Foreign Affairs Minister Underscores Need To Revisit High Debt Burden

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By Ndey Sowe

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Dr Mamadou Tangara, has underscored the need to revisit the high debt burden and debt-servicing, especially for the least-developed countries which he said, calls for an urgent solution.

However, he renewed the Gambia government’s commitment to addressing post Covid-19 challenges as part of recovery plans for renewed hope following the global pandemic.

Minister Tangara, made these and other remarks during his speech at the Summit-level Meeting of the non-Aligned Movement’s Contact Group in response to the post COVID-19 pandemic period in Baku, Azerbaijan, on March 2nd 2023.

Dr. Tangara on behalf of President Adama Barrow and the people of The Gambia, hailed the exemplary leadership of the Chairperson of the non-Aligned Movement for mobilizing and bringing together the voice of the Global South for their multilateral response towards the pandemic. He said the meeting which is geared towards bringing solutions to the many challenges caused by the pandemic, is timely and important.

“It is indeed timely and critical that the entire membership of the Movement comes together to chart a way forward for our collective recovery from the adverse impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we must equally share our thoughts on the state of global pandemic preparedness considering the critical lessons learnt during the period,” he said.

With the many challenges facing the world, Gambia’s foreign minister said the path to global recovery will be long, painful and hard for the Global South, due to obstacles such as the near collapse of healthcare delivery systems and the economic strife that people face, coupled with burdensome inflation in energy and the food crises that negatively impact societies.

“We must think outside of the box and come up with immediate and life-changing solutions. Economic growth is down, business activity is down, and unemployment is rife everywhere. There is hardship across the world and people are suffering. There is need for urgent relief across the world and as members of the international community, the big question is how we must continue to grapple with what we can do, to accelerate relief and recovery at the same time,” he posited; That the most pressing challenge that most of our countries face is economic strife, an unsustainable debt burden and cost of living crisis exacerbated by the on-going Russia-Ukraine war, in terms of inflation, higher energy and food costs; That our economies are being adversely impacted in ways that are undermining our recovery efforts despite the international support that is being provided.

“Perhaps, we need to revisit the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) of the past as part of the plethora of solutions to the relief-recovery-development conundrum out of the pandemic as well as the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030. We must get back on track to implementing Agenda 2030 by leaving no one behind,” the minister said. Dr Tangara also used the forum to call on governments to better prepare by putting in systems, policies and resources in order to be able to address future challenges. This he says can better be done by strengthening healthcare systems, and building resilience to respond to Covid 19 outbreak, adding that the government of The Gambia is still rolling out vaccination campaigns to further reduce COVID cases, while preventing future outbreaks.

“We need to reinvest in our healthcare delivery systems to not only prepare for the next pandemic, but we must also invest in having the tools and systems to prevent outbreaks in future,” he reflected.

He disclosed that NAM’s leadership in mobilizing global efforts to fight the pandemic once more demonstrated the movement’s influence and responsibility, thus the aim of this forum is to formulate the position of the movement concerning the post-COVID-19 era.