By Aramata Jatta
In fulfilment of his Constitutional mandate the President of the Gambia, Adama Barrow yesterday addressed the nation at the National Assembly Chambers in Banjul on the programs and policies of the Gambia as well as the administration of the State.
The President’s addresse was centered on wide range of issues namely; The Finance and Economic Sector, Education, Women, Children and Social Welfare, Interior, Petroleum and Energy, Transport, Works and Infrastructure and Health.
Finance and Economic Sector
President Barrow alluded that he is proud to report that the country’s economic growth has generally strengthened, while inflation has now moderated. For the past two years the economy grew by 4.8% in 2017 and improved to 6.5% in 2018.
‘’Balance of payments (BoP) estimates indicate that the current account deficit narrowed to 1.5 percent of GDP in the first half of 2019 compared to a deficit of 1.7 percent of GDP in the corresponding quarter in 2018. The improvement in the current account balance is attributed to the increase in foreign inflows related to the support from development partners, diaspora remittances, and tourism’’.
He affirmed that Gross international reserves are projected at 4 months of next year’s imports of goods and services. The exchange rate of the dalasi remains broadly stable supported by market confidence, and increased inflows from private remittances, higher receipts from tourism, and official inflows from development partners.
‘’Government fiscal operations for the first six months of 2019 indicated that total revenue and grants stood at 9.8 percent of GDP compared to 8.6 percent of GDP in the same period last year. Total expenditure and net lending declined from 11.5 percent of GDP a year ago to 10 percent of GDP in the first part of 2019’’.
Dwelling on the educational sector, the President reveal the education sector continues to be given priority by Government in view of its centrality in the development process. He said this priority is demonstrated by the heavy investments into our two education subsectors and their programmes. He promises to continue to receive massive support from the University of Brussels (VUB) and MRC Holland.
‘’On frameworks, four Bills relating to the UTG, GTTI, the Management Development Institute and the National Accreditation and Quality Assurance Agency will soon be presented to this august body for review and approval’’.
The President also alluded that with external support, during the 2018-19 academic year, 283 students either graduated or had awards at either Master’s or Doctoral level. For the first time, The University of The Gambia (UTG) is now offering a PhD course in Public Administration, in addition to a number of Master’s degree programmes and a Bachelor’s degree programme in Dentistry.
Women, Children and Social Welfare
He said the creation of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare indicates his government’s commitment to addressing the social, economic and general wellbeing of children, women and the socially marginalised members of our society.
‘’The new Ministry signals our awareness of the importance of these members of society. I must observe, however, that issues of women, children, the less privileged and minority groups in the country cannot be addressed in isolation, as they affect the whole of society. As such, efforts will be intensified to ensure that their rights are protected, and their participation increased in all aspects of development, including appointment to leadership positions’’.
The president asserted that their goal is to empower both women and men to live quality lives in an inclusive society free from all forms of violence, neglect and abuse. To achieve this, I urge all sectors to work together to address all issues of equity, equality and social justice.
He confirmed that in December 2018, five hundred and forty-one personnel were trained on protection, track control and management. The European Union has expanded this by supporting the Security Sector Reform Process to the tune of 1.5 Million Euros, and has trained forty officers.
‘’The construction of a Fire and Rescue Station in Bajakunda is near completion for use this year. The project is estimated to cost Thirteen Million, Four Hundred and Ninety-five Thousand and Eighty-four Dalasi, Fifty bututs (D13, 495,084.50). The well-known Remand Big Cell Block at Jeshwang Prison has also been constructed’’.
President Barrow disclosed that the Government, through the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, has completed the first successful bidding rounds for our Petroleum Oil Blocks. This he said has resulted in the signing of a Petroleum Exploration and Production License Agreement with British Petroleum (BP) for the A1 Block.
‘’ In March of this year, the European Union launched a One Hundred and Forty-One Million Euro (€141,000,000) project for clean energy for The Gambia. This initiative is expected to generate twenty-six Mega Watts of solar energy distributed across four hundred kilometres, and will benefit one thousand rural schools and one hundred health centres country-wide. The project is aligned with the NDP policy objective of increasing our energy mix with renewable growth from 2% to 40% by 2021’’.
TRANSPORT, WORKS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Deliberating On road construction, Barrow said lots of infrastructure development is ongoing. The one hundred and twenty (120) kilometre primary road network on the North Bank, estimated at a cost of eighty-seven Million US Dollars (US$87,000,000), for example, is due for completion in February 2020.
‘’In December 2018, the three-year URR Bridges and Road Project, funded through a grant of Eighty Million US Dollars (US$80,000,000) from the People’s Republic of China, was launched. This project has been designed to ease movement and enhance economic activity within the region’’.
He further went on to explain that the Government of The Gambia recognises the fact that Health is a basic right for all human beings and that good health plays an important role in socio-economic growth and development. Thus, to have productive citizens, the health sector must be given top priority.
‘’Access to health services in The Gambia has been marked by a tremendous increase and expansion of public hospitals, health centres and Primary Health Care services. To build on these, plans are afoot to construct modern specialist hospitals’’.
The President Reveal that his Government’s target is to achieve Universal Health Coverage by 2030, in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals. In this respect, key among the frameworks developed is the Health Financing Policy 2017-2030.