Sep 5, 2008, 6:06 AM
Fellow Gambians and Friends of The Gambia
Tomorrow heralds the beginning of a new year- a year that we look forward to with optimism in spite of the indication, as expressed globally, that it will see the continuation of a depression and economic crisis that has already gripped many parts of the world. It has now dawned on all of us that this international economic crisis is a global phenomenon that has threatened national economies, paralysed financial institutions with the result that food has become more scarce and more expensive. Thus, 2008 will go down in history as the precursor of this much lamented depression.
On hindsight, we, in The Gambia, should be gratified and encouraged by the steady progress and remarkable achievements registered during the course of the year. This is particularly manifested in the growth of our economy in 2008 despite all the odds. We have also been able to successfully cushion the impact of the food crisis, the financial crisis and the fuel crisis. Indeed, this trend is quite characteristic of the political history of this nation since 1994. Therefore, as we celebrate the New Year, we thank the Almighty Allah .for granting us the will, resolve and means to register such successes. lt is thus with much joy and strong optimism that I, once again, deliver this customary New Year message to you in a bid to further reflect on our aspirations, achievements and challenges, and to brace ourselves for the ever-pressing tasks of realizing our national development objectives.
That my Government has made tremendous achievements in various spheres of development over the past thirteen years has not blinded us or deterred us from spurring on to address the uphill task of transforming the Gambian nation into the enviable state we wish to craft, as reflected in the visionary and revolutionary path we have trodden from the onset. This national goal has been outlined in the policies and programmes cogently formulated and steadfastly being implemented. A brief recapitulation of some of the outcomes of these policies suffices to illustrate the host of very significant achievements in various spheres of life registered in 2008.
It was on account of the realization that our survival as a species depends to a considerable degree on our productive capacity and ability to provide the basic essentials of life, which implies food security for all and emancipation from poverty, that I pioneered a major onslaught to eradicate hunger as encapsulated in the back-to the-land philosophy.
It is, therefore, not by chance that the Agricultural sector has turned into a vibrant one that has attracted farmers of varied backgrounds. The rationale for the provision of seeds and farm implements and machinery aimed at increasing food productivity in the country is unmistakably well-received. Thus, a recognizable result of the upsurge of such inputs is, the bumper Harvest of rice and other food crops as well as an increase in livestock breeding. It is hoped that strengthening these innovative endeavours will continue to prevent the food shortages that are prevalent in other parts of the world as a consequence of the current unfortunate economic crisis and other calamities. Agriculture will, therefore, continue to be given the high priority it deserves as an axis for the enhancement of a decent quality of life for all Gambians. Correspondingly, the requisite infrastructural development will be carried out in tandem with new innovative interventions, to provide outlets and processing opportunities for our produce.
The infrastructural services provided in the areas of telecommunications, the provision of safe drinking water and power generation are, meant to improve the standards of living of our people as well as engender private sector participation in national development through investments in industry and other areas.
The completion of road networks linking Barra to Farafenni and Laminkoto and, the works in progress on the South Bank road epitomize Government's unfaltering desire to ensure that our vision of a highly developed Gambia comes to fruition.
The expansion of these services in 2008 to various parts of the country has been steady but significant; The first phase of the rural electrification project has been completed and phase II of the project covering the Western Region is soon to start in earnest in the new year. The regulatory frameworks operationalised by the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) have begun to pay dividends. Given the open market policies in operation, telecommunication service providers have increased and have structured interconnection facilities among themselves.
You would agree with me that the business of developing a nation does not rest with the government alone, but is the responsibility of all Citizens. Government will continue to create the enabling environment for all citizens and Foreign investors to take up the challenge and the opportunities that abound for investment.
