President Barrow’s 2021 SONA speech in full

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Your Excellency, the Vice President,
Madam Speaker,
My Lord, the Chief Justice,
Honourable Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service,
Honourable Cabinet Members,
Honourable Members of the National Assembly,
Lord Mayor of Banjul,
Venerable Religious Leaders,
Service Chiefs,
Senior Government Officials,
Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps,
Members of the Media,
Fellow Gambians, Ladies and Gentlemen,
INTRODUCTORY REMARKS

1. I am most thankful to the Almighty God for the unique privilege and honour of addressing the Legislative arm of The Republic of The Gambia on the performance of my Administration.

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2. While it is a constitutional requirement for me, as Head of State, to perform this function officially, I do so, once again, with commitment and conviction to the universal ideals of democracy, good governance, and the rule of Law, as contained in the Constitution of the country.

3. Today, my address focuses mainly on the critical issues and concerns requiring sustained attention for the development of our dear motherland. However, the significant impact of the pandemic on the Government’s performance will also feature in my deliberation.
4. On other matters of national interest, the themes are informed by the current national discourse, influenced principally by the people’s concerns and development aspirations. The address highlights the need to harness the insightful lessons learned so far for consolidation and planning.

5. The key issues embrace policy, programme and project interventