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Lawmakers ratify $93 million loan agreement with Saudi Arabia

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Several lawmakers critical of the procedure taken by the finance minister have asked for the loan agreement to be properly scrutinized by the National Assembly Projects Monitoring Committee before it can be considered for approval.

Gambian lawmakers have approved $93 million dollars loan agreement with Saudi Arabia on Wednesday barely a month after the agreement was signed by the two countries.

Out of the total loan, $50 million is expected to be used for construction of roads within Greater Banjul Area and $10.5 million is expected to be used for the construction of a VIP lounge at the Banjul International Airport.

Part of the grant component of the loan, $22.5 million is expected to be invested in improving water and sanitation and $10 million dollars is for improvement of electricity supply within the Greater Banjul Area.

Gambia hosts OIC summit in 2022. The finance minister Manburay Njie said the loan has a 1% interest rate with 5 years grace period and payable in 30 years.

“The Government of the Gambia would be upgrading and improving the overall infrastructure and social amenities which would lead to the successful hosting of the 2022 OIC summit in the Gambia,” Njie told lawmakers.

“These financings would provide the much-needed infrastructures relevant to the various sectors of the economy, which are no doubt very critical to the successful hosting of the 2022 OIC summit in the Gambia.”

The agreement did not go without opposition. Veteran lawmakers Halifa Sallah and Sidia Jatta have asked their colleagues to hand the agreement to the National Assembly Projects Monitoring Committee for proper scrutiny before approval.

Sallah said the finance minister has failed to furnish lawmakers with adequate information required for them to properly scrutinize the bill. He expressed concern over the unsustainable public debt of the country.

Gambia’s public debt is over a billion dollars, something Sidia Jatta said should be properly managed.

“The OIC cannot be as urgent as the condition of my people some of whom do not even have roofs over their heads,” said Jatta. Jatta’s constituency has been ravaged by windstorm killing 3 and injuring dozens. He said the support needed for those people is not solved by the Government.

“I am not worried. I am angry,” he protested.

Other lawmakers who expressed concerns over the lack of clarity over the loan agreement were Suwaibou Touray, Sulayman Saho and Ousman Sillah.

“If we accumulate the debt over time, you become trapped… Nobody is opposed to taking loans. We are saying let’s do our job as National Assembly members and scrutinize the agreement,” said Touray.

“We have to perform our oversight functions well…”

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