Reflecting on the other social sectors, we are proud to note the numerous achievements made in Health and Education. As most, if not all of you have realized, health is accorded a top priority on my Government's agenda for sustainable economic and social development. The MedicalSchool, under the ambit of the University of The Gambia, and the significant increases in health facilities and medical personnel, respectively, substantiate this claim. Today, the Cuban doctors in the country and the Medical Technical Assistants from such countries as Egypt and the Federal Republic of Nigeria have considerably improved the health sector and its delivery system countrywide. In short, 2008, has been another very good year for this sector. This is evidenced by the 30% drop in the incidences of Malaria and related deaths.
In the area of education, I am happy to observe that achievements in this sector are so prominent that The Gambia now provides examples of best practices for emulation elsewhere. It is for this reason that The Gambia is the first country to implement the Basic Education in Africa Programme (BEAP), to be followed by Ethiopia and Ivory Coast, among others. The progress made in Early Childhood Education and the annexation of Early Childhood Development Centres to lower basic schools is another model that has earned us commendation. In like manner, the unprecedented enrolment figures of girls at various levels of the education system and the strategies employed in this regard have been acclaimed internationally.
To the dismay of skeptics, the well-established University of The Gambia has now trained a good number of personnel for the much needed human resources capital for development. In addition to this, various Scholarships packages have been awarded in 2008 for University education overseas. These include the sending of 25 students to Taipei to study Civil Engineering, about 74 students in Venezuela to study various science related fields, and just yesterday, 18 Science Students left for Malaysia. The support schemes, scholarship packages and career opportunities created through the tertiary institutions will, be further strengthened during the coming years, as a follow-up on interventions implemented during the course of the year that is ending.
Whilst in 2008 the Basic and Secondary Education sub-sector had to do without funding under the Education for All/Fast Track Initiative (FTI), approval has been secured for increased FTI support for the next three years - i.e., 2009 to 2011. Consequently, it is expected that very significant strides will be made from 2009 onwards through the implementation of the new Medium Term Plan. Importantly, though, at the higher educational level, Mathematics, the Sciences and Medicine will be accorded preferential treatment by my Government.
Generally, 2008 has been a very good year for The Gambia, and considerable success has been registered by all the sectors. For the Tourism Industry, the number of tourists visiting the country is appreciable despite the international credit crunch and its anticipated negative impact on tourism. There is every reason to believe that this season will eventually turn out to be a good one.
In the area of Sports, the performance of our footballers in the current year has, indeed, resulted in making every patriotic Gambian proud; hence, The Gambia is no longer the underdog it was perceived to be in the past. Support will continue to be provided to ascertain that a balanced approach is maintained in the development of Sports.
As I emphasized in my Christmas message to you, the future development of our motherland and indeed Africa lies in the hands of our youth and how best the Youth can harness their potential towards meaningful national development. I do hope that these issues have been adequately discussed at the recently concluded National Youth Conference at Farafenni. As government continues to provide the opportunities for education and training for Youth empowerment, the onus is on the youth to take up these challenges for their own personal development that would eventually mould them into productive citizens. I therefore once again appeal to you the youths to abandon the fallacious belief that to get rich, one only has to go to the West and by any means. The Gamjobs project has been launched this year to provide you with further avenues to engage in productive activities here in The Gambia.
Fellow Countrymen, and Friends of The Gambia,
While we have seemingly given prominence to the social and growth enhancing sectors, the security of the country and upholding the rule of law within the framework of the Constitution and respect for human rights, the Legal and Judicial reforms dictated by the appraisal study of the legal sector exemplify our resolve to build on the good governance policies and strategies of my Government.
In the thick of all these development efforts, Government will continue to forge closer ties with our friends, neighbours and the world community at large. Aware of how closely knitted nations are and how interdependent we are, The Gambia Government has maintained a pragmatic and mutually rewarding foreign policy that has culminated in the enhancement of trade, world peace and constructive dialogue within the context of respect for one another's sovereignty. These principles will continue to be the bedrock of our foreign policy. I call on all Africans and African Leaders to unite, work together to save ourselves from the chronic shackles of poverty that have made Africa and being African synonymous with abject poverty and destitution. We can turn the tide in our favour but only by working together and depending entirely on our Natural and human resources. Africa is still the richest continent in terms of Natural resources - the chief source of all the raw materials for the industrialized North; and yet, Africans are the poorest of the poor! These Natural resources would benefit us only when we unite, pool our efforts together and, set up our own industries to process these Allah-given Natural resources and only export the finished products to the North. Only then, would we be able to fix our own prices and, derive maximum benefits from Natural wealth. But sadly, as we speak, most of us are being robbed of our very same resources by Western Multinational companies much to the benefit of the West and to the detriment of Africans. We the African leaders bear squarely and solely the responsibility of the present status quo and the suffering and humiliation of our people at the hands of the West.
