Nov 20, 2009, 12:06 PM
As we continue to bring the new year message from all political leaders in the Gambia, the latest to address the nation includes Hamat Bah of the NRP, Halifa Sallah of NADD and Mr Lamin Waa Juwara of the National Democratic Action Movement(NDAM).What follows is their various statements.
As was said last year, we need to be committed as a nation and as a people and work towards the common good of our country. Most specifically, I want to say that each and every Gambian should work towards eradicating poverty and improve on our livelihoods. We cannot do this unless we avoid sitting the whole day doing nothing other than talking and gossiping. We as Gambians must work very hard for the good of our country. But in as much as we work hard, we need to be supported particularly when it comes to the agriculture sector.
We must maximise the usage of the River Gambia. We are losing millions of litres of fresh water from the River Gambia simply because we are not making best use of it. Our country has a size of about 11, 000 sq kilometres. We could easily irrigate this and harvest every three months if we are determined to do it. If we invest to the River Gambia by way of irrigation, we could harvest every three months and eventually eradicate poverty in this country.
The PPP regime started something with the Jahally Pacharr Project but that failed. The APRC have not made any significant investment in that direction. I believe it is time for the Gambian people to understand fully that we have all the resources to enrich every one of us and eradicate poverty from this country.
Government alone cannot do this, the private sector has an important role to play in this regard; they have to be involved. But because of the high lending rates in the banks, it would be difficult for people to take loans from the banks. Government cannot also afford all that money on it's own.
Secondly, we have too many single mothers and unemployed youths in this country, who are struggling to maintain families. Yes we agree that we cannot all go into agriculture, but it is important that we open other avenues by getting funds for those young people to make it possible for them to get involved in the import and export trade rather than leaving it in the hands of foreigners. If we are able to do that, it would make a big difference as it would allow a national participation in all aspects of development.
We all agree that we have so many banks in this country, but it has become clear that Gambians are fearful of them in terms of loans. Most of them do not have trust in the banking industry simply because some bank projects have failed. The rates are too high and the revenues generated cannot repay loans. At the end, what comes next is failure.
If the banks are to fully participate in the development process, interest rates should be considerably reduced. That will make it possible for small-scale businesses to develop. Unless this is done, it will be difficult for small-scale businesses to develop.
This I believe is the way forward to eradicating poverty in this country and I believe, as citizens, this should be our resolution for 2010.
Each human being has signed an unwritten contract with destiny. We must either honour the contract and be the architects of our own destiny or honour it with gross disregard and be the victims of blind destiny. This is the dictate of historical science and common sense and it is incontrovertible.
The Gambia is at a crossroads. On one hand, 2009 is receding into the background with uncertainty looming in the horizon. On the other hand, new initiatives are unfolding which herald a great promise that a new Republic is in the making. In short, uncertainty has gripped those who cannot see the future arising and developing from the disintegration of the architecture of the present. Hope, however, is alive in the hearts and minds of those who are convinced that people are thinkers, inventors and builders of civilisation and have the capacity to transform difficulties into challenges and gloom into bright prospects.
2009 ended with The Gambia still vegetating as a highly indebted poor country that had been offered debt relief under the multilateral debt relief initiative. This debt relief was designed to reduce the annual budget on debt servicing and facilitate the utilisation of the resources to alleviate poverty. It is, however, clear from all government statistics that while it was claimed that the number of people living in abject poverty has dropped from 69 percent to 58 percent, it is equally acknowledged that there is growth in the severity of poverty, increased malnutrition, high food contamination and a growing lack of balanced diet for the vast majority of the population. Sugar is now D6.00 per cup. Five loaves of bread which cannot fill the stomach of a small child, a cup of sugar and a tin of the cheapest milk would cost 31 dalasis daily and is equivalent to the salary of a driver or messenger in the public service. If such people cannot afford a balanced diet what about the farmer who earns less than D8000 annually? Food insecurity is the order of the day because a balanced diet is unaffordable.(To be continued).
"I wish to felicitate all Gambians for going through 2009 and it is my candid opinion that some positive results have been recorded. I wish we concert all our efforts to engage each other constructively in our endeavour to build our nation. I congratulate Gambians for the achievement and also congratulate the government, and in particular the leadership that created the enabling environment for the positive achievements recorded during the past year."
"I have no doubt in my mind that with the will and commitment, we will achieve much more during 2010. I call on all the political players, be they in the government or in the opposition to fight against poverty and under-development.
By looking at The Gambia, I have seen the resolve of the women in this country who are prepared in all sectors of Gambian society. I also congratulate Her Excellency the Vice- President for her exemplary leadership as Minister for Women?s Affairs. Their stand has made The Gambia proud."
"I also congratulate all media houses from print to electronic, public or independent, for the crucial role they continue to play in national development. Their role in the dissemination of information has contributed immensely to the peace and tranquillity in the country."
"I also salute the youths who are the future leaders of this country. It is my conviction that if they continue being correctly focused, tremendous activities would be recorded within a very short time."
"The last and not the least, the pride and patriotism being inculcated in the Gambian people by the President of the Republic had not gone unnoticed. I thank every Gambian both those at home and abroad and wish them a prosperous New Year. May God answer our prayers."