By: Kebba AF Touray
The National Assembly Member for SerreKunda, Halifa Sallah, recalled what he said during his analysis of the president. According to him he made it clear that the President’s address constitutes the first building block into the future; that it has come at a time when the government has fully taken over and is firmly handling the steering wheel, as such whatever the President said during the address reflects the true state of affairs of the country wherein whatever limitations indicated should be considered and whatever achievement indicated should be registered.
His intervention continues below:
He emphasized to the august body that the change was not for its sake, that there was thought process to establish an Agency For Sustainable Socio-Economic Development that will create an expert bank from which clusters of experts would be created to look into every sector of development of this country. They would be charged with the responsibility of examining the strategic plans and the policies of the old government and identify their shortcomings and come up with a blueprint that will be implemented when the new government takes over.
He said he then went on analyze what the president said and in terms of youth employment, he quoted over 484,000 young people would come out of our school system every twelve years and that this should be our concern.
The Member for Jeshwang indicated that he was not speaking in context when he said that the information given by the President is that 11 Million Euro is being utilized to train 1000 young people, 14 Million dalasis would also be spent to train another 1000 young people and another 3.9 million dollars would be spent to give employment to 2500 youngsters.
“I am saying this information is scanty and does not tell us anything regarding addressing the employment rate among the young population.
Where is the misstatement?
Halifa Sallah indicated that 11 Million Euro would amount to over 500 Million Dalasis. If this is divided among 1000 youths each youth would be entitled to over 500,000 dalasis. Would you spend over 500,000 on a particular individual? That is what it amounts to.
“The information we have does not address the problems of our young people.
“Therefore we need information of how we are to solve the problems of our young people.
“Yes, we all know that services contribute over 60 percent of GDP, Agriculture contributes 22 percent of GDP and Industry about 13 percent. That is information already given to us. We know the biasness of the current economy, but it is not leading us anywhere. So we are not talking about backbone based on what currently contributes the largest part of our GDP. We are saying backbone depending on what will enable us to eradicate the poverty of our people. It is said that 70 percent of our people depend on agriculture, and then that obviously is what we have to address to be able to eradicate poverty.
“That is what he said. I emphasized that if you look at FASDEP, NEMA GCAV, over 5 billion dalasis is being spent on some of these projects. Some are still ongoing. Some are almost coming to the end. We need to interrogate where all that money went. Why is it that we are eliminating food insufficiency and insecurity. In 2015 only 57000 out of 200,000 tons were produced despite the agenda of the past government. What is the agenda of the current government? What do we intend to produce annually? Where are the estimates? Where is the study?”
Sallah emphasised that even though we now have a National Development Plan if the government does not established a National Development Agency the plan will suffer setbacks. He called on the Government to develop a National Development Agency to oversee the implementation of the National Development Plan by establishing priorities in resource allocations to sectors and identifying challenges at each stage of the implementation process.
He said the agency would be able to assess and evaluate annually whether we are making progress.
“Working helter and shelter, would lead us no- where but to spend Millions without any meaningful results.
“That is why we have a debt burden of 56 billion. Every Gambian is shouldering a debt burden of D26,000, even a newly born baby. That is our debt situation.
“So we need to assess the way forward and my emphasis was if the government is a transitional government of 3 years, then we can understand that it is not its duty to eradicate poverty, but will struggle to minimize the problems of the land with the understanding of the people.
“If the government is to stay for 5 years, then it’s a normal government and the anticipation is that it should address the problems and challenges of our people. That’s my emphasis and the Member for Busumbala was saying that the people must not be misled. ‘How can it be 3 years when the Constitution says five years?’ he asked.
“Who is he educating? I was in charge of the impasse telling people why the past President should leave here on the 18th of January, based on the 5 year mandate of the Constitution, where election takes place within three months before the end of the term of the incumbent. Who are they educating about the Constitution? Go to section 65, a President can resign, a President can be impeached, there are many ways of leaving office.”
Sallah said it is for the President to decide whether to abide by a gentleman’s agreement or what is in the national laws. “That is left to those people who sat down and discussed and it’s left to people to honour what they want to honour or throw away what they want to throw away. There is no problem with that. I was just simply emphasizing that if the President wants sympathy, then a transitional mandate would be held; if he wants a full presidential mandate, then he should be ready to face the full fire of scrutiny so that what the nation expects would be delivered.
“Honourable Speaker, we looked at the situation of Agriculture, exports, the whole economy. The member for Saloum is talking about development,” Sallah argued that the member mentioned that progress is being made with the lowering of interest rates and the reduction of the domestic debts which has lowered the yield of the Treasury Bills. Sallah said that if one wants to know whether development is taking place one must look at the productive base of the economy.
“The Minister told us that loans from the banking sector decreased in 2017 so where is the investment going? Liquidity is increasing where are they investing? If Banks are liquid then investment into the productive base is not expanding.
“Investment brings about productivity and development and in 2016 the exports of the country was D744 million plus, re-export 3 billion plus and import 15 billion. If you compare export and re-export on the one hand with import on the other we had a trade deficit of 11 billion.
“Now 2017 export amounted to 630 million, re-export 403million and the deficit 24 billion, so what is happening with the re-export trade?
These are the statistics we should be studying to see whether we are moving forward
“Honourable Speaker, we have not come to this National Assembly for an ordinary purpose. We came here to contribute to address the needs and aspirations of our people, but if the people want to transform facts into fiction, it’s like looking at the sky and looking at the sun and say it is the moon.
“What is being said here are facts not distortions; facts based on our desire to address the needs and aspirations of our people.
“Look at the issue of energy, the president told us of a two year power supply agreement, is that sustainable development? I say yes we have an energy policy, but I have not seen sustainable development. The president also told us about SENELEC. This is power coming from the outside, where is the sustainability?”
Sallah indicated that what he would want to hear from the President is the view that these agreements are temporary measures and explain when and how the country would reduce its dependency on heavy fuel by implementing its proposal to produce 40 percent of its electricity supply through the use of renewable energy.
Sallah restrained himself by saying that he would not say what he wanted to sat but added that, “clearly the government should listen to the people, it should listen to them if it wants the country to progress.
“Honourable Speaker I now move on to the issue of pension, salaries, women empowerment in small scale production, that is why this development agency is important to look into all these issues. If you look at the amount of money coming in and how it is spent, you could have had different forms of scheme that would enable people to really eradicate their poverty. Look at agriculture; let us transform the mixed farming centres into not only model centres but institutions for expanding mechanized agriculture where the tractors frozen could have been placed for the use of farmers. Whatever is gained could be used to replenish them.
At this point The Speaker told him that his time was up.