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Gov't retreat discusses progress, challenges

Jun 10, 2011, 1:40 PM | Article By: Lamin B. Darboe

A three-day government retreat opened Wednesday in Kanilai seeking, among others, to review achievements in all sectors of development, as well as assess the challenges in meeting set goals and targets, especially Vision 2020 and the MDGs.

The third of its kind, the retreat brought together senior government officials including the Vice President, cabinet ministers, the Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service, as well as permanent secretaries and other senior officials from the various government ministries.

Officially opening the retreat, President Yahya Jammeh, who presided, said that there have been massive improvements from the last retreat to date in terms of stability, positions and at the level of ministries too.

According to the Gambian leader, "we all have a stake" in the socio-economic development of The Gambia. "Every Gambian has a stake, but the greatest stake goes to us, we the leaders of this country. Anything that goes well, it is for the people of The Gambia, but anything that goes wrong will come to us the government," he said.

He told government officials that the fact that the government has made significant achievements in the area of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Vision 2020, should not entice them to sit on their laurels and be complacent, noting that "if we have to achieve the MDGs and Vision 2020, we have to depend 90% on our own resources."

"The MDGs have clearly spelt out what they are; the Vision 2020 has clearly spelt out where we want to be by the year 2020. We cannot bank 100 percent on the benevolence of others for us to achieve these two important blueprints. So, for us to be able to achieve all these, we have to really look inward and look at the cloth we have and really cut it according to our coat," he stated.

The Gambian leader also told government officials that with this current situation, they still have a long way to go "because we cannot depend on donors for help."

President Jammeh told the meeting that going back to the land is what will make them independent and dignified, adding that "without agriculture, the peace and stability of this country also cannot be guaranteed." "Hunger, he went on, is something people cannot bear."

He further stated that as a government, agriculture and infrastructure will be given priorities, stressing the need for them to tighten their belts. In his view, if the country is to count or bank on imports for its daily sustenance, it is making a great mistake.

Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy for her part noted with gratitude "the significant achievements" registered in the areas of Millennium Development Goals and Vision 2020. She described as important the retreat, which she said will address some of the constraints faced by some ministries or departments.

"This is a very important occasion, and we thank you the President for thinking about it in the first place. You thought that, as a government, it is not for us to only work in our ministries; cabinet, but indeed leave those premises and come away from it and work with our technicians and look at our plans that we have with regard to our development blueprints," she said, while urging government officials to put the interest of the nation first before their own interest.

Also speaking at the retreat was the Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service, Ousman Jammeh, who underscored the importance of such forums, which he said have become very important pillars in government activities.
According to him, without a clear strategy, it is unimaginable how sectors could efficiently achieve the intended results as required.

"I believe all sectors now have in place vibrant strategic plans. These are important and require regular reviews to ensure alignment with government's development agenda," SG Jammeh stated.