Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has vowed to achieve his much-talked-about development plan, renewing pledges to restore the economy, improve agriculture, provide better access to health care and create jobs.
“This plan is our national blueprint that would ensure the New Gambia is put on a firm footing to deliver good governance and accountability, social cohesion and national reconciliation and above all to revitalize and transform the economy for the well-being of all Gambians,” he said.
Barrow came to power rescuing the country from decades of oppressive ruler by the ex-military strongman, Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh is accused of stealing from Gambians, ransacking the country’s treasury of billions and leaving the impoverished nation highly indebted.
Barrow has three years to achieve his development goal. Former President Jammeh had a similar plan called Vision 2020, a good junk of which was never realized.
But the new leader while addressing citizens during the celebrations of the country’s independence from colonial rule said his government will prioritize the energy sector, improve health and agricultural sub-sectors, youth empowerment, education and tourism.
He returned from Turkey last week where he signed a power deal with a company that would supply at least 40 megawatts of power to the country’s struggling state-owned energy company, NAWEC.
Barrow’s executive office and the Ministry of Finance are expected work in tandem to ensure a robust monitoring and delivery system. The development agenda is critical to Barrow’s legacy and would be receiving briefings on a quarterly basis on the status the plan.
Last year was a challenging period for Barrow’s government. They went through a turbulent transformation process. Jammeh had refused to cede power, shattering the opportunity for an official handing over of power.
“We inherited a structure and a system that was dysfunctional, with no coordinated policies, and in some instances no records for my government to immediately continue governance,” said Mr. Barrow.
“We have also recognized the impatience from fellow Gambians and in some cases frustrations in the speed with which they want to see things happen.”
Gambians wanted to see a swift change in the trend of the economy, job creation and the prices of goods and services. Many also wanted to see the speedy prosecution of Jammeh’s associates and those implicated in human rights abuses.
Gambian authorities have set two commissions to probe Jammeh’s government. At least one of the commissions, an inquiry looking into the financial dealings of the ex-leader and his associates have started its hearing and that on human rights abuses is set to start in earnest.
Despite the challenges, Mr. Barrow said his government has registered modest but profound improvements in tax reforms. The reforms have significantly benefited companies and individuals, improved macroeconomic performance, brought about an increase in import cover from one month to four months, improved fiscal discipline by cutting on expenses and reduced borrowing.
(Reporting and Writing by Assan Sallah; Editing and Additional Writing by Sam Phatey)