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President Jammeh opens 2013 legislative year today

Mar 28, 2013, 10:01 AM | Article By: Lamin B. Darboe

President Yahya Jammeh is expected to preside over the state opening of the National Assembly in the 2013 legislative year today, Thursday 28th March 2013.

The occasion, scheduled to take place at the National Assembly complex in Banjul, will provide the President the opportunity to outline his government’s development plans for the year and the achievements of his administration.

In connection with the occasion, information from the office of the Speaker has it that foreign delegates, including three Speakers from Turkey, Burkina Faso and Guinea Bissau , are expected to grace the occasion.

In retrospect, an in-depth analyses of the address he made during last year’s state opening of parliament shows that President Jammeh is on record for emphasising that no form of aid would make him to accept or tolerate homosexuality in the country.

Noting that The Gambia will never be colonized or enslaved twice, Jammeh said The Gambia under his stewardship will never bow down to international pressure to allow what he referred to as ungodly practices in the name of human rights.

Outlining his government’s plans and priorities for the year 2012, President Jammeh said The Gambia recorded a moderate and stable growth rate of 5 to 6% of GDP, for which agriculture remains the strongest driver, growing at an average rate of 7-9% per year.

However, he said, due to crop failure during the 2011 cropping seasons, the growth rate fell and tourism and residential construction were also hit hard by the global crisis.

The President noted that the strong rebound in tourism that began in late 2011 helped to moderate the decline in overall GDP growth.

“The Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) has helped The Gambia computerize government’s finance statement and implemented under the Public Financial Management reforms, has been successfully installed and rolled out to all ministries, departments and agencies,” he stated.

In an advanced stage, he went on, is the major tax reform for the implementation of the Value Added Tax (VAT) in January 2013, which, he said, is expected to broaden the tax base, whilst strengthening the tax process.

On Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, President Jammeh said under the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) program, Government has secured approval for a US$ 2.3M sector competitiveness and export diversification project, commencing in 2012.

“This project will establish a trade information system and provide support for quality enhancement in the groundnut and cashew sub-sectors and similar project proposals are currently being finalized with the EIF board in respect of the building of a cargo complex and the installation of a baggage scanner at Banjul International Airport,” he stated.

According to President Jammeh, the government is working towards formulating a consumer protection legislation targeted for completion and presentation to the National Assembly during the second quarter of 2012.

When formulated, he stated, the consumer protection legislation will seek to address the issue of misleading advertisement, deceptive trade and practices and harmful product from the markets.

On Tourism and Culture, President Jammeh said given the significance of tourism to the country’s GDP, government continues to strive to boost the tourism sector.

“The transformation of the Gambia Hotel School into a Tourism and Hospitality Institute is also well on course, following the passing of the Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Bill 2011 late last year by the National Assembly,” Jammeh said.

He noted that in collaboration with the World Heritage Center at UNESCO, his government will continue to conserve the country’s World Heritage sites in accordance with the international convention governing the world’s natural and cultural heritage.

On agriculture, the Gambian leader said the main trust of his Government in this all-important sector is the attainment of not only food self-sufficiency, but becoming a major player in the agricultural export market.

Noting that the agriculture sector is one that has the greatest potential to provide employment for hundreds of people across all walks of life in The Gambia, the Gambian leader said his government is bent on eradicating poverty in the country.

“In this endeavor to achieve the above stated objectives, my Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and in collaboration with the Taiwanese Agricultural Mission is putting under rice cultivation about 400, 000 hectares over a period of five years that has started since the 2009,” he said.

On Fisheries, the Gambian leader underscored his government’s determination to ensure that the country’s fisheries resources are utilized to generate employment opportunities for Gambians, provide income generating opportunities, food security and thereby contribute to poverty reduction.

“Through the intervention of the US$ 14 Million Gambia Artisanal Fisheries Development Project funded by the Gambia Government, African Development Bank (ADB) and Arab Bank for Economic Development, my government is providing a number of infrastructure facilities to operators within the fishery sector such as the fisheries port in Banjul (US$ 8.0 Million) and Bakoteh fish market US$ (5.67 Million) that are nearing in completion,” President Jammeh stated.

On health and social welfare, Jammeh said his government is committed to the attainment of the health policy goals and objectives, which accord with the PAGE and MDGs targets and, in this direction, there have been tremendous improvements on physical access to health care due to the rapid expansion of health services to the communities.

He said under the Global Fund Health System Strengthening Grant Round 8, funding has been secured for local accelerated training of health workers and technicians in critical areas like laboratory, pharmacy, radiology, physiotherapy and biomedical equipment technicians.

In child protection, he said the Department of Social Welfare continues to enhance the protective environment for children in difficult circumstances through the setting up of 29 community child protection communities in some regions of the country for grassroots participation to effectively monitor the welfare of the children and create awareness for the prevention of abuse and exploitation of the children in risky situations.

On basic and secondary education, the Gambian leader said the revised education policy 2004-2015 is premised on the inextricable link between education and human development variables that can contribute to accelerated growth and employment from 2012-2015.

He told the gathering that during the 2012 legislative year, the task of improving the quality of teaching and learning will focus on new initiatives that have been tested and found to be effective in improving children’s learning achievements, as evidenced by the annual national assessment tests and the bi-annual early grade reading assessments.

On higher education, research, science and technology, Jammeh said the ministry is formulating series of policies on higher education, technology and innovation, quality assurance framework and legislative framework for the establishment of institutions of higher learning in the country.