Oct 20, 2009, 7:59 AM
Fellow Gambians, it is with great pride and honour that I address you on the momentous occasion of the 20th anniversary of the 22nd July Revolution.
We are grateful to the Almighty Allah that this year’s commemoration of the Revolution also coincides with the holy month of Ramadan.
The 22nd of July 1994 ushered in a Revolution that continues to represent the true interest of the people of Africa in general, and this country in particular based on the cardinal principles of accountability, transparency and justice for all, bolstered by truly democratic institutions.
It has been 20 years since I assumed leadership of our dear nation and during this period the country has been transformed from a near Stone Age one into a modern entity through rapid socio-economic and infrastructural development in all parts of the country without discrimination, and where all citizens are treated equally.
We did not waver in achieving the sacred goals of the Revolution; and, the remarkable success we have registered since 1994 is manifested in all aspects of our daily lives, and, we take great pride, in the fact that today everybody living in this country continues to enjoy the benefits of our achievements. Therefore, I would like to convey my sincere gratitude, appreciation and heartfelt congratulations to all the nationalistic and Allah fearing citizens and true friends of The Gambia for their support, prayers, hard work, determination, commitment and dedication to the national development agenda of the Revolution.
Fellow Gambians, as we all know, the impact of our collective effort continues to be positively felt in all parts of the country and covers all sectors of our economy ranging from public infrastructure, agriculture, to vital social services like health and education. The effect of these and other innumerable development initiatives have been felt not only within the borders of this country but also in neighbouring countries and beyond.
Therefore, looking back twenty years, we have a cause to celebrate our success and we will have to do so in grand style. Although we had tremendous challenges and distractions from anti-revolutionary forces, we have always remained steadfast in our quest to develop and move the country forward, with clear conviction, patriotic zeal and fervor.
In consequence, we proved skeptics both at home and abroad woefully wrong and have demonstrated that with Allah on our side, we will deliver to the Gambian people as promised, whatever the circumstances.
However, we must acknowledge that there are challenges due to unpatriotic and dishonest behaviour of some public servants who violate the oaths they take by indulging in corrupt practices to the detriment of the people they swore to serve.
Corruption and greed have become some of the main challenges to our efforts to develop this country and we are committed to eradicating them without mercy and by any means.
I will reiterate that the fight against corruption is not only a duty for the government, judiciary and the legislature but a divine duty and a moral obligation for all Allah-fearing citizens of the country.
The Holy Quran enjoins all Muslim to not only desist from corruption but to eradicate it and this is exactly what my government has ever stood for to the extent of establishing an Anti-Corruption Commission very soon.
Fellow Gambians, we will continue to design and implement effective policy initiatives and programmes in all areas of government in order to promote the realization of our national development agenda.
In this regard the theme for this year’s anniversary celebration is “With Allah the Almighty on Our Side, And, All of Us Working Together, The Economic Superpower Status Will be Achieved by 2024”.
This theme has been adopted considering our collective national desire for high living standards as articulated in Vision 2020. Accordingly, we will continue to move forward guided by the objectives of Vision 2020 as we seek to attain economic superpower status by 2024 Insha-Allah.
Fellow Gambians, with the Almighty Allah on our side and by working together the attainment of economic superpower status is within reach. Some nations of the size of our country and with little or limited natural resources are ranked as wealthy nations. Why not The Gambia?
We need to work harder collectively and we shall sooner rather than later be in the group of wealthiest nations in the world.
Sound, Honest and Disciplined economic management underpin all our development aspirations and as such would remain the cornerstone of our efforts to attain economic superpower status.
Economic development in The Gambia has grown rapidly since July 1994 with great achievements in the key social sectors of education, health, public infrastructure, the productive sectors as well as the services sector.
According to the 2013 Human Development Report, The Gambia’s Human Development Index (HDI) value increased from 0.279 in 1994 to 0.439 in 2013; representing an increase of 57 percent or average annual increase of about 1.4 percent.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been growing at a rate of 5-6 percent over the last four years of which agriculture currently contributes between 25 - 30 percent. This share of GDP is rapidly expanding largely driven by significant investments in the sector since 1994.
The Gambia is on track to achieve the MDGs relating to education, health, water and sanitation, gender parity, reduction of maternal and infant mortality rates and overall poverty reduction.
