By Awa B. Bah
Deputies at the National Assembly have engaged the Minister of Youth and Sport on Monday June 25th 2018 at the Assembly building in Banjul.
The engagement was during the oral questions and answer session, for which due notices were given in the first sitting of the Assembly, in the 2018 Legislative year.
Members during Monday’s session, demanded that the Minister, Henry Gomez, to update them on the short term plans of his Ministry on youth unemployment.
In his response, Gomez dilated on the commitment of the new Government in the areas of youth development; that this is entailed in reviewing current sectors and structures and evaluate their operations to assist and know where to effect change. This Gomez said will be implemented by his Ministry. On employment issues, Gomez said this does not directly fall under his Ministry’s purview. On his Ministry’s plans to address issues of youth employment, Gomez said this can be achieved through the enhancement of skills and entrepreneurship accreditation programmes at the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSS); that they have plans to create Skill Centers in the country; but that this will take time as the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), is working with his Ministry in the implementation of these projects in the provinces. Gomez told Members that he is against the projects focusing on short terms programmes; that there is chance to create many skills centers as necessary, by his Ministry; that they are looking for quality and not quantity.
On the youth budget allocation, the Minister said they appreciated the allocation and increment of the youth budget; that with all these efforts, his Ministry still struggles.
On plans for youth exchange programmes, Gomez said they want to bring youth on national and international exchange programmes, as the former director of the NYC was doing it.
However, Deputies expressed dissatisfaction in the way the Minister treated their questions.
Members murmured and reacted that their demands be provided by the Minister as the questions raised were directly connected to his Ministry. Members also saw the blocking of their questions to the Minister by the Speaker. According to these are questions connected to the issues before the National Assembly.
The query started when the main question was asked by the Member for Sabach Sanjal, on the Minister’s plans of youth empowerment and employment, followed by supplementary question from other members. However the Speaker put it to Members that any question not referring to the main one, will not be considered from her and the Minister will not give details on it; that this is not in line with the guidelines for which questions will be given due considerations; that this will permit them to attach themselves on the issues before them and will save them time as they have lots of issues to act upon. The Speaker adviced NAMs to restrict and confined themselves to issues before them.
However Deputies insisted that the issues and demands they are calling from the Minister is directly under his Ministry’s purview and he should be in a better position to answer them; that the Minister has not given them details or updates as to what they are engaged in regarding youth issues. The Minister could also be seen struggling to respond to questions raised by members.
According to Gomez, his Ministry is the institution assigned to outline Youth and Sport matters; but that some of the issues are shared with sister Ministries such as Interior and Trade; that he should be given time to get back to them on their demands as he was not in a good position to give answers to all the questions raised by them. On the eleven million euro youth project, Gomez declined to comment and said he is not aware of any seven million euro project for youth.