Food, business and ethics
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Allow me space to espouse on the above subject of running a business making profits and having a humane approach to it. It was Ngugi Wa Thiongo, the doyen of Kenyan authors, who once said in his novel Devil on The Cross that "HUNGER MULTIPLIED BY THIRST EQUALS TO FAMINE, AND FAMINE AMONGST THE MASSES EQUALS WEALTH FOR A MAN OF CUNNING".
There is an inherent truism in this statement, in the context of our times, when global food shortage is constantly reported. There would be a minority of unscrupulous businessmen who instead of feeling alongside with the ordinary people they would exploit the fears and rumours abound to exploit the people.
Everyone knows and is aware that the Gambian currency is performing very well against both the dollar and the pound and it is common knowledge that these are the currencies that are used to buy imported commodities. Therefore, there must be gains from the strength of the dalasi, but such gains are not being translated into commodity price reduction.
One would have expected that the cost of imported commodities would have been affected. However, the gains are not being transferred to the ordinary people. One can understand that businessmen do not rationalize when it comes to profit making and sentiments do not come into play. Having said that we expect business people to have consciences and therefore act prudently to protect their integrity as well as see the bigger picture for the interest of the nation. For nothing undermines the fabric of a society more than the spiraling cost of basic commodities.
Recently many countries have experienced demonstrations due to the high cost of food. Such social instabilities are in no ones interest, especially the business community. They have more to lose in a state of instability than the rest of us. Moreover like them I would hate the introduction of price controls to curb their excesses triggered by greed.
I hope the business community will pass on the benefits generated from a strengthened dalasi. The state must also not only express a free market it, should vehemently promote it. All red tapes should be curbed and the strict rules governing the importation of goods be relaxed. This way business will be forced to reduce prices, they should study existing cartels and strengthen the rules governing openness in pricing, price fixing should be discouraged, legislators should review the existing laws and review them if necessary.
I am convinced with right policies in places Gambia can weather the storm in the short term, however, the solution is a long term issue, agriculture must be reformed, mechanization should be a priority and the link between production and manufacturing must be created to guarantee food sufficiency without over dependency on importation. we must not allow our country to be held at ransom at the exigencies of world economic events, of course we cannot be island but we can ensure that certain basic things are guaranteed.
Couldn't agree with you more Mr. Jallow.. As you can see from the Daily Observer from page today, the President is also warning exactly about the same thing. Incidently, I talked to Ngugi during my school drama rehearsals in Nairobi in 1974, met him at my Scottish University and shared an evening with him at the Africa Centre in Central London. A doyen indeed.