By: Kebba AF Touray
Deputies at the National Assembly on Thursday November 12th 2019, ratified the Bill entitled: “Finance Contract Agreement between the Republic of The Gambia and the European Investment Bank for Gambia’s Renewable Energy.”
According to the Minister of Finance Mambureh Njie, the multi-million Euro loan agreement is meant to increase electricity energy generation, transmission and distribution of energy power and to provide institutional support for the electricity sector.
Tabling the Bill before the National Assembly, Finance Minister Njie explained that the Loan Agreement was signed by the Government of the Gambia and the European Investment Bank on 27th December 2018, to finance the Gambia’s renewable energy project to be implemented by NAWEC.
Finance Minister Njie said the project is part of the Gambia’s electricity restoration and modernization project; that the country’s renewable energy project will contribute to the enhancement and improvement of the Gambia’s electricity supply and distribution network; that this is consistent with the National Development Plan’s priorities with respect to renewable energy and the modernization of the energy sector; that the project aims to increase electricity generation capacity through an un-grid utility scale i.e. solar photo-voltaic (PV) plan, with a total capacity of up to 20 megawatts; that this will increase the transmission and distribution capacity of electricity and provide institutional support for the electricity and technical assistance for the implementation and installation of the un-grid PV battery system.
“The total project cost is 129, 510,000 Euro out of which 57 million Euros is a loan and 72,510,000 Euros is grant. Out of the grant sum, the World Bank will provide 6 million Euros grants as a co-financer,” Finance Minister Njie told Deputies.
He said the scope of the project entails on and off grid PV Battery system installation, operation and maintenance for 1,100 Schools and hospitals, especially in remote areas of the country; that the project will primarily focus on increasing energy generation, transmission and distribution.
H said the project will contribute immensely to the development and improvement of electricity and energy services in the country, increase renewable energy uptake capacity, improve power supply security and reduce technical losses.
Finance Minister Njie continued: “The project will further increase electricity power supply throughout the country as it plans to expand the national grid and connect it with regional power systems. It will also provide institutional support to NAWEC and stakeholders in improving efficiency in the energy sector”.
Omar Ceesay, the National Assembly Member for Upper Nuimi who seconded the motion, expressed his support for the Bill. He said the purpose of the loan will enhance tuition in Schools and services at hospitals.
Alagie Mboow, the Member for Lower Nuimi moved that the Bill be referred to the relevant National Assembly Committees (FPAC and PEC) to effectively look into it by scrutinizing it before consideration, adoption and approval; that once approved, the Bill will heighten the debt rate of the country.
The Member for Badibu Central Sulayman Saho, urged the Government to consider the debt burden of the country and have a break from taking loans and grants; that loans and grants have impacted negatively on the country’s economy and budget.
Demba Sowe, the Member for Niamina West implored on Government for the project to be judiciously utilized to meet the targeted sectors, noting that the country cannot be taking loans which continues to increase the current debt burden, and divert it to ‘something else’.
Alagie Jawara, the Member for Lower Badibu, urged the Monitoring Committee of the National Assembly to properly scrutinize and regularly monitor the implementation of the project once it is approved. He gave his support to the Bill to address the problems of energy in the targeted areas.
Suwaibou Touray, the Member for Wuli East, called for simpler and innovative means to address the energy problems of the country in lieu of such huge loans and grants in view of the current debt portfolio of the country. He supported the motion and referred the Bill to the relevant Committees of the National Assembly to properly scrutinize it before approval.
After a daylong intensive debate on the Bill, Deputies approved and ratified the Bill.