Tribute to my beloved mother: Aji Fatoumata Joof
Aug 24, 2020, 4:54 PM
Mr President, congrats to you for the resounding victory of your party, during the past presidential elections, as upheld by the Supreme Court ruling, against the UDP petition.
The Gambians have no doubt, given you a mandate to implement your development agenda for the next 5 years. I am sure you’re really feeling the enormous weight, of hope and expectation, put on your shoulders by your Gambian compatriots.
You have no time, Mr President, but to get into gear to map out your next administration, if you’re to delivery as promised to the Gambian people.
There is no more excuse, to say that, I am part of a coalition government; hence, reason why I cannot do what I wish, is prudent.
The Gambian electorate did not elect a co-VP in a joint ticket, or a minister; nor did we elect, those “tag-along” political-entrepreneurs, who failed in their nomination bids for president, or even the so-called APRC splinter group, who supported your presidential bid. You owe them nothing, absolutely nothing! Just like you don’t owe me anything, or any Gambian, who supported you, or otherwise.
Mr President, I know, and I agree to some extent that, Infrastructure development, should be your priority, but please, do not over-kill this crusade of yours. It increasingly becomes, a hollow crusade, as you constantly, spew such statements, without proper context, at meetings.
Without doubt, you have political capital, that is being propelled by a highly energized tail-wind, of good will, from not only your political supporters, but all well-meaning Gambians, who want to put behind their - partisan politics, in support of peace, development and unity of purpose, in furthering the aspiration of “one Gambia”, as you, always preach.
My advice to you Mr President is as follows:
The 5-year Development Plan, must be realistic, measurable and achievable. Do not try to do everything; there will be spill over effects of these “High Fives”, or “High Sevens”, to rub onto the non-prioritised sectors. So, in effect, your high priority sectors, such as infrastructure, will create synergy with other sectors.
I would advise you sincerely, Mr President, to do the following:
Please do not use the current ministerial system, to run your new government. It is no longer fit-for-purpose, to support what I refer to as your “Accelerated Development Agenda - ADA”, like President Sall’s “FastTrack”/ Plan Emergent, development agenda.
The current Arche governance template was ok, certainly for the Jammeh administration, and perhaps, to some extent, for former President Jawara’s administration.
Mr President, you need to create some new strategic ministries, and also rationalize/combined ministries into well-functioning ministries, fit for purpose, to implement your Accelerated Development Agenda. These new ministries will enhance your delivery programme in key sectors.
For example, you need to inculcate the culture of effective and accountable planning, especially - urban and town planning of our cities and provincial growth centres, starting with the modernization of our capital city (Banjul), and the major urban conurbation of the Greater Banjul Area (GBA), where almost half of the country’s population lives.
3.1 Hence, you need to create the “Ministry of Urban Development, Housing, Lands, and Town Planning”.
The following technical Departments will complement the policy-driven new ministry:
To support the new ministry in the execution of its mandate for housing development, etc., you need to create a new “Department” of Urban Development, Housing, Lands, and Town Planning”. This department will be responsible for comprehensive planning of our cities, towns, and metropolitan areas – guided by a long tem comprehensive planning framework (i.e. master plan).
To ensure policy coherence and synergy amongst the departments and agencies under this new ministry - you need to bring the SSHFC “housing function” under this new ministry. Thus SSHFC will have two reporting lines: Ministry of Finance, for financial issues, pensions etc; and Ministry of Urban Development… responsible for housing. As a Government you need to achieve key SDG goals (SDGs 9 and 11), and their respective targets, sooner, rather than later, by 2030.
You must create as part of your legacy, a Social Contract “Lahido”, with the Gambian people – for the availability of affordable housing stock, to bridge the gap between the working classes: middle class, lower-middle, and the down, and usually forgotten, poor working class.
This new ministry should also be responsible for policy oversight and development of the major urban centres: Banjul (BCC), Kanifing (KMC) and Brikama (WCR), while the other administrative regions, are overseen by the other new ministry responsible for regional administration, local government...
