Isatou Ceesay talks to Sid Sanneh, a member of the National Think Tank
In a recent post on Facebook you said “We must never allow our country to be reduced to the status of a Client State.” Is that a reference to the relationship between The Gambia and Senegal?
Answer: Although the statement may have been inspired by recent developments in the energy (NAWEC), transport/infrastructure (Ports Authority) sectors among other developments, in which Senegal plays a central role, with particular reference to the energy and fisheries sub-sector, it was not solely directed at our neighbor. The statement is equally applicable to other known players like UAE, Turkey, China and the Philippines.
The statement is a signal to our politicians, as well as civil servants, that they must exercise caution in contract negotiations not to give away the store in the process. The transition government has a shelf life of between 3 and 5 years. Therefore, any contract that extends beyond the transition period should be avoided so as not to unduly burden successor governments, especially the Gambian taxpayers. In a nutshell, the statement was inspired by all of the above.
What is so bad in the relationship between the countries you referred to in that post?
As I said previously, the statement was not directed at Senegal alone but all other countries vying to do business with The Gambia. The Preamble (Chapter 1) of the country’s Constitution states: “The Gambia is a Sovereign, Secular Republic.” These seven words sum up who we are as a people. It is, therefore, incumbent on all of us to protect and defend our sovereignty, our secularity and the lives, liberties and interests of the inhabitants of the Republic.
What is the problem with The Gambia getting electricity from Senegal?
Answer: There’s no problem getting electricity from Senegal provided that it is a technically and financially feasible proposal that will accrue net benefits to the Gambian economy. Anything less is unacceptable. The world is moving away from fossil fuels. Renewables are the wave of the future. The forces against the transformation are great but we must start confronting the challenge posed by the special interests that are bent on making sure we continue our addiction to petroleum and generators.
How can the Gambia position itself to better benefit from our relationship with Senegal?
Answer: Our diplomatic relations with Senegal must be based on mutual respect. It is not the question of positioning The Gambia to benefit from our relationship but on how the two countries, bound by common borders and heritage, can, through bilateral and regional cooperation, collaborate in many sectors of our respective economies. We must always see our relations as co-equal partners without one being the subordinate of the other.
Gambians seem to forget that prior to Jammeh seizing power illegally, the per capita GDP of The Gambia ranked third highest in the ECOWAS region just behind Cote d’Ivoire and Cabo Verde. We had one of the best managed economies and also one of the strongest economies in the region that earned us the title of the Super market of West Africa which was made possible by a thriving re-export trade. Gambia must work hard to regain its rightful place in the region and the world. We will fail in this endeavor if we continue to be less confident in ourselves as Gambians.
You were appointed to serve in the National Think Tank last year. But we have not heard much about the think-tank. What are the latest developments?
Answer: I have never received a written official communication from the government of my appointment to the Think Tank therefore I cannot comment.
Some say you were appointed so that you will not be critical of the Barrow government?
Answer: Please refer to my earlier response regarding my purported appointment as member of the Think Tank.
Why is the public not aware of what is happening in the Think Tank?
Answer: I refer you to my earlier responses on the Think Tank.
Why did you recently call for the resignation of the entire Board of NAWEC?
Answer: NAWEC’s performance has been abysmal and I am being charitable. The Board of Directors must share the blame – with management – for the poor performance of the company. I called for the resignation of the Board so that the company can have new and fresh sets of eyes. Any appearance of conflict of interest among Board members or senior management must be eliminated by not owning (wholly or partially) businesses whose products and services are remotely related to NAWEC’s mission.
Why are you not calling for the resignation of other government agencies which are not doing better than NAWEC?
Answer: I may not have specifically called for other resignations but I have been constantly calling for the restructuring of the civil service, as well as NAWEC and other state-owned enterprises.
How would you rate the Barrow government so far?
Answer: I’d assign a failing grade to the first semester of the transition government of Adama Barrow
Do you say what you are seeing now is better than what we had under Jawara and Jammeh?
Answer: I am of the view that things are certainly better than what obtained under Jammeh because we still enjoy our basic freedoms and no confirmable human right abuses. Sir Dawda’s administration, in my view, is still the country’s gold standard for good governance in general and economic management in particular.