The Gambia government has now given till end of this month, October, for civil servants from grade 2 and above the ultimatum of opening salary accounts or risk losing their salaries.
In March this year, the government through the directorate of the National Treasury, under the Ministry of Finance, urged all civil servants, from grade 2 and above, within the Greater Banjul Area to open salary accounts through which their salaries can be paid.
|People in a banking hall|
The latest announcement from the national treasury says civil servants “who have not provided their bank accounts [should endeavour] to do so before the 31st of October 2011 failing which their salaries will not be paid with effects from 1st November 2011”.
However, since the announcement was made, many civil servants have expressed mixed concerns about the directive. While some say the new development will give rise to congestion of banking halls and delay in receiving salaries, as lots of employees would swarm the banks at the end of each month to collect their salaries; on the other hand, others believe the new scheme would give them access to loans to better develop themselves.
Fabakary Kujabi, a grade 4 salary earner, expressed dissatisfaction with the directive, saying that apart from the hours they will spend at the bank waiting to receive their salaries, their take-home pay will suffer charge cuts and deductions that can be unbearable. “Really I am not encouraged by the whole system,” he remarked.
However, Ousman Sonko, another government employee, said a salary account would make it possible for employees to have loan from the banks. “So it is a welcome move and it has come at the right time,” he added.
The new development is said to have a lot of positive effects it can engender in the national economy, even though many people who spoke to this reporter have so far condemned the move, saying the banks will be cutting some charges from their already “small salaries”.
However, commercial banks in the country must be counting their blessings not only because they consider themselves making a big bang in number of clientele and deposits, but also because they believe such a directive would yield immeasurable dividends for the national economy, the employees involved and the country’s general financial system of which they are a part.
For this reason, the association of bankers in the country has therefore lent its support to the initiative saying “it is a step in the right direction” since it will ensure all civil servants within the Greater Banjul Area open salary accounts.
“This is a most welcome move. It is a step in the right direction,” said Mamour Jagne, executive secretary of Gambia Bankers Association (GBA). “It is a means of incorporating all those who are not in the formal banking sector to come to the banking sector.”
Mr Jagne also encourages civil servants in the provinces that have access to banks to also open salary account.
He said the new development will give the banks greater financial intermediation, and enable them to have more resources to lend to the people, which can spur investment growth and national development. It can also give civil servants a good track record of banking relationship as well as enable them to get loans from banks.
“I would even encourage those who are not within the Greater Banjul Area, but are in the provinces - in places that are not far from banks - to open salary accounts,” he said.
Outlining the benefits mass civil servant salary accounts would have in the economy and to civil servants, the GBA executive secretary said: “This has a lot of positive effects in the economy. It helps to strengthen the banking industry; it gives the banks greater financial intermediation, and it enables the banks to have more resources to lend to the people.
“Furthermore, on the side of the civil servants, it gives you a history of banking relationship, it enables you to get some loans from the bank, and it also gives you security of your funds and you can access it at anytime.
“This is a very good development and I will encourage everyone, whether in the civil service, in the parastatals or anybody who is earning an income to open an account and use the account so that you have a financial history with an institution that in the day of need they can support you.”
The GBA boss said further: “The banks are businesses and are concerned about the comfort and the quality of their services. I can say that the banks, as from now, will respond by making sure that people spend less time, and if they know that more people are coming they will employ more staff, and that alone have its own benefits in the sense that you employ more cashiers to attend to these people, and people will spend less time in the banks.”
“In The Gambia, we have 13 banks that are competing and I am sure if you go to a bank and negotiate your terms and conditions you will get a good deal that you can afford,” Mr Jagne argued.
“So I am not worried about that aspect of it because the competition will force the banks to give customers the best deal possible. When you go to any bank to open a salary account, you can negotiate with them and have a good deal.”