The State Lands Act, including the TDA land management and allocation mandate, should be rationalized, and the latter, brought under the new Ministry for Urban Development, Housing, Lands, and Town planning. In effect, the Tourism ministry should focus on a single mandate, of promoting and developing our tourism product.
3.2 Having created the new “Urban Development” ministry, you need to create a new Ministry for Regional Administration, Local Government and Culture. Yes, bring the “Culture” portfolio under this ministry, to reinforce the single mandate of the Tourism ministry.
Mr President, you have done well, on improving some sections of the primary roads infrastructure network; yes, but, at the huge expense of one of the most important sectors of any economy, i.e., the wider transport sector, which contributes more than any individual sector, to the growth of the economy, through the fluidity of trade links (internal and external); as well as in facilitating the movement of people, and goods and services.
If I have to grade you on the Roads sector, I will give you an “A-“. But on the wider transport sector (urban/public transport, ports, airports, river transport, etc) – I will grade you, a definite “D”.
That said Mr President, if you need to achieve quick success in this important sector – which affects the lives and livelihoods of the average “Pateh and Kumba”, of our society - you need to de-coupled “roads” from “transport”, and set up the following two ministries:
3.2.1 Ministry of Transport and Transport Infrastructure (TTI)
This new transport ministry will be responsible for all transport infrastructure development, including the secondary and tertiary (urban feeder) roads, within the major Urban centres, and Provincial growth centres (Banjul, KM, Brikama, Farafenni, Soma, Bansang, Basse, etc.)
3.2.2 Ministry of Roads, Bridges and Works (RBW)
This ministry will be responsible for the construction and management of the primary road network e.g. Banjul-Serrekunda highway, north and south banks, trunk roads, including Transgambia; all bridges, and all civil and public works (e.g. coastal defence, major storm drainage outfalls, e.g. the pond polder, irrigation works, dams, etc).
The NRA, the Government’s national urban and provincial administrative Building stock, at Mile-7, Mansakonko, Jenoi, etc., the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), and Gamworks Agency, will all fall under this new ministry.
3.2.3 Information, Communication (ICT) Infrastructure
Mr President, it is not fit-for-purpose anymore, to continue, to couple “Information” with Communications Infrastructure, ICT technologies and telecommunications. We are in an era of the digital economy where almost everything (e.g. transport, trade, education, health, defence, agriculture, fisheries, commerce, etc, etc, - depends on a highly efficient and effective telecommunication and ICT infrastructure, and service delivery systems. The Gambia used to be ahead of its regional neighbours, in terms of technological evolution, e.g., GSM. We went Digital before Senegal did! But look at where they’re now, well ahead of Gambia; partly, because of the poor policy posture of the previous Jammeh government, and your government, in how Gamtel/Gamcel is/are currently being managed!
I would therefore sincerely recommend Mr President, that, you create a new ministry of Telecommunications and Digital Economy. And an “Information Agency”, call the latter, whatever you want (of course, with some degree of autonomy given to the agency) and place it under the presidency or vice presidency, to oversee the information: print, radio, and broadcasting sectors. You may also want to task this agency as government’s “spokesman”-outfit/interlocutor, with the public and private media.
Gamtel: Mr President, I would highly urge you to bring back Gamtel to its former glory days, by giving them the autonomy they require, including all parastatals. There is nothing like “Government” owning the telecommunication “Gateway”. This is a public good, and should be exclusively left to Gamtel to manage, as before. And subject them to stringent performance outputs, under a negotiated and agreed performance contract agreement between Government, and Parastatals.
Mr. President, it is perfectly normal in a public enterprise business environment for public managers to be paid more than their ministers, including the President. What is important is to hold them to account to deliver according to agreed performance criteria (i.e. financial and qualitative targets!); otherwise, appropriate sanctions are meted on management, if they fail to perform to expectation.
