammeh is a greedy president, a dictator a bully and a killer.
    Thank you.

  2. Mr Gorden,

    I am familiar with the “language” you are using. For several years i worked with the UK and Gambian governments to bring British investors into the Gambia and advise on local conditions and requirements. It would be fair to say…the rank and file prospective investor entered Gambia using the same western language and criteria and mindset that you display.

    The first error is that you cannot enter Gambia with this mindset and expect the business culture in Gambia to respect or use this criteria….on the same level playing field.

    The second error is that the west has a well established protocol in business procurement and project finance. Gambia does not.

    The third error is that { in the case of the IMF} to introduce western taxation methods and seek to apply them on what is mainly a feudal economy is asking for trouble.

    Here I would sight the poverty safety nets that western democracies have in situ to catch those who for one reason or another….fall foul of the tax and spend system.{ mainly the historical poor, disabled and the sick.} In gambia if one person is employed in a household….then they are fortunate. For that person provides for everybody.

    I could sight many other errors but this would only confuse you…I feel?

    I would concur with Deyda’s analysis…broadly speaking.

    But come now….Let me move to the crux of the argument.

    If you or I went to any western bank with the track record of debt and remortage that Gambia has….and asked for £5. We would be laughed down the high street.

    You know as well as I do..that the IMF and the World Bank have been more than eager to reschedule Gambia’s growing debts….to even longer repayment terms simply because any nation has a historic ability to produce wealth forever and as such is considered blue chip in its repayment ability. Even if this is over an extended period of say 100 years.

    The problem of remortage is that interest is lumped on the repayment which in essense the recipient eventually and increasingly is paying interest not only on the capital…but the acrueing interest as well.

    Fundamentally a bank is not particularly interested on how the money is spent….but only on the ability to make the repayments.

    There is a school of thought that would suggest that the IMF insisting that VAT was introduced was only to increase the Gambia’s ability to make its interest and capital repayments to the IMF’s shareholders.

    With little regard at this stage in the vicious cycle for the overall debt burden to the people of Gambia.

    You are right in your assertion that African government will make claims that its frequent condition is beset by social crisis, such as Ebola or crop failure and even war or terrorism…hiv malaria and a whole host of debilitating crisis.

    Another major factor is corruption. Whilst foreign aid pours into Africa at a consistant rate, of 180 billion dollars a year. Corruption last year stood at a stagering 300 billion dollars.

    Much of this is recycled back into western banks and investment projects in western economies.

    You do the maths….This whole situation needs a radical overhaul.

    Foriegn donars would be better employed in building and butressing the social and business culture at grassroots level with an emphasis on skill training and finance to entrepreurship especially to the youth.

    ..and guiding business start up models with proper leadership. and worthy business institutions.

    I speak not only as a highly successful small businessman…but also as a fully trained and accredited Business Mentor…and consultant.

    Who was endorsed by the British Minister for Trade.

    I trust this insight is helpful ?

    With respect.

  3. chris gordon


    Insightful, indeed – thank you.

    I am aware of basic lending practices between entities such as IMF/WB and governments, but the landscape in Africa is foreign to me. Nor do I know who is doing deals in WA and what they look like.

    My hope, and this is genuine, is that my participation might conjure some fresh dialog and perhaps get some new people involved in discussions about the Gambia and her future. For it is clear to me there is a long and intense desire (need?) to see a change in approach.

    Enter some stranger speaking of funny things…

    As it is clear to me that there is an intense passion among you, I would like to see your voices heard by a few more people. Doing so can have a knock-on effect, where consensus, if even for something of little significance, can begin creating some new critical mass and recharge peoples’ batteries.

    All for now. My thanks once again.


  4. You are most welcome Chris.

    Gambians are not short on passion.

  5. Epilogue;

    The IMF have no regulator.

    Yahya Jammeh has no regulator.

    The only common denominator with recourse to damage limitation is the tax payer.

    They are the ultimate shareholders that under right both parties.

    As with the global/banking financial melt down of 2008.

    It will be the tax payer who foots the bill for such missguided adventure capitalism.

    Governments are good at shifting blame, to those whose money they manage.

    …at this point in a future yet to be determined….

    The tax payer may have a valid and soundly arguable claim as being

    miss-sold a bail out.

    Does this sound far fetched?

    No !..I don’t think so.

    its the way capitalism works every day of the week.

  6. Mr Gordon….

    Thanks for your contributions to, and participation in this forum…This is the “Bantaba”: the real “Parliament” where every issue under the sun is discussed freely and openly…I can sense your “unfamiliarity” with the “Gambian Terrain”, but you don’t really need to be familiar with our terrain to understand how and why the Third World countries, especially Africa, are in the situation they are in…You only need to look back, with an open mind, at some of the major historical economic and political events that have shaped the Global Economic and Financial system..

    No doubt, corruption and mismanagement is a serious problem in Africa but the notion that this is the cause of the continent’s sorry state is simply untrue…While national political and economic elites are complicit in these problems, the real problems are imposed from beyond the continent..These local leaders/elites are the indirect globalists, who have been co-opted into the system to protect the interests of their “pay masters”…Those who show signs of not towing the line find themselves in serious troubles, eventually been removed,either through internal upheavals or by external aggression, through use of force…Latin America and their experience with US propped and supported despots, on the one hand, and never ending vilified Nationalist Leaders, on the other hand is a good example to study…Democracy,Human Rights and what have you, are just for propaganda purposes, but the real reasons for toppling the Allendes and the Gadaffi’s cannot be democracy when the same group of countries who instigated their toppling, are toppling democratically elected governments like the one in Ukraine..