Using the US$1.00 per day per person poverty index, the incidence of poverty has been reduced considerably from 68 percent in 1998 to 36.7 percent in 2010.
Today we are closer to achieving full employment and decent incomes for all Gambians including women and young people than we were 20 years ago.
Fellow Gambians, in line with our policy commitments to transform our great country into an economic superpower, we have embarked on various policy reforms in the finance and economic sector with a view to place the country on sound economic track.
The institutions of tax administration have been rationalized and this led to the establishment of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) in 2007 to improve revenue collection and tax administration.
Also, in January 2013 we introduced the value added tax (VAT), which is intended to broaden the tax base, eliminate tax losses, improve compliance and consequently increase tax collection and revenue.
In addition, the debt portfolio management has improved and the public debt is within manageable limits and we have put in place mechanisms to ensure that borrowed and donated funds are put to use for the intended purposes.
The Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) introduced in 2007 to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in public finance management has helped to bring about some order and transparency in the management of public finances.
Thanks to the Almighty Allah, these policy reforms have not been in vain as our economy remains strong and resilient over all these years despite external shocks due to difficulties in the international economic system and the vagaries of the weather which caused the 2011 crop failure.
Given the ever-increasing pressure on available economic resources due to the growing needs for the provision of services, Government will continue to prioritize national development by strictly focusing on the productive sectors and key social services which have the potential to raise the performance of the economy to an enviable level.
We are determined to ensure that priority sectors get the required attention and resources. Fellow Gambians, our economy cannot develop to the desired level without a strong productive sector.
Therefore, government will strive to increase agricultural productivity especially through the recently launched Vision 2016 Food Self Sufficiency initiative and other projects and programmes to boost agricultural productivity.
All these policies, projects and programmes are geared towards improving agricultural productivity to guarantee food self-sufficiency, raising rural incomes, expanding employment opportunities and contributing to growth in exports.
However, it is regrettable that despite the huge quantum of resources expended in the agriculture sector, since 1994, we have very little to show for it. This therefore necessitated a change of policy in the sector by emphasizing more practical approaches to agricultural production than endless theories propagated at often futile, wasteful and bogus workshops.
Fellow Gambians, as the private sector is often referred to as the engine of growth, we will continue to encourage private sector participation in all economic activities either directly or through Public Private Partnerships.
Therefore, through the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment (MoTIE) we will continue to pursue reform measures to improve the business environment, promote investment and ensure fair trade as part of our strategies for private sector development.
These reform measures are designed to support the Government’s policies towards the attainment of Vision 2020 and ultimately the economic superpower status.
The Ministry of Trade, therefore, formulated the National Industrial Policy in 1998 to provide strategic direction for the expansion of production and promotion of value addition in sectors with high employment and growth potential.
The Ministry has also formulated the National Trade Policy, the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Policy, and Employment Policy, all of which are essential to promote economic growth and development.
The Gambia has ample business opportunities in the areas of agro-forestry, fisheries and petroleum and through the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) we will continue to expose and market these opportunities at home and abroad.
The service sector continues to be pivotal to the growth of our economy and as such government is paying particular attention to the sector by developing service standards and quality control measures, especially in the hospitality industry.
The July 22nd Revolution has brought about significant developments in the Tourism sector resulting in a significant increase in the sector’s contribution to GDP, coming second to agriculture.
Thanks to robust policy measures, our country has become an enviable tourism destination in Africa with a competitive edge over many African destinations.
The significant developments in the tourism sector during the past two decades have also translated into 35, 000 jobs for Gambians, compared to below 6, 000 jobs in 1993.
To support the development of the tourism sector, as well as the productive sectors of the economy, we have been embarking on massive development of public infrastructure.
With the Laminkoto-Passimus and other road projects such as the Basse-Koina road project soon to begin, their completion will contribute to the further development of first class national road network that would link major growth centres throughout the country.
Thanks to the Revolution, today there are more than 1000 kilometers of paved roads around the country compared to about 374 in 1993 and these roads have facilitated domestic and international trade.
Moreover, they have opened up hither to inaccessible parts of the country thereby creating opportunities for the rural dwellers, especially women, to have access to hospitals and markets for their horticultural products.
