BANJUL (Reuters) - The World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, said on Saturday he had agreed to give Gambia $60 million in budget support after government allegations that former ruler Yahya Jammeh took tens of millions of dollars in public money, leaving it heavily indebted.
Diop told reporters after meeting with the new government that he had pledged to give $40 million before June with the remainder to follow later.
Jammeh fled into exile last month after regional leaders convinced him after marathon talks that he should accept defeat in a December election.
Since then Gambia’s new pro-Western government has alleged that Jammeh committed fraud on a massive scale including siphoning off tens of millions of dollars in public money into various bank accounts not in his name but from which he withdrew cash, including at the central bank.
“All parastatals, especially the National Water and Electricity Company, GAMTEL (telecommunications) and Gambia Public Transport, are bankrupt and the government coffers are empty,” said finance minister Amadou Sanneh, who was one of more than 100 political prisoners pardoned at the end of Jammeh’s rule.
“We need real help from donors to sustain the country,” he added.
The World Bank has several projects in Gambia although direct budget support had previously been suspended over the former government’s alleged manipulation of exchange rates, a finance ministry official said.
Jammeh only conceded defeat last month under intense military pressure from West African regional body ECOWAS which sent thousands of troops into the riverine state entirely surrounded by Senegal. However, that dealt a blow to Gambia’s tourism earnings during the peak winter sun season and hundreds of European visitors were evacuated.
The International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank are also due to hold meetings with Gambian authorities in the coming weeks, officials said, and may offer additional support.
Reporting by Pap Saine; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Greg Mahlich