by Alagi Yorro Jallow.
Mamudu: Presidents go, and presidents come; government stays, and the government is all about conserving and preserving continuity. All living systems have this tension between conservative and progressive. Each new administration has wanted to remake the entire bureaucracy in their image and start all over again. However, Mr. President: continuity is essential in good governance and crisis intervention in general practice. Continue with those working things, regardless of political polarization ideological consistency, and speed them up. Mr. President, administration includes both preserving continuity and making progress. Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
In truth, the depth and breadth of continuity planning — which focuses not just on surviving the catastrophe but also on rebuilding the country’s economy, society, and democracy afterward — means that plans have also gone further over the years. Officials have imagined saving certain titans of industry, who would help restore the economy:
A not-so-small section of the bureaucracy spends all of its time planning to ensure that leadership can continue in an emergency. Under the umbrella of contingencies known as “continuity of government” and “continuity of operations,” official plans, facilities, and personnel are meant to ensure that nothing — a bad — shuts down the government. However, few Gambians understand just how vast this world is or what its goals are.
Even if most of us can agree on a definition of the “common good,” there are substantial barriers and prospects to establishing public policies of predecessor governments with a general doctrine of well established and consistent precedents as a good business practice and part of the fundamental mission of government as responsible and reliable. The smooth and orderly transfer of power s generally a notable feature of a presidential transition and a testament to the legitimacy and durability of the electoral and democratic processes. Continuity focuses on establishing the priorities and leadership of the administration that influence the pace and substance of government rulemaking.
The current political economy of our times does not want moral contemplation. It wants labor efficiency to service a new economic paradigm to fulfill the innate human desire for happiness. The minimum wage or low salaries of private and public-sector Gambian workers must be viewed in the context of the moral outrage ordinary workers feel when the top echelons of the corporate world or greedy politician’s salaries, bonuses, and other benefits that of great magnitude.
Mamudu: It is business as usual when agenda number one for the coalition government of President Adama Barrow and the National Assembly should have reviewed and approved the published salary scales from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) recommendations. This commission was headed by the retired and well-respected doyen of the Gambia civil service, late Alhagie Abdoulaye. A. Faal, Chief Accountant of the then Public Works Department and the first Gambian General Manager of the Central Bank of the Gambia, and Chairman of many State Boards and companies.
To hear one public representative claim that Alhagie Abdoulaye A. Faal’s SRC proposal and recommendations are not sustainable for the government to raise salaries while the executive and the legislature are benefiting from hefty emoluments and other benefits compared to an ordinary employee’s monthly income, where average Gambians in both private and in the public sector are living like a ‘pauper,’ is a preposterous insult to the thousands of poor citizens who rose at 5 a.m. to vote our National Assembly members into office.
There is nothing honorable about their behavior. Such titles should be earned and not merely bestowed because you get the nod of approval from your party leader.
Only intense pressure can either bring reform or radical change. This rarely comes from the so-called august houses, houses haunted by greed and corruption rather than blessed with a commitment to service and social justice. This situation makes you realize how representative democracy has failed miserably. We continuously elect politicians who are more committed to their interests rather than those of the public. We tolerate mediocrity as we want to resume our everyday lives and move on.
There is hardly a good reason why CEOs and politicians should earn several hundred multiples more than ordinary workers in the private sector or the public service. The minimum wage can be treated simply as a technocratic thing: it affects economic growth, inflation, profits, and employment creation. These are important, but this is an issue that deserves moral consideration in a world with growing inequality. It raises fundamental questions about the purpose of the economy. It seems that some people’s happiness matters more than others.
CEO exceptionalism has its logical limits. They cannot be at the same time performers of miracles or seers of the future, their singular individual abilities determining the fortunes of a company or the public service sector. What about the rest of the people in the firm or public service sector?
All such notions are bound to be in the same league as esoteric powers. Nevertheless, management consultants and remuneration committees want to convince us that we must not look to reason but to the mysticism of the CEOs and greedy politicians.
The truth is that the minimum wage debate in The Gambia, like it is in the United States or anywhere else, recognizes that labor’s power is asymmetric. Nothing changes if the system’s operators do not want to change the system itself.
This process of attrition – between labor, business, and government over fair income share – will continue to involve little battles as grinding inequality will churn social-foment. In the Gambian context, minimum wage marks a critical life or death situation and a shift in labor relations. However, it will always be insufficient if two other issues are also not addressed.
The minimum wage must be complemented with the delivery of social welfare (a form of subsidy from society). Public services are such that sound healthcare systems, credible and quality education, cheap transport, affordable energy, and proper disposition over the grant system enhance wages.
The second issue is that due to persistently high unemployment, dependency levels in poorer households are high. Therefore, to assume that the minimum wage does the trick is not to appreciate the structural construct of poverty in The Gambia at the household level, which predominantly affects certain members of our society.
Structural shifts in the Gambian economy preceded 1994 and have continued beyond that era. These shifts have thrown out much of the unskilled and semi-skilled workforce as labor intensity in mining and agriculture was increasingly on the decline and will continue to be so. The Gambia’s economy has become more service orientated, financialized and mechanized.
Mamudu: Whether the minimum wage will further blunt job prospects for this marginalized labor force is still seen. They have long been out of the system anyway. To deal with this intractable problem, we may need more radical and innovative solutions.