    I agree though, that the people of the third world countries must take full responsibilities for their predicaments…

  7. Sometimes you confuse me Bax. I don’t understand why you want to trawl this debate all around the world.? We should give Mr Gorden some credit for being interested..even if some of his perceptions are understandably from the western remote perspective.

    Taking an objective look at Gambia’s past expenditures against its percieved current financial dilemma’

    You would have to say the APRC have been “heavy” on construction. Indeed you could make the claim that Gambia loves concrete and tar mac..

    If you own a construction company in Gambia …under the APRC you would have done extremely well. Likewise if you own land or property.

    Tourism has brought much needed and consistant employment and foreign exchange. Albeit, the majority of travellers from the UK {the largest supplier} are now mainly consisting of Gambian’s returning for vacation. This has been largely supplimented by inward travel from Ecowas countries{ not withstanding the Ebola crisis} Its good to note the travel ban has recently been lifted.

    The crux of the matter is what impact government borrowing and spending has had on the 72% of Gambian’s who exist on less than two dollars a day.

    There has always been the western perception that wealth held by the affluent few, trickles down to the poor, thereby offering indirect relief to the financially challenged.

    In my opinion this is a false perception. It is also a very narrow if comforting view from policy makers…and fraught with risk for those in greatest financial peril.

    For build.. creates short term employment and profits for those in control, but provides little long term change or improvement for the masses.

    Even worse when this kind of spend produces concrete edifices that are under staffed…under used and under resourced. As my old Mother would say ” she can get someone to buy her a fur coat but she can’t afford to buy a pair of knickers”

    A shopping Mall with no customers

    A health clinic with no doctors of bandages and drugs.

    A National Assembly that has no active opposition members.

    A road that goes nowhere.

    A Bank with no foreign exchange.

    Had these had a positive impact on the Gambian economy, the Dalasis would not have depreciated by over 350% since 2000.

    In 2000….£100 gave you 2000 dalasis.

    Today £100 gets you 6,700 dalasis.

    This is even worse if you consider the pound has lost some 25% of its value against the dollar, during the same period.

    I noticed your mentor Mr Halifa Sallah raised his eyebrows when the National Assembly allocated a special budget of 1 Billion dalasis recently to The Office of The President, with 86 million set asside for celebrations.

    Clearly Government costs money.

    According to all the official data available on the internet, and elsewhere the Gambian economy is somehwere between a “rock and a hard place”.

    Clearly the external shocks of ebola and crop failure and terrorism in recent times have not helped.

    I have expressed the view that the introduction of VAT has made comodities increasingly expensive to the poor.

    Whilst we applaud the Presidents award in achieveing an important part of MDG…It gives me little comfort to be reassured that by 2016, every gambian may have access to a bowl of rice.

    I agree with Mr Gorden that the populace need to be sensitised on there political rights and responsibilites. I note the consistant theme of honourable Halifa Sallah has given towards educating the people.

    But clearly the future direction of Gambian government policy needs to be energised and re-directed into wealth creation social regeneration and industrialisation.

    To start this, Gambia must become user friendly to foreign investment and investors and use a “language” conducive to creating a safe and welcoming enviroment for genuine investors.

    I do hope that any bail out considered by any lender to the Gambian government will have the full paticipation of the people and there representatives.

    I do not agree with anyone who devalues the cause of democracy or the “spirit” of the honour to all human rights.

    There are plenty of international watch dogs whose vocation it is to police all governments and institutions in this respect.

    That said…I for one applaud you infinite good sense and African patriotism.


  8. Mike…

    I can’t argue with your brief, on the spot analysis of The Gambian situation…

    The APRC Regime, evidently, has a one dimensional view on development and assesses it’s achievements by the number of structures erected, regardless of their value and impact..

    However, in this particular forum, as it relates to the IMF, I was more interested in the Third World countries, as a whole, and how their relationship with the Global System is impacting their national economies…

    You quite rightly touched on what used to be the perception in the western world : that wealth in the hands of affluent people will trickle down, but the “trickle down” effect is no longer just a perception…It is a concept into which “Traditional” Capitalism has metamorphosed to create a (Neoliberal) Global Capitalist System…

    The concept that wealth concentrated in the hands of an elite super rich, will eventually trickle down through various investment and related activities, is the driving force of this Global Capitalist and Financial System that is obsessed with wealth creation, through “production” and “consumption”, either real or imagined, regardless of the consequences on individuals, societies or the environment.. excusing mismanagement and recklessness by leaders in Third World countries, and you have given a good insight of these by citing The Gambian example, but that is not the root causes of the economic woes of Third World countries…

    We must look back and see how we got to where we are today, as well as, objectively analyse current world events and gauge their political and economic impact on the affected countries, in particular, and the globe as a whole..Only then can we truly and fully understand why what is happening today is actually happening..But your analysis is spot on..

    By the way, where did you get this notion that Honourable Halifa Sallah is my mentor.? Have you been reading Lafia and My-in law.? Don’t listen to them…Honourable Sallah, though, would be.THE IDEAL MENTOR. ..

    Thanks.and God.bless…

  9. Ah ! God Bless !!!

    I am less troubled and even less confused.

    This is the very best of Bax that I know and admire.

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