3.2.4 Ministry of Trade and Industry...
Mr President, the current commodity price increases are not tenable, and hence, requires urgent prescriptive measures by your government; granted, the major food items that we consumed are not produced, or manufactured locally in the Gambia. I get it. But something has be done in the meantime to stabilize commodity prices. And these are my recommendations:
NTC – National Trading Company (NTC)
Mr President, you’re old enough to remember NTC – National Trading Company, during the first republic under Sir Dawda’s administration. Well, the current situation, where there is daily hyper food inflation, and reckless regard by some unscrupulous businesses, I believe, its time has come to re-Establish the former National Trading Company (NTC), or create a similar entity, to help stabilize market prices of key bulk and retail food items. The so-called NTC, or the successor entity, should be set up as a private company, and capitalise under PPP framework. The company should be managed exclusively by the minority private partner. And government only having seats at the board of directors’ level, and perhaps, also, acting as Chair.
A strategic stock of key commodities such as fuel, rice, sugar, flour, etc., should be kept by “NTC”, as price stabilising levers; and sold to the public, and the business community, regularly, at cost-plus, a reasonable margin.
Price Control v. Price Regulation
While I will not support your government to tell businessmen how much to sell their commodities through a price control mechanism; I will hasten to recommend your government to introduce “price regulations”, as typically done in other sectors like telecommunications and ICT sector. The United States, and other western countries, have such policies, of “price ceilings and price floors”, as champions of the “free market”; Mr President, in fact, such a policy, if implemented, would help the economy, in particular, the CBG, to properly manage, and “target inflation”.
3.2.5 Ministry of Tourism
Mr President, as explained earlier, the Tourism sector, should be “re-purposed”, and rationalized as recommended by giving this important sector, a single remit; in order to allow it to be more efficient, accountable, and result-oriented.
3.2.6 Rationalized Ministries
Mr President, I am sure, if the great Experiment of having separate education ministries for “higher” and “basic” education has its compelling benefits, compared to its cost, and inherent policy incongruent.
Also is Fisheries and the Environment ministries! Somehow all these ministries have performed marginally, and deserved to be rationalized and combine into one ministry for Education, and one ministry for Fisheries and the Environment, Water and Natural Resources’ (responsible for climate change).
3.2.7 The “Band Master” – The Secretary General (SG)
Your Accelerated Development Agenda, will have to be championed by your office, through the office of the SG. Like other recommendations, the office of the SG has to be reformed, and provided with the requisite skill-sets, and capacity, to oversee the ADA (The Accelerated Development Agenda).
4.0 NDP v. ADA
Mr President, your National Development Plan (NDP) would need to be revisited quickly, and, an accelerated priority action plan (ADA), developed from the NDP, with updated project preparation costs, and Development costs. For the next 5 years, your government will concentrate on implementing the ADA.
5.0 How to pay for your Development Agenda.
Mr President, I have not heard you articulate well, how you’re going to pay for your development projects, particularly infrastructure. Remember, we already have a debt to GDP ratio that deserves prudent macroeconomic management, if we are to avoid, the economy over-heating, and resulting into a debt trap, and a weakening currency parity.
I would therefore Mr President, urge your government to be measured, balanced, and circumspect, to ensure that “you do not tax your way”, on the back of the ordinary Gambian tax payer, and private sector. Hence, to avoid such situation, you need to adopt a “mixed payment policy”, or “pay-as-you-go”, as far as public investment is concerned by introducing public private partnerships-PPPs (not outright privatisation), where it best serves the public interest.
Avoid taking on more public debt, or taxing the people or the private sector disproportionately, in order to pay for your development agenda (ADA).
6.0 Expertize and human capital
My final advice, Mr President, please look for the best and most competent of Gambians, male and female, irrespective of political persuasion, and appoint them to serve in your next government, be it Cabinet, or strategic positions in the civil, and public service. Please Mr. President don’t listen to those who will say otherwise. Am sure, they’ll try to put spanner in the works, to discourage you from reaching out to your political opponents, and other well-meaning Gambians of competence, to be part of your next government. Such an opposition from within, will not help you, to unite and move this country forward. Remember, you’re the President for all Gambians!
Good luck Mr President.
From a concerned citizen.