At first glance, you would think that I am being an erratic alarmist but I am not. Talib Bensouda, Bakary Bajie or Ousman Jatta's proclamations carry a lot of weight, especially on a political podium. I strongly believe one of them will emerge victorious, so we should be paying more attention to their utterances, the rest of the field are there to make up the numbers or to test their political prowess.
Talib, during the first Mayoral debate on Thursday 22nd March 2018, said that the current rates homeowners pay to the Council left the Council short-changed because they are based on 2005 valuations and if he is elected, he will commission a revaluation of all homes.
He was insinuating that after the revaluation, rates will be increased accordingly. What he doesn't know is that taxes that homeowners pay to City Councils are usually based on old valuations. A well-known capital city in Europe charges residents council tax based on the value of their properties in the open market on 1st April 1991. So, if he thinks taxing based on 2005 valuations is grossly short-changing Kanifing Council, how about 1991 valuations?
Landed properties do not depreciate in value with time, everything else does. Revaluation will show that the values of properties have shot up to three times since 2005. Talib's plan is to increase council tax by at least 300% to match current valuation. I was surprised that Almamy Taal did not quiz him further or seek more clarity.
Landlords are always looking for excuses to increase rent, the planned increase of rates by Talib if elected will avail them just that. This will effectively push out low-income tenants out of the municipality to the rural West Coast region against their wish. Isn't this what they called social cleansing? The disparity between the haves and have-nots is at its peak in the borough. The gap between the rich and poor is wider in Kanifing Municipality than in any municipality in the sub-region. That is why Talib needs to be schooled about income inequality in his surroundings so that he can be considerate when drawing up his plans or policies.
Talib needs to be told that KMC is not a Wall Street entity neither is it a profit-making family enterprise, the Council's primary responsibility is to provide services to its residents. In some advanced countries, the local councils have (added responsibilities) duty of care to its vulnerable residents by providing them with housing and care if needed or necessary.
The UDP candidate was born and raised in Moneyville hence his indifference to the plight of those living in the slums. Does he know the stats of how many people live in squalid conditions? At times he appeared as a snake oil salesman who is trying so hard to push through sales to increase his profit margin.
Another thing that caught my attention is his ridiculously ambitious revenue generating drive. He vowed to increase the Council's annual revenue from D100 million to D1 billion, that is an increase of 900%. He did not say how beside his insinuation that he will increase council tax.
Although he is from a rich family; but the last time I checked, Talib wasn't a money farmer, and the Council does not have hectares of money farms where the eventual winner will be harvesting wads of cash to finance projects. Dude should get real and stop the showboating.
He wasted most of his allocated time crunching numbers as if the debate was an academic exercise. He said his parents sent him to the UK for studies where he graduated. We know that tuition fees and course materials for international students in the UK are worth of £10,000.00 per annum. Add housing and other expenses, the annual spend could well be over a million Dalasi. Since he is numbers' man, I would like to know the statistics of parents in the municipality who can afford to send their kids to study in the UK with an annual spend in excess of D1 million Dalasi.
I don't believe he has solutions; what he has is snake oil remedy.