Hichem Ben Yaïche interviewed Macky Sall, President of Senegal.
Your Presidential election victory triggered a huge wave of hope. Today, impatience has transformed into disenchantment. How do you explain this state of affairs?
I would be much more positive in my judgement. Admittedly, impatience is a reality. It can be observed in all the countries around the world! Nations are going through difficult times. The economic situation is complicated everywhere, including in the big industrialised countries.
So you can imagine the situation is even tenser for a developing country with no natural resources. And yet, I can tell you that we work every day towards reducing the population’s difficulties. We act to alleviate the suffering, especially that of the most vulnerable. Our policy is materialising first and foremost in the protection of those people.
With this aim in mind, prices have not risen since 2 April 2012 [when he assumed office]. You, of course, are aware of inflation’s pressures on the economy. Yet, we contained it. We can even say that when it comes to consumer prices, essential goods’ prices have decreased, so we are effectively in deflation. This is absolutely concrete.
In addition to this, we also took action in favour of employees by lowering income tax. This initiative is another way to boost consumption. As such, this tax cut has been popular amongst the vast majority of trade unions and workers! What I am referring to are palpable and indisputable results. To get a fuller picture, we must also take into account the drop in rents as well as all the efforts made towards spreading out our social safety net.
And yet, the average Senegalese man or woman on the street doesn’t feel the benefit…
On the contrary, I think your impression absolutely does not reflect the reality in which the majority of Senegalese people are living. Of course, there are problems; everyone says so! It would not be helpful to pretend that all is well, that we’re living in some Eldorado… That is not the stance I’m taking here, but we must recognise there are some improvements.
A number of measures have been taken for [aiding] agriculturalists, pastoralists and peasants. We have also established universal health care. Free of charge treatments did not exist in Senegal before. We have also subsidised seed renewal. Naturally, everything cannot be successful in only one or two years, but we can’t say the situation has deteriorated.
Everyone knows Senegal needs profound reforms. Is the country truly reformable? Inertia seems strong…
There’s a paradox in this eagerness to call for reforms, when, at the same time, there’s a refusal to break away from the status quo.
When you decide to drive an austerity policy and reduce public spending in non-productive sectors, you’re threatening vested interests. Therefore, you’re creating friction!
We’re trying to determine what is the appropriate speed to unveil reforms, keeping in mind the necessity to preserve the social climate. We are moving towards what we agreed upon and now share with the majority of the Senegalese people the Plan Sénégal Emergent (PSE) [Senegal’s development framework], endorsed by the international community.