By Awa B. Bah
State House Press Secretary Amie Bojang Sisoho, has revealed that the Higher Education Ministry has engaged the president on the progress of work, regarding the transformation of The Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI), into a University, to focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM). Mrs. Bojang Sisoho made this and other statements to journalists during the State House press briefing on Wednesday June 13th 2018, in Banjul.
This is the first formal media briefing since the long break at the beginning of the year. According to the Press Secretary, the break was as a result of the reform and restructuring of their unit. Mrs. Amie Bojang Sisoho took the opportunity to introduce new staff members who join the Office of the President, and they are Nfally Fadera, the Senior State House Communications Officer, Zainab Fall and Samba Bah as State House News Editors, Sanna Camara as State House Media Officer and Junkung Jawneh, as the Audiovisual Technician.
Mrs. Bojang Sisoho informed journalists present that the president has had Sectorial meetings with various Ministries, to know their preparations and what is going on in their Ministries, in order to ensure that Government policies are aligned with the National Development Plan (NDA), of 2018-2022; that the office of the president and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, have set up a committee to monitor the plan; that the committee has been tasked to ensure the pledges made in Brussels are followed, and the programmes implemented; that there are specific areas of great importance to the president and these include Energy, Infrastructure, Health, Agriculture, Education, Youth Empowerment and Tourism.
On Health, the State House Press Secretary informed journalists that the president has been updated on proposals for restructuring of the sector; that the Ministry is working with partners to ensure that restructuring includes capacity building. In the area of Energy, Mrs. Bojang Sisoho said the president has been informed that ninety megawatts of Electricity is available and the challenges faced by the Nation’s Utility Company is transmission and distribution; that Government is working with their Chinese counterparts to modernized the transmission and distribution system.
On transport and works at the Banjul Port Expansion project, the State House Press Secretary informed that with a concessionary loan from the Chinese Government through Exim Bank, a feasibility study on the Port expansion will be carried out; that a joint Ministerial Council of the two countries are currently in China on a consultation regarding the forth coming China / Africa Cooperation, 2018 forum.
She dilated on the status of preparedness for the 2018- 2019 cropping season and said fertilizer and groundnut seed has been secured for farmers; that the Ministry of Agriculture is working on the modalities to ensure that farmers get access to fertilizer and seeds. Mrs. Bojang Sisoho disclosed that the old stock of fertilizer that was alleged to have been sold by the Ministry of Agriculture has been investigated and a report sent to the Ministry of Justice for legal advice. On Trade, the State House Press Secretary said the Ministry of Trade have met with their counterparts in Senegal to ease the tension on the border, for the smooth re-exportation of cashew; that consultations with Senegal will continue. The State House Press Secretary informed that the president held a meeting with importers of rice and other basic commodities and called on them to reflect the prices of their goods on the tax cut that Government has done for them to ease the burden on the people.
On Tourism, Mrs. Bojan Sisoho said flights to and from the country, has increased and the Gambia is a marketable tourist destination for European countries as well as new ones like Russia; that destination managers have to strategic countries to help increase the number of tourists coming to the Gambia.
On the Land dispute at Taneneh between Saidou Barrow and the community of villagers, she said the president was informed and the Ministry of Lands has a report from a visit to the village; that the Vice President intervened and set up a committee to look into the issue, when the dispute escalated; that a committee comprising Ministers and officials of the Supreme Islamic and Gambia Christian Councils, visited the community and had discussions with villagers.
The State House Press Secretary informed journalists of similar briefings given to the President on the dispute between Golden Lead Company and the community of Gunjur; another Fishmeal Company in Sanyang and Kartong; the Faraba Banta sand mining issue and other related matters; that the President is trying to correct the environment situation of the former regime and will continue to engage different sectors of the economy including potential foreign and national investors. This she said is geared towards improving the country’s diplomatic relation with international partners for more investment.
On the upcoming engagement of the president, she said the president will start his annual country wide tour; that he is also preparing to attend the ECOWAS meeting to be held in Mauritania.