jammehBy Baba Jobe

Since coming to power in 1994, Yahya Jammeh has been ruling the Gambia with a firm hand characterised by gross rights violations of human and total disregard for the constitution. His lack of respect for the constitution means he exercises executive powers even where/and when they are not necessary.

Of course, executive powers are legal powers conferred on the President by the constitution. However, their applications could only be binding if they can be justified. In other words, executive power cannot be considered legitimate if it breaches the terms and conditions entail in the constitution. Executive powers are important for the smooth and flexible dispensation of the state duties as it frees the government of certain leverages by the constitution. But this does not mean they are to be applied abusively or irresponsibly.

Executive powers are limited powers granted as part of the principle of power separation and distribution to various arms of government. It’s limited so that individuals and institutions’ liberty are protected against unlawful actions of tyrannical leaderships. It’s a fact, wherever misuse of executive powers exists, there must an element of power abuse. The dictatorial regime of Yahya Jammeh is a true example. An abuse of executive powers is considered detrimental to any country. This is because it undermines the authority and responsibilities of other government arms. It compromises the independence of the Judiciary, the roles and functions of parliament or even established economic policies.

A country where power is abuse and has repercussions on it, is the Gambia where dictatorship reign. Jammeh who uses tactics which he thinks will make the public perceive him as a strong leader always exercises arbitrary executive orders in almost all affairs of the country. This irresponsible act has rendered many institutions impotent, including the National Assembly and the Judiciary. The repercussions include a malfunctioning legislature, an absence of justice system and a deteriorating economy, among others.

Jammeh’s uncalculated and abusive use of power is gradually throwing the economy into turmoil. For the past years, he is notorious in meddling with economic policies and regulations, obviously not for the interest of the country but to satisfy himself. In most cases, if not all, his interferences have negative impact on the economy. There are lots of cases where his interference were not morally or legally appropriate and back-fired.

The exchange rate of the Dalasis to major international currencies for instance, Jammeh has issued executive orders more than thrice to fix it, even though the country operates a flexible exchange rate system. Such orders only make the situation worse than solving it. Fixing the Dalasi exchange at a lower rate encourages currency hoarding, which could lead into hard currency shortages. Economics dictate that the rate of exchange between two currencies is like the price of goods. Forces of demand and supply determined the price of goods and so is the same for exchange rate. This why a responsible government will not play with exchange rate like Jammeh does. His interference with the exchange rate without appropriate judgement has negative impact on the Dalasi and the economy as a whole.

Jammeh’s use of executive powers to interrupt private businesses and to cut ties with major international donors is the most worrying of all. In 2013, he ordered the severance of relationship with Taiwan which is detrimental to the Gambia. Taiwan had been a major partner in infrastructural development . To sacrifice such a partner by merely issuing an executive order shows his disrespect to the parliament and the public as a whole. The loss of aid from Taiwan will certainly be felt by the economy.

Jammeh’s recent expulsion of the Tajco Group, a major private company in the Gambia demonstrate yet another power abuse by his office. In a capitalist economy the role of the private sector in economic development cannot be underestimated. You can’t create a wealthy nation by taking a war against the wealth creators. Of course it’s in the interest of the public to be protected against business practices generally considered to be deviations from accepted ethics. This is why laws and regulations governing business operations are put in place, and they should be applied proportionately based on fair judgements.

If Tajco is found to be acting against the interest of the public or is offending the law, a step by step procedure ranging from warning notices, sermon to parliament’s select committee, to prosecution is more appropriate in solving the issue than hastily issuing meaningless executive orders for its expulsion. When appropriate measures are taken, if it’s found necessary to punish, it should be based on existing laws and regulations, hence the punishment should be appropriate. Probably a reasonable fine will be more beneficial to the economy than a forced winding up. In this way a win-win situation will be achieved.

It would have been a huge blow to the economy had it been the company indeed wound up operations, due to the sheer size of its contribution to the economy, mainly in the import of commodities. It’s important he rescinds his indecisive decision. However, the economic damages has already been caused as the publicity has gone down into history, like that of the Carnegie Minerals Gambia Limited. This gives unpleasant signals to potential investors considering the Gambia as a host.

The Gambia with its worsening economy needs Foreign Direct Investments now more than ever to improve economic prosperity. Potential investors into a country are much sensitive about the external factors including political and legal factors, as regard to the safety of their capitals. In this respect, if this is the way Jammeh plays around the law to settle personal grievances against business owners, it will obviously turn back potential investors conscious of their investment safety.

If Gambia is to enjoy stable and vibrant economic progress, Jammeh needs do away from his unnecessary interference and allow the designated public institutions assume responsibilities and perform their duties using appropriate authority.

Ends

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