The following are among the key roads constructed from July 1994: Kombo Coastal; Serrekunda-Mandinaba; Mandinaba-Soma; Brikama-Sanyang; Essau-Kerewan; Kerewan-Farafenni; Farafenni-Laminkoto; Westfield Sukuta Road Project; Barra-Amdali; Transgambia Highway; Soma-Basse-Sabi; Basse-Velingara; Mandinaba-Seleti; Trans Gambia Road Project; Brikama-Dimabaya-Darsilami; Western Region Feeder roads-paved. These are some of the key roads project of the Revolution.
The sea port and the airport are also going through tremendous transformation as both are implementing projects to improve their competitiveness within the sub-region.
However, the energy sector continues to be a challenge having regard to its huge relevance to economic development.
Although we have invested heavily in power generation, transmission and distribution over the past 20 years, such investment is always outstripped by the constantly increasing demand for electricity both for domestic and industrial use.
Notwithstanding, we shall continue our efforts to increase supply and make it more affordable. In this regard, Government has recently received heavy fuel oil generators which will be deployed in the provinces to improve supplies for rural dwellers.
As we continue to seek ways of improving energy supply, government will explore alternative and renewable energy in solar and wind turbine. In this regard, we will encourage investments in these areas through Power Purchase Agreements.
My government recognizes that the sustainable management of our environment and natural resources is the cornerstone for meaningful sustainable development, and is therefore of high priority to my government.
Government through the National Environment Agency (NEA) is focused on advancing sustainable development by promoting sound and healthy environmental programmes including programmes for arresting environmental degradation.
Already achievements in this area during the past years include the continued strengthening of a functional institutional framework for natural resources management and planning, and a legal and regulatory framework for the environment.
Furthermore, government initiated the Gambia Environmental Action Plan Phase I (GEAP) which is now followed by the second phase of GEAP.
The overall goal of the GEAP is to ensure sustainable development through an effective financially self-sustaining environmental and natural resources management systems.
My clarion call for Operation Clean the Nation has been answered as manifested in the increasing awareness of the populace of the importance of a healthy and clean environment, free from litter and other hazardous wastes.
Fellow Gambians, the glorious July 22nd Revolution has led to tremendous improvements in the social sector with access to high quality, relevant and affordable education and health in all parts of the country.
Today, thanks to the Revolution, education and health have been practically brought to the door steps of all Gambians. We have placed huge emphasis on the scaling up of basic and comprehensive curative and preventive healthcare services by reaching out to communities around the country, especially hard to reach areas.
It is gratifying to note that all communities in The Gambia are now within reasonable reach of a health facility.
The July 22nd Revolution resulted in the establishment of many health facilities at all levels from primary to tertiary.
Prior to 1994 there were a total of 28 health facilities throughout the country with only two being major referral hospitals. At the moment, again thanks to the Revolution, there are 91 health facilities out of which 6 are major referral hospitals strategically located around the country to ensure universal coverage.
Currently projects are well underway to construct 4 more new health facilities to be completed by the end of this year.
The Ministry of Health will ensure continuous improvement of services and facilities at all levels of the public health system and at affordable cost. The doctor to patient ratio is being improved especially with the training of home-grown doctors at the University of The Gambia.
Fellow Gambians, since July 1994 we have been working tirelessly to make education accessible, affordable and relevant by aligning it with the long term development needs of the country.
To this end, my government has for the past years been focusing on increasing access to good quality education through the establishment of new schools, the provision of scholarships to deserving young people and the training of teachers, among other measures.
Twenty years on, the number of lower basic schools increased from 250 to 590 while the number of upper basic schools increased from 22 to 196 and senior secondary schools from 12 to 103.
The total number of schools (including private schools) therefore increased from 284 in 1994 to 889 in 2014 excluding madrassas.
Correspondingly, the total enrolment from lower basic to senior secondary increased from 132, 591 in 1994 to 411, 443 in 2014 with the lower basic level polling an increase from 105, 471 to 274, 939, while the upper basic level shows an increase from 17, 899 to 87, 391 and the senior secondary from 9, 221 to 49, 113.
We are consciously setting the agenda for the future.
Similarly, the number of teachers increased at the lower basic level from 3, 158 in 1994 to 7, 464 in 2014 while the upper basic level shows an increase from 666 to 3, 154 and senior secondary from 460 to 1971.
