By Yankuba Jallow
Halifa Sallah, the presidential candidate for PDOIS has on Sunday held face-to-face discussion with the media, students and members of the public on his plans to transform The Gambia and eradicate the poverty of the people.
Sallah told the gathering that they should not cast their votes without knowing why they are casting it. He said his party’s manifesto which is the Transformative Agenda stands to eradicate poverty, injustice and ignorance and to ensure that each Gambian irrespective of your socio-ethno linguistic origin, gender and religion lives a life of liberty, dignity and prosperity.
Sallah said The Gambia is a community of citizens who are equal in sovereignty irrespective of their ethno-linguistic origin, gender and religion among others. He maintained that each Gambian is a depository of the sovereignty of our motherland.
“There is no minority in this country. Everybody belongs to the majority and the majority constitute the citizenry. Anybody who decides to belong to any group you are seceding from the Republic and you would constitute a minority because the citizens are always the majority. That is what we are going to inculcate in the minds of our citizens,” Sallah said.
Sallah said the Manifesto (The Transformative Agenda) is divided into seven components adding these are drivers of the country’s economy. The components are; political, economic, social, civil, cultural, ecological and external relations.
“Each of those components has policy directive, strategic objective, programme, institution and action plan. The strategic objectives of each of the components are clearly defined, the programmes amply teased out, the action plans distinctly outlined,” Sallah said, adding “These programmes constitute locomotive that will help us to implement every element that we have in our actions plan.”
“My duty is to speak to your mind; to your heart; to your conscience, so that together we will develop love for country and people, and be ready to sacrifice to ensure that collectively we live in liberty, dignity and prosperity,” he said.
He said the Manifesto deals with all aspects of the society. Sallah said since independence no decisive and conclusive step has been taken to demarcate and establish the true size of The Gambia adding all information being given regarding the size of the Gambia is hypothetical. He said a PDOIS led-government would, within six months of its assumption of office, negotiate with the Senegalese Government to demarcate the external boundaries of The Gambia.
“That is when we know what we own,” he said.
Sallah said the Gambia became a Republic in 1970 but the people were not given the education necessary to know what being a sovereign citizen means.
He said the primary objective of the Transformative Agenda (Manifesto) is to ensure the sovereignty of the country and the sovereignty of people.
“Our Manifesto is saying we ensure the sovereignty of the country and the sovereignty of the people. We will introduce universal citizenship education in all our school system so that every Gambian will know how our nation emerged and will know one’s rights and duties,” he said.
Sallah said the political component is about political transformation. He explained that the Transformative Agenda aims to overhaul the State inherited from the monarchical colonial order and replace it with the Cooperative State of sovereign people, which must serve as an instrument of protection.
He said monarchs and former colonial rulers used their instruments and institutions to impose their will on the people. He added that instead of reconstituting the coercive organs of the State inherited from the monarchs at independence, leaders of Republics transformed them into a deadly arsenal either for internal oppression or external domination or both.
“The Transformative Agenda calls for a cooperative state,” he said.
He said all countries that fought against colonialism/monarchies established sovereign republics.
“Sovereign Republic means the people constitute the depository of the sovereignty of the Republic,” Sallah said.
He said together we have cooperative sovereignty of the people and based on that consent you have those who govern our affairs.
“The machinery that the monarch established to oppress people will be dismantled and therefore it will be replaced by new instruments,” Sallah said.
He said this means the army will no longer be seen as a killer machine use by tyrants to oppress their people.
“We will transform that army into the most disciplined workforce in human history,” he said.
He explained that the army will be used to address the gaps that exist in the development process of the country. He said the army will be trained to have skills such as the area of engineering to construct roads, bridges and schools among others to be able to construct all the country needs for its development. He added that when soldiers are dismissed from service they do not have any means of survival – they go to private security institutions to survive.
“We will put an end to that. Our army will be school for development. Our police force will be mobile,” he said.
Sallah said, under a PDOIS led Government, in every village they will replicate the State structures such as health, education, security, fire and rescue service among others. He added that the villages will be trained to be able to administer those services.
He said those who are trained in health would be able to do first-aid, blood and sugar testing and other primary tests.
“Those people will be trained to be able to do that at the village level,” he said.
He said the primary task of the Cooperative State is to ensure the community takes charge of its security through its own social cohesion. He detailed that State police service providers would be well trained, well remunerated and well-resourced mobile units stationed at strategic places that would come to the aid of village security units to arrest and take accused persons before courts without the use of handcuffs or imprisonment in congested jails waiting for trial. He said the police will have a new mind set.
Sallah maintained that crime and criminality would be reduced by eradicating poverty and introducing community service as means for imposing penalties for crimes committed. No person would be sent to prison for crimes not associated with capital offences.
He stated that the standing army would no longer be an instrument of coercion or specialised killing machine that would assist tyrants to engage in any form of domination at home or abroad. He added that it would be prepared to defend the homeland and the people and would specialise as a disciplined workforce for the Cooperative State. He explained that units would be established to engage in duties such as, industrial fisheries, wharf construction, boat building, construction of state and community infrastructure and amenities and would fill any gap in the rendering of services to the population, in the spirit of love of and service to country and people.
He said the idea is to build a police force that is linked with the community, linked with the aspiration of the community and there to serve the community.
“That is how we are going to dismantle what is inherited from the colonial order and build what is necessary in a cooperative state,” he said.
Sallah said for non-capital offences, the offender will do community service rather than being sent to jail because the aim is to move to rehabilitative justice rather than retributive justice.
He said the new cooperative state would require a new constitution adding the citizenry will be encouraged to look at the history of constitutional development in the country and how the country evolved to what it is today and what must be done to ensure there is an end to self-perpetuating rule.
