- The Gambia has mostly hit the international press lately when President Yayah Jammeh announced the flogging of gays, his miracle cure against AIDS and his obsession to hunt down witches. No wonder, then, that tourists and donors shy away and the economy is suffering.
According to the latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) analysis of economic trends in The Gambia, released today, growth is in danger. "The economy of The Gambia grew by about 6 percent in 2008. Economic growth is expected to be weaker in 2009," the IMF's Robert Powell said today.
Mr Powell is not in a position to criticise the President - after all, the UN's most senior official was expelled after saying Mr Jammeh's miracle cure against AIDS was not working. But the IMF representative was able to indicate why the Gambian economy stood in danger of shrinking this year.
2009 would observe "a significant fall in receipts from tourism" in The Gambia, all available data had indicated. While the global economic slowdown is somewhat responsible for the tourism collapse in the West African country, negative publicity in the global press also has had its impact.
"It is not exactly helpful," sources in The Gambia told afrol News, referring to President Jammeh's repeating media appearances. In 2006-7, Mr Jammeh hit the news with his secrete cure for AIDS, the next year, he announced the eradication of gays in The Gambia. In 2008, European tourists were arrested for allegedly being homosexuals and this year, Mr Jammeh has headed a campaign to free the country of "witches", with over 1,000 women being kidnapped by security forces.
Another problem indicated in the IMF analysis is the Banjul government's status as a pariah state among potential donors due to the massive human rights violations of the Jammeh regime. In short, while the Gambian Finance Ministry is complying with all instructions given by the IMF to improve its economy, no major donor is willing to follow up.
Already in March 2008, the IMF and World Bank announced that The Gambia met all requirements for a full debt relief. But The Gambia's debtors are not eager to lend the Jammeh regime a helping hand by eliminating the country's debt. No progress is made in debt relief negotiations and "The Gambia's external debt remains high," Mr Powell registers.
Also a meaningful Poverty Reduction Strategy has been elaborated by the Banjul Finance Ministry, given full support from the IMF and World Bank. But donors are not willing to assist the Gambian government funding it.
Mr Powell again urged authorities to step "up efforts to seek grant finance to support the implementation of" the strategy, knowing this will mean human rights and democratisation concessions by the Jammeh regime in order to hook potential donors.
Meanwhile, the fight against poverty is mostly put on ice in The Gambia. Gambians are noting the lack of tourist revenues and have bee heavily hit by recent price hikes. Sources in the country indicate poverty levels currently are increasing, not decreasing, due to these setbacks.
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