I hope and pray that the year 2009 would be the turning point for a positive change of attitude by Africans, but more so, by we the African Leaders. We must regain Africa's lost glory and salvage the dignity and pride of the Black race or be damned.
Fellow Gambians and Friends of The Gambia
I have cited just a few accomplishments and reiterated a few plans for the future to indicate how much we have done and how much more needs to be done. The challenges that confront us are formidable and require concerted effort, conviction, discipline and steadfastness from all of us.
As we enter the New Year, we need to take stock of our achievements and shortcomings with a view to setting ourselves new goals and targets. In this direction, the challenge I pose to you for 2009 is for each individual, organization or group to set positive targets that will contribute to bettering your welfare and that of the people around you. It is only when we co-exist in this way that we can claim to be sincere patriotic sons and daughters of the land.
At this point, I cannot fail to pay tribute to all those who, in one way or another, contributed to the successes of the year, especially the women whose steadfastness is beyond reproach. To all of you, I say: well done and May Allah guide, protect and reward you.
As we usher in the New Year, let us pray for the sick and the afflicted, that they may regain their health. Let us also pray that the souls of our fellow citizens that had to answer to Allah's calling in 2008, rest in perfect peace. In a similar vein, let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Palestine who are the victims of a brutal and inhuman occupying power that is bent on wiping them out, whilst the whole world is watching with indifference. The entire civilized members of the human race must rise up against this Holocaust that has been unleashed on the helpless Palestinians, whose lands, human dignity and right to peaceful and dignified existence in their own Country, are being blatantly violated with impunity, by a country that the whole world went to war for between 1939-1945 to free their citizens from Nazi Germany and other parts of the West. Today, they are the Principal perpetrators of the same Genocide/Holocaust against the people of Palestine on Palestinian soil; and all that we hear from the West and other Quarters is that Israel has a right to defend itself against attack! That Hamas is to be blamed for the Israeli murderous campaign against the people of Palestine. Why didn't the Principle of the right to self defence apply to the Russian-Georgian Conflict? Why was the West quick to intervene in that conflict and the UN Security Council was sitting almost daily to find an urgent solution to end that conflict? May be, because the people that were dying are white and Christian and so the conflict must be stopped.
Today, nobody is making any serious effort to stop Israel from mass slaughter of Palestinians because they are Muslims and not European or White.
Where are the so-called western civil societies and the so-called human rights activists/campaigners?
This world would be a very dangerous and violent place if such blatant barbaric and genocidal behaviour is condoned by the world community. Palestinians have the same human value and lives as the Georgians that the entire West stood up to save.
In conclusion I wish and pray that the Almighty Allah would intervene and save humanity from the scourge of murderous racist powers that pride themselves by atrocious invasions of other countries in the name of democracy, pillaging, looting and destroying lives and plundering their properties with impunity. The ICC is eerily quiet about these evil and satanic powers led by war criminals and, for obvious reasons.
May Allah the ALMIGHTY DESTROY All these Evil forces and let decent and civilised humanity live in peace and love, free from such satanic beings.
I wish. you all a very happy and prosperous New Year 2009 and beyond. May the Almighty Allah guide, protect and bless us in our drive to build a better nation for us and, for our future generations, as well as a more peaceful, loving, prosperous world, without racism, hate and violence. A world where blatant double standards would be relegated to the history books.
Happy New Year
I thank you for your kind attention.