Sallah promised to serve only one term as President, if elected, to put an end to self-perpetuating rule. He said there will be constitutional evolution to establish a two-term limit for presidency. He explained that the new constitution will involve the people in all branches of the state. He said the new constitution will establish a Presidency Advisory Committee that will be selected by the civil society that will meet the Cabinet quarterly to indicate the general concerns of the population. He added that the Committee will have the right to be heard at the National Assembly to table their report.
“Currently only National Assembly members and Ministers can table motions before the National Assembly. The Constitution should change. Certain institutions that will represent the voice of the people will be given audience to be able to address the National Assembly regarding the concerns of the people,” he said.
He said the tribunal at the level of communities will have a jurist system attached to those tribunals so that the people would participate in enhancing the dispensation of justice.
“We will establish a system where men and women will be equal in Cabinet representation. Not only that we advocate for proportionate representation so that that equality will be reflected at the level of the National Assembly and the level of the councils,” he said.
He said people with different physical features will be represented in Cabinet, National Assembly and councils so that they will be represented in all decision making bodies.
You can find more about the political component in the Manifesto.
The ECONOMIC COMPONENT
Sallah said the people are told they own the sea and land, but poverty still remains. He asked the question how the poverty of the people can end.
The economic base of The Gambia comprises agriculture, industry and services with a GDP amounting to 108.8 billion dalasis for 2021. The GDP is very vulnerable to shocks due to the fragility of the economy base.
He said The Gambia is in a state of debt distress with the debt burden rising to 81.8 billion dalasis in 2021; adding, the debt burden requires payment of debt service charges amounting to 5.7 billion dalasis per annum despite the rescheduling of debt repayment. Sallah submitted that the debt burden is unsustainable.
He said the eradication of poverty could only come through the transformation of the economic base; adding, the accumulation of sovereign national wealth would promote production and consumption based welfare as well as give support to the expansion of the public, private, cooperative and informal sectors of the economy in accordance with the economics of scale and general welfare.
“There must be a linkage between agricultural production, processing and marketing to ensure food self-reliance, security and import substitution,” he said.
Sallah said the Gambia currently has 550,000 hectares of arable land which makes it possible for The Gambia to produce the rice and grains we need. He added that only 57 percent of the arable land is being utilised. He said the country needs between 200,000 to 398,000 metric tons of rice per annum but is producing between 22,000 to 57,000 metric tons per annum.
“We are spending between 2 to 4 billion dalasis on rice importation [per annum]. We need to reverse the process of being an import dependent nation. Since the First Republic we import most of the goods we consume,” Sallah said.
“We must apply the principle of import substitution by producing what we are importing and reduce import cost while expanding our export to ensure a balanced and proportionate development in trade with our partners,” he said.
He cited the National Development Plan projected growth to seemingly address our dependency on import.
“These projections are not linked to any import substitution programme and do not give any indication how production will be organised and financed to achieve the goals,” he said.
He said the NDP like all previous development plans of the country lack concrete plans to show how they are going to invest in that sector to be able to achieve what they want to achieve.
“That is generally what has been the case for Gambian development. You have all these beautiful plans but the objective is to have donor conferences so that the donors can facilitate their implementation,” he said.
He said PDOIS will transform the whole economic base – agriculture and industrial revolution.
“We are going to have three phases of industrial revolution,” he said.
He said the primary phase is where they will link appropriate technology to processing of the agricultural produce that we have such as coos, groundnut and milk. He said there will be a commission setup to ensure all villages prepare a database of all the labour saving devices they have in the villages. He said the country will be able to produce coos, process it into flour and bake it into bread right here in The Gambia.
He said from the primary phase they will study how to move to the second phase of industrialization which is engaging into large scale industry – encouraging accumulation and investment in large scale industry. He said factories would be built to engage into processing.
He said the third phase is building the machines that we consume in collaboration with Africa as a continent that would have by that time seen the need to come together and produce all the basic things we need in farming and other areas.
He said a PDOIS Government will ensure there is people-centered tourism.
“We will tell our partners that when you are coming to the Gambia you are helping to eradicate poverty. We will be able to setup a commission that will be able to identify all the products that the tourists would want to buy and then the Cooperative Bank will assist the people to produce those products,” he said.
He said if 350,000 tourists visit the Gambia and spend one hundred dollars to by the products, that means you are contributing nothing less than one and a half billion dollars in the Gambian economy annually.
“We want to build an economy that is people centered,” he said.
He said the Economic Component of the PDOIS manifesto propagates the accumulation of Sovereign National Wealth as the Cornerstone for self-reliant, self-determined and sustainable development.
He said the Economic Component aims to ensure that Sovereign wealth is accumulated through public investments in mining, fisheries downstream, midstream and stream petroleum activities, renewable energy sources, production of clay products, processing and infrastructural development.
He mentioned that a part of the Sovereign National Wealth accumulated at the Central Bank would be utilised to provide interest free loans to economically deprived producers of all sectors to eradicate poverty.
“All Villages would receive financial support from the Cooperative Bank to establish productive enterprises to raise sovereign fund for village development. Equalisation grants would be given by the Cooperative State to ensure balanced and proportionate development of town and rural communities,” Sallah said.
He said the country has a navy that is responsible of protecting our waters and they cannot buy enough fuel and they cannot buy new vessels – they depend on charity in order to get the equipment that they need. He said the navy should have a branch that will be able to produce and maintain the navy and also contribute to sovereign national wealth accumulation.
You can find more on the economic component in the Transformative Agenda.
To be continued.