What is most significant is the increase of the proportion of Gambian teachers in senior secondary schools which rose from 34% in 1994 to 68% in 2014.
The University of The Gambia was established to cater for the human capital development needs of our country.
Today, the University has graduated many young Gambians in various fields of specialization relevant to our development needs. When the UTG main campus in Faraba-Banta is complete, more disciplines relevant to our economic development will be introduced.
Apart from the UTG, we have encouraged the establishment of many tertiary institutions for middle level skills development programme and thankfully, these institutions are producing technicians for businesses and industry.
An efficient and effective telecommunications system is paramount to the development of our economy. Having that in mind, we have invested heavily in the sector in order to ease communication bottlenecks and facilitate faster and more efficient business transactions.
The most significant investment in this regard is the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) Submarine Cable System, a high bandwidth submarine cable system that connects the Gambia to the global information superhighway. This system will be the backbone of our national telecommunications system especially broadband internet service.
Fellow Gambians, at the center of all our efforts to attain economic superpower status is the youth who constitute a high percentage of our population. Instead of embarking on perilous journeys to reach Europe illegally, the youth should take advantage of the numerous opportunities created by government for decent and honourable living.
At this juncture, I wish to commend the women folk both young and old for their immense contribution to the achievements of the July 22nd Revolution in national development and the great contribution of the youth of this country as well, in terms of moral and political support to the Revolution and taking full advantage of the various educational opportunities put at their disposal.
Gender equity and the empowerment of women are important cornerstones to any country’s development.
Therefore, my government continues to accord high priority to the enhancement of the status of women and children. In this regard numerous policies, programmes and legislative instruments have been developed and are being implemented to address the welfare of women and children.
The implementation of these legislative and policy instruments has contributed to significant achievements in areas such as girl’s education, legal reforms and social services in support of women and children.
My government has also increased the number of women in decision making positions, and increased access to labour saving devices such tractors, milling machines, power tillers and other farm implements. Thousands of women have also benefited from the soft loans from the Women’s Bureau Micro Finance window.
Fellow Gambians, in line with the theme for this year’s celebration, I wish to enjoin all to embrace hard work, dedication and commitment to the cause of developing our country and to continue living in harmony.
In so doing, we will remain happy as one big family without regard to tribe, religion, or political affiliation.
In all these; National Security, Peace and Stability are sine qua non to the achievements of the above stated objectives. Therefore, we will not compromise national security, peace and stability of this country for whatever reason.
The security forces would continue to receive the priority attention they deserve whilst at the same time boosting their strength, quality and proficiency at all times through advanced training, social incentives etc.
To assist the security forces in dealing with security of life and property, the judiciary continues to pursue legal reforms to ensure speedy dispensation of justice to boost the confidence of the citizens. Law courts have been established in the regional administrative areas in order to ease access to justice especially for the underprivileged. The issue of backlog of cases continues to be addressed with the expansion of the bench.
In terms of our foreign relations, my government will continue to pursue the Gambia’s strategic interest by maintaining friendly relations with countries around the world based on mutual respect and equality. We shall not waiver in the promotion of peace around the world especially within Africa as it is only through peace that we can enjoy sustainable economic development and get ourselves out of abject poverty.
Fellow Gambians, our wish for economic superpower status is not a fantasy but is actually within reach and perhaps sooner rather than later. We have what is necessary to transform our dear country into a First world country.
All we need is unity, dedication and commitment to the nation and its interests. We must work hard and worship only Allah the Almighty at all times. We have to shun all the vices that will set us back and slow our glorious march to economic supremacy.
As a government, we have laid the solid foundation for rapid socio-economic development and it is up to the citizens to take advantage of the opportunities.
The past twenty years have been very momentous and I once more thank all those inveterate patriots and Allah fearing Gambians and our genuine friends for their steadfastness and unflinching support to the Revolution. This has enabled us to achieve great milestones previously thought impossible.
Thanks also go to the true friends of The Gambia who have joined the bandwagon in support of our endeavours with increasing consistency and genuine zeal. It is apparent and very obvious that we have made giant strides in developing this country and the evidence is everywhere and for everyone to see.
I thank you and wish you happy 22nd July celebrations and Id Mubarak in advance.