By Ramatoulie Jawo
Twenty-nine (29) Members of the National Assembly have on Friday voted to allocate ten million dalasis (D10m) for the president’s yearly Meet The People’s Tour. The vote for the motion to finance the annual tour was put before the members during their Fourth-Ordinary Session (Budget Session) of the 2023 budget debate.
During the debate, the National Assembly Member for Badibou Central, Hon. Sulayman Saho, proposed to have the budget for the Meet The People Tour be trimmed down to six million dalasis (D6M). He suggested they could use the savings of four million dalasis to fund institutions that are starving of resources.
“I believe that with this budget line, we can save four million and give it to institutions that are highly in need of it. So I am appealing to the honorable members to give consideration to that,” He appealed.
Member of National Assembly for Old Yundum, Hon. Abdoulie Ceesay, who voted in favor of the proposed D10 million budget, asked his fellow members to justify their points on why they should cut the ten million to six.
“Because the Constitution of the Gambia stated that the president should meet the people at least once every year, that can change. The president can go twice a year. Before we sit here and cut the budget to six million, we should ask ourselves, what was the necessity for the increment? The justification for the increment in this budget is the fact that what we have approved before was not sufficient for the president to go around the country. So, my proposal is that the 10 million that FPAC recommended should be maintained because I believe there is a need for that budget to be maintained. He said.
Honorable Madi Ceesay, the National Assembly member for Serekunda West, said it’s the president’s mandate to meet the people once or twice, but the president himself should understand the conditions of the country economically.
“He can go with six million by reducing his entourage and going with his technical team to get the views and the feelings of the people. It is not necessary to go on this tour with his full entourage. So, I stand on the opinion that six million should be maintained,” he proffered.
He added that the country is constrained financially, making it prudent for all public servants to be cognizant of what they spend public finances on. This fiscal prudence, he suggested, is not only the president’s role but members of the National Assembly as well.
Honorable Touma Njai, who is also opposed to the D10m dalasis allocation, said the tour is to meet the people and not to hold partisan political rallies around the country.
“The tour is for the president to go and see the situation of the country but not to organize rallies and what we are seeing in this ‘meet the people tour’ is the president taking unnecessary people to the tour,” She stressed.
The entire NPP/APRC Alliance members of the National Assembly voted for the increase. Also voting for the increase were two of the Non-Aligned independent members from Foni and also, Independent members from Niani, Sabach Sanjal, and Kiang Central.
Voting against the increase were the entire UDP and PDOIS caucus of the National Assembly. Voting alongside them were Independent members from Banjul, South, Busumbla, and Janjangbureh.