By: Kebba AF Touray

The Member for Wuli West, has said if Ministers go to the National Assembly and take a defensive approach on issues, then they will turn the chambers into a battle ground. Hon. Jatta made this statement during the adjournment debate of Friday 29th December 2017. He said every member in the National Assembly understands the fundamental problems which the country is confronted with; that the essence of Ministers’ presence during sittings of the National Assembly is precisely to hear the problems confronting the country through their representatives; but that the approaches of two of the Ministers who spoke on Thursday, left much to be desired; that their deliberations as Ministers should neither be defensive nor propagandist; but that hearing some of them speak, one tend to think that they are on a political platform and engage in propaganda.

Hon. Jatta said they know what they are talking about and they know the President; that they know who he is and how he is; that Ministers should not come to the assembly, to tell them about the President, but instead for them to look at the issues of the country and how best to solve them. ‘‘That is your essence of being here. The information we have is a tool that you can use in many ways to solve the problems that are being confronted with this country”, Hon. Jatta said. He further said that they are not telling anyone to provide answers to the questions, but that the NA in collaboration with the Ministers, should look at those problems and see how best they can be solved; that among them is poverty; that for 50 years, interventions have been made into poverty alleviation, but paradoxically it keeps on increasing.

“So there is a problem somewhere. Why can’t we sit down and question the different methods that have been used to alleviate poverty and they have not succeeded? What is the problem?’’ he remarked.

Hon. Jatta said when Members talk about poverty, they know what they are talking about and they can propose solutions; that the combination of the perspectives of Members and the Ministers, can help solve the problem of the country; that this is their essence of being together.

“I was not going to speak today if you have not come. That was my position. Because for me engagement with the National assembly takes precedence over all engagements. That is the position in PAC and PEC Committees, because we cannot deal with these problems without you and you cannot deal with the problems of the country without us. We must work together to solve these problems. That is the essence of it”, he pointed out.

He emphasized that interventions have been made into these problems for five decades, but we continue to have the same end results; that if the approach given in section 217 3(c) of the Constitution was applied since 1965, a balanced development of all parts of The Gambia, improvement in the quality of life of the rural communities and redressing economic imbalances between rural and urban communities, should have been realized by now; that there are two types of migrations in The Gambia namely Internal and external migrations and that the causes are similar.

“There is internal migration because all the opportunities are concentrated in the urban areas. So everybody comes to the urban areas to look for those opportunities. But we know that we can change that situation even overnight, because in the provinces people are producing almost everything. Why not create the facilities of transforming what is being produced there into something else, to create jobs and means of generating revenue, because if you create groundnut processing plants anywhere in the provinces, you are creating jobs there,” he stressed.

He said last year almost nothing was exported in terms of groundnut and it is the mainstay of the economy. He urged that efforts should be made to ensure groundnut is utilized in the country and not exported, adding the country will be left with nothing to hang on and unless they address the problem from that point, poverty will never be alleviated; that it is not by putting in grants into things to eradicate poverty.

“You must give the poor person the means to do away with his or her poverty. Give farmers the means to do away with their poverty”, he explained.

Hon. Jatta said this can be done if groundnut production is not made a liability, but a means of going forward and living better; that thus one must create the means for the farmers to be able to market and transform their produce into something else and not to market it raw.

“So when you say it is not who is criticizing who, they spoke as if you are criticizing them. We are not criticizing you. We know what you are criticizing is the same thing we are criticizing and having done this, we must think of how we must transform that criticism into a tool to transform negative into positive. That is the essence”, he said

He said what the Constitution says has never been given any serious consideration; that he believes the Agriculture Minister thinks the same way as he disclosed his ambitions to revitalize the mixed farming centers which were key to the little progress that was made then and it is fundamental, adding that the Minister cannot do without that. He said the country must now think about new seeds and go for early maturing crops, because the rainfall pattern has changed and will keep on changing; that this is what they are talking about. He further said section 215 4 (a) and (b) talks about giving adequate priority in those sectors of the economy that can promote national prosperity; that the number one priority sector is agriculture which he said is vast and called for farmers to be paid in cash instead of promissory notes.

Hon. Jatta said there are sectors of the economy which are not given the due considerations and among them, is mining taking place in kombo and the one that was taking place in Tumana. “Do we know anything about this and when the new government took over, did it make efforts to find out what was happening there? For four to five years and it was closed to the population, but nobody knows what was going on there?’’ he asked.

Hon. Jatta asserted that the country should know what was being produced there; that if anything was coming from there, it should appear in the country’s estimates. “These are the things that we must know and utilize to help us move forward. That there is something in this country. Mining or not, we can develop and we can move forward with agriculture. We can transform this country into heaven on earth. But it is just a question of what method and sacrifice”, he disclosed

He clarified that grants and loans do not help and emphasized that the Chinese owed nobody anything, but capitalist countries owe them trillions.

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