By Tabora Bojang
The governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia has disclosed that Mega Bank, formerly Keystone, has not been sold as reported in some Gambian news outlets.
The reports which went viral, claimed the bank was secretly sold.
However, Governor Bakary Jammeh yesterday told this paper that although three international investors have expressed interest to buy the bank, no sale has been effected.
The Central Bank took over the private commercial bank in 2016 and granted approval to the Assets Management and Recovery Corporation (AMRC) in 2017 to recover its D650 million debts.
But appearing at the National Assembly Public Enterprise Committee last year, the erstwhile head of AMRC, Momodou Jallow, said most of liabilities were “highly toxic” making their recovery “difficult and expensive since most of the loans were given without collaterals”.
Governor Jammeh said bids for the bank were received from the Ghana Commercial Bank, International Commercial Bank of Mauritania and US investors.
“No payments have been made although one of them offered D1.5 billion but there is no conclusion yet. We have given them a period of two months for payments,” he revealed.
Governor Jammeh dismissed any suggestions of ‘hatchet burying’ in the transaction saying the process has gone through a public tender and the investors made their bids in a transparent manner.
“We have nothing to hide. All I can say is that Keystone Bank is not yet sold. If it was true, I would have announced at the press conference. Discussions are ongoing and there is no finalisation so far,” Jammeh said.
Circulation of old currency
Responding to reporters queries during the bank’s Monetary Policy quarterly press briefing yesterday, the governor said even though the printing of new notes began last year, ragged and old notes continued to be in circulation because experience has shown in many countries that it is not a best practice to totally remove old currencies with the introduction of new denominations since people would reject notes they felt would not be valid in months.
Asked for how long the mainly tattered notes would continue in circulation, he said the bank cannot give any definitive time frame for the total withdrawal of the old notes because that could create chaos.
Domestic economic outlook
Governor Jammeh said the Gambian economy is estimated to grow by 6.2 percent in 2020 due mainly to the strong growth in the services sector including tourism, trade, financial services, insurance and telecoms.
He also disclosed that the stock of domestic debt increased to D32.86 billion in February 2020 from D31.88 billion in December 2019. The stock of treasury and Sukuk-Al Salaam bills decreased by 1.4 percent to D19.1 billion during the period under review.
The committee decided to reduce the policy rate by 0.5 percentage point to 12 percent while the interest rate on the standing deposit facility by 0.5 percentage point to 3 percent. The standing lending facility has also been reduced to 13 percent from 13.5 percent.