The President of the Republic of The Gambia, Adama Barrow, has revealed before lawmakers in Banjul that the only setback for his government in 2019 is the postponement of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
Barrow made this disclosure during his annual state of the nation’s address, where he also chronicled some of the successes and failures of his administration regarding national matters.
“Let me observe in person that the postponement of the OIC Summit is the only setback of the year 2019. However, rescheduling the meeting to 2021 will put us in a stronger position to boost our preparations and related to this is the construction of the International Conference Center with 75 percent of the work done and slated for completion in September 2019,” President Barrow revealed at the Assembly.
According to him, the International Conference Center will create over 1,000 new jobs when completed, thus boosting the tourism and infrastructure of the country to an unprecedented level.
Elaborating on the progress of the finance and economic sector, President Barrow highlighted that the economy is the backbone of the country. It takes care of the developmental needs of the country, revealing that the country’s economic growth has generally been on the rise, while inflation has now been moderated.
“For the past two years, the economy has grown by 4.8 percent in 2017 and improved from 6.5 percent in 2018. The balance of payments estimates indicates that the current accounts deficits narrowed to 1.5 percent GDP for the first half of 2019 compared to a deficit of 1.7 percent in the corresponding quarter of 2018,” Barrow disclosed.
President Barrow said the improvements in the current balance is attributed to the increase in foreign inflows, adding that growth in international reserves is projected to be four months of next year’s imports of goods and services.
Barrow went on to state that the banking sector remains adequately capitalized, highly liquid and profitable and the ratio of non-performing loans to gross loans declined to 2.3 percent from 2.7 percent a year ago due largely to effective loan recovery measures, adding that the private sector credit expanded by 28.8 percent.
“The private sector is expected to play a significant role in the financing of the National Development Plan 2018-2021. We have drafted Private Public Partnership laws that are expected to be tabled at the National Assembly for consideration,” Barrow revealed.
On education, The Gambian leader disclosed that it will remain a priority to maintain quality education, stating that this priority has been demonstrated by the heavy investment both in the basic and tertiary education sub-sectors.
Barrow stated that the Higher Education Research Science and Technology sector continues to implement various programs with the goal of improving the human capital of The Gambia that has been guided by the 65 percent science and technology policy, adding that the award of scholarships has been increased with more students reading the sciences and producing more than 200 students graduating in these fields.
“For the first time, the University of The Gambia (UTG) has introduced a PhD degree program in public administration in addition to a number of masters and bachelor’s degree programs in dentistry,” Barrow reiterated.
According to him, The Gambia government will soon access $12million for infrastructural development and capacity building, adding that another $3million additional funding has been secured from UNISCO meant to transform the Gambia Technical Training Institute into a university. He observed that the UTG continues to enjoy massive support from the University of Bristol and the Medical Research Council.
He said enrollments continue to increase in both basic and secondary schools levels ranging from 22 percent in 2017 to 62 percent in 2018 from early childhood development level, from 106 percent to 112 percent for the lower level basic education, from 67.4 percent to 68.1 percent for the upper basic education level and from 45.9 percent to 47.8 percent for the senior secondary education level, adding that completion rates have increased across all levels of the basic and secondary levels.
According to him, 48 more schools have been constructed through the support of the World Bank, adding that 228 new classrooms have also been constructed in 42 schools through support from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), adding that three more senior secondary schools are currently under construction in the West Coast Region of the country. He said his government has also secured funding for the building of 39 more upper Basic Schools in the country.
On Interior, President Barrow said the security institutions under the ministry of interior are making steady progress in their endeavors to protect lives and properties of the nation, revealing that this is why the ministry is embarking on the building of capacities of its personnel.
President Barrow disclosed that in December 2018, 541 personnel were trained on protection, crowd control and management, adding that the European Union has also been supporting the security sector reform to the tune of five million Euros as well as providing trainings to forty officers.
“The construction of over $13million fire and rescue station at Baja Kunda is near completion for this year. The remand cell block at Jeswang Prison has also been constructed and proposal for moving the female wing at Mile Two Prison to Jeswang has been endorsed. The building of a new prison facility, a headquarters construction in Banjul and a training academy in Mandinary is also underway,” President Barrow disclosed.
On the Diplomatic front, President Barrow stated that there has been lots of diplomatic engagements during the year under review that enabled a good number of Ambassadors showing their letters of credentials, adding that bilateral ties were either established or renewed with countries both near and far.
Barrow said these new diplomatic relationships indicate substantial support for The Gambia while acknowledging that notable among these relationships is the Republic of China whose support has been remarkable in qualitative terms cutting across various sectors and areas of development. He said the European Union has also proven to be a very remarkable in their support for The Gambia.
Dilating on the successes of the health sector registered by his government, President Barrow disclosed that health is a key priority area that cannot be left unattended, adding that access to health services has improved significantly from public hospitals to health centers as well as primary health care services.
He revealed plans by the government to build a new specialized hospital in the country, adding that the government’s target is to attain universal health access by 2030 in accordance with the sustainable development goals. He said a framework for health financing is at the development stage.
“It is pleasing to state that The Gambia has improved on its indicators for infants and the under-5years mobility and mortality rates and has one of the best immunization coverage within the sub-region. We maintain over 90 percent of the health coverage on children against all preventable diseases and this is why Gambia is cleared to embark on a second round of immunization,” President Barrow revealed.
President Barrow explained that the Department of Strategic Policies and Delivery (DSPD) is created to embark on the reforms and transformational processes of the government, adding that this department is tasked with coordinating the reform processes as well as ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in the public services.