By: Kebba AF Touray
The President of The Gambia, Adama Barrow, yesterday addressed the nation at the Legislative House in Banjul.
The President’s address centered on five main areas namely; Major Government Achievements registered during the 2017 Legislative Year; Policy and Legislative Matters linked to the mandate of the National Assembly; National Unity; Socio-Economic Development Plans, and Matters Requiring Executive Actions.
He said the 2017 Legislative Year, which is under review, has been positively eventful, with the Government registering resounding success in its overall objective of implementing the National Development Plan (2018-2021).
TRADE, INDUSTRY, REGIONAL INTEGRATION AND EMPLOYMENT
Barrow said the Government is in the process of reviewing the Labour Act, 2007 and establishing a new Trade Union Bill, in order to strengthen industrial relations in the country. He said this will be presented to the National Assembly when finalized, while in the interim, the sector completed the formulation of an Industrial Policy and Trade Strategy in February, 2018 for immediate implementation.
“Implementation of the Eleven Million Euro Youth Empowerment Project, from the European Trust Fund is ongoing. This is complemented by the Fourteen Million Dalasi (D 14,000.000) Skills for Youth Employment Fund launched this year, which aims to equip another one thousand (1000) Gambian youths with relevant technical and vocational skills….Also worth reporting is our partnership with The International Labor Organization and The Government of Japan to support the establishment of a USD $3.9 Million project on “Employment Creation for Youth to Build Sustainable Peace in The Gambia.” He asserted that these are crucial interventions to reduce unemployment.
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION INFRASTRUCTURE
He said GAMTEL has secured a 25 Million dollar concessional loan from the People’s Republic of China to address the last mile access, including rural access. He cited that the liberalization of television broadcasting of four TV licenses to QTV, Paradise TV among other as part of the process of freedom of expression in the country.
The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education tabled the revised Basic and Secondary Education Bill, 2017 that was approved by Cabinet for enactment and the Act provides for the management and development of educational services in The Gambia, and shall govern the operations of all schools from pre-school to the secondary level, including non-formal schools.
“To respond more effectively to the human resource development needs of the country, plans are afoot to transform The Gambia Technical Training Institute into a University of Technology and Engineering and the Management Development Institute into a University of Management and Public Administration. Ultimately, the constituent schools of The Gambia College will also be fused into The University of The Gambia. In this regard, the Acts of these institutions are currently under review. The relevant Bills will be tabled before this August Assembly for ratification”, he cited.
ENERGY AND PETROLEUM SECTOR
He said the licensing of offshore blocks of A2 and A5 are required in order to drill an exploration well before end of 2018.
“On energy, it is common knowledge that my Government inherited a malfunctioning utility with dilapidated infrastructure. Therefore, to address this in the short term, Government has approved a two-year emergency power supply agreement between KARPOWER and NAWEC for a 30MW generation capacity. NAWEC is also implementing a number of projects which includes operation of a new 11 MW power plant at Kotu Power Station, funded by BADEA and OFID, and estimated at US$22.32 Million. The replacement of a 9MW generator at the Brikama Power Station, through funding from the World Bank, is ongoing” he disclosed. He added “Also underway is an additional US$24 Million 20MW project in Brikama, funded by the Islamic Development Bank. The implementation and construction works are expected to end by the first quarter of 2019. He further stated that the second phase of partnership with SENELEC of Senegal will interconnect the Karang/Amdalai border to supply power to Barra and its catchment areas”. Barrow further stressed that in partnership with the World Bank and the European Union, Government plans to implement a project entailing installation of solar panels for all our schools and health facilities, as well as upgrading and rehabilitation of the existing dilapidated infrastructure, and that a US$22.5 million Indian line Credit has begun to replace existing asbestos pipes, drilling new boreholes and expansion of water network underserved areas.
“On the issue of mining, Government is investigating the activities of operators engaged in sand and heavy mineral mining. Members are assured that Government will pursue the best interest of the Gambian people in this endeavor”, he noted.
President asserted that in order to address the current major environmental challenges, Government’s attention focuses squarely on reforestation and waste management, as well as coastal and marine resource management, among other interventions, the ban on manufacturing, importation, retailing and use of plastic bags in The Gambia is in place, which has led to reduction in volumes of generated and accumulated waste.
He also disclosed that the country has concluded a US$ 2 Million agreement from Global Environment Facility to assist in redressing some of our waste issues, while stressing that waste management and disposal continue to be a menace, but revealed hope that the newly elected Local Government Officials, especially for Banjul and KMC will give these issues special attention.
TRANSPORT, WORKS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
“It is heartening to state that works will commence shortly on the 48.3 km Basse-Fatoto-Koina Road project, which includes the 150 meter-long Fatoto-Passamas Bridge, as well as the 200 meter-long Basse-Wuli Bridge.”
“In line with the promise to the Gambian people in accordance with the National Development Plan 2018-2021, the Government continues to make steady progress in building a solid foundation for good governance, the rule of law, respect for human rights and transitional Justice programme”, president Barrow said on Justice.
CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW COMMISSION
President noted that following the enactment of the Constitutional Review Commission Act in December 2017, the Constitutional Review Commission was appointed and charged with the responsibility to draft a new constitution. He added that the Commissioners have commenced work in earnest with the appointment of the Executive Secretary and a Secretariat.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE TRUTH, RECONCILIATION & REPARATIONS COMMISSION (TRRC)
“Following the enactment of the Truth, Reconciliation & Reparations Commission, (TRRC) Act in December 2017, the setting up of the TRRC is at an advanced stage. The eleven potential Commissioners representing all regions and interest groups have been identified and their names published for any objection from members of the public. The preparations are well underway for the launching of the Commission in October 2018”, he asserted.
NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Barrow disclosed that the National Human Rights Commission Act was enacted in 2017 in line with the Paris principles for the establishment of independent human Rights Commissions, and that the appointment of five Commissioners is well underway through a Selection Panel which has been constituted in accordance with the Act to facilitate the selection process. Barrow added “We expect to have the Commission fully constituted before the end of 2018. With the establishment of the Commission, ordinary Gambians will have an alternative and affordable avenue to provide redress for human rights violations in the country”.
ANTI- CORRUPTION COMMISSION
He said in the spirit to foster good governance and combat corruption, a Draft Anti-Corruption Bill has been finalized and ready to be submitted to the Cabinet for final review and approval. This bill, he cited seeks to establish an Anti-Corruption Commission and provide effective measures for the eradication, suppression and prevention of corruption and corrupt practices in both private and public life in The Gambia. The bill will be tabled by the end of 2018.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND MEDIA LAW REFORMS
“In a bid to sanitize our criminal justice system and to ensure a conducive environment for the media, a comprehensive reform program has been initiated to review and update criminal law legislation and to repeal the draconian media laws of this country in line with international best practices”, he hammered home.
COMPLIANCE WITH INTERNATIONAL TREATY BODY REPORTING OBLIGATIONS
He explicated that as part of its obligation under the international Treaty Bodies to which it is a party, The Gambia is expected to file periodic reports on the state of implementation of these treaties, which he revealed has not been happening for the past two decades and that a Multi- Stakeholder Task Force has been set up by the Ministry of Justice comprising Government and Civil Society Organizations to coordinate, prepare and submit reports on the implementation of treaties.
FISHERIES AND WATER RESOURCES
He revealed that through support from the Saudi Development Fund, a twenty-five solar-powered piped-water supply system will be constructed and installed this year in twenty-five communities to serve seventy thousand (70, 000) people in rural communities. In collaboration with UNICEF also, his Government will continue to provide safe drinking water and basic sanitary facilities for 34 lower basic schools and health centres across the country.
A Technical Cooperation Program on Aquaculture for Women and Youth “is currently being implemented with a total budget of four hundred and forty-two thousand Dollars (US$442,000.00), focusing on three key areas; these are: Establishment of four hatcheries at strategic locations in the country; the capacity per hatchery will range between eight hundred thousand (800, 000) and one Million (1,000,000) fry or small fish annually; establishment of three feed mill plants at strategic locations in the country. The capacity per mill will be about 500 kilograms per day to produce different types of feeds for different categories of and Capacity development for the production of quality seeds and feeds. Particular preference will be given to youth and women associations”, he said.
Barrow said that the Counter Terrorism Unit will be re-organized and given new mandates for more effective preventive and counter operations.
“To promote transparency and meritocracy, an independent police council will be set up, and efforts to attract recruits with skills and competencies will be intensified to maintain a force of personnel with integrity and substantial potential”, he said.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL WELFARE
He asserted that despite all the challenges, significant gains have been registered in the health sector in the areas of Malaria elimination, immunization, reproductive maternal neonatal child and adolescent health.
“On medical supplies, the Government has successfully negotiated a grant with the Global Fund to fight Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, as well as to support the general strengthening of the entire health care system”, he noted.
YOUTH AND SPORTS
“Through inter-Ministerial collaboration and coordination, especially with the Ministry of Trade and the Education sub-sectors, various educational, training and entrepreneurial opportunities will continue to be opened for the youth. Public and Private sector partnership will also be strategically strengthened for this purpose”, he disclosed.
TOURISM AND CULTURE
President Barrow revealed it is projected that close to One Billion Dalasi will be invested in the Tourism sector within the next three years, to be matched by the creation of at least four thousand (4000) jobs, to ensure all year-round Tourism sector.
My Government recognizes Agriculture as the backbone of the Gambian economy and the sector’s key achievements envelop production of agricultural and natural resources, construction of water retention facilities and enhancing tidal access and feeder roads, while stressing that the Agriculture sector has also been active in market infrastructure development, diversification and commercialization.
LANDS AND REGIONAL GOVERNMENT
He stated that sites have been identified for the creation of residential, institutional and industrial layouts, thus, Residential Layouts have been earmarked for Makumbaya, Jamburr and Brikama and an Institutional Layout mapped out in Camalo and Old Jeshwang. In addition, both Camalo and Old Jeshwang will accommodate an Industrial Layout.
“Government has now reviewed and amended Section 13(2) of the Local Government Act 2002 in order to provide for direct election of Chairpersons of Councils through universal adult suffrage. Relatedly, all Executive powers vested on the President to remove elected officials of Councils have been revoked, and plans are underway for a general review and amendment of the Local Government Act, 2002 in order to align it with present day realities.
“The US$21.18 Million Maternal and Child Nutrition and Health Results Project is progressing significantly in thirty-seven (37) health facilities within the four regions upcountry to serve three hundred and forty-five (345) communities”, he noted.
FINANCE AND ECONOMIC AFFAIRS
He said with the support of the international community, the Gambian macroeconomic situation has improved remarkably since the inception of the Government. “We have seen strong tourism activities and a continued recovery within the agriculture sector and that the economy started showing signs of recovery in 2017, from the economic growth of 2.2 per cent to 3.5 per cent,” he stated.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION AND GAMBIANS ABROAD
He cited that Through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Government continues to work towards safeguarding the interest of the Gambian people and to ensure that we regain our rightful position in the comity of nations. In this pursuit, we have resumed diplomatic relations with countries around the world, after two decades of isolation. Many friends and partners are now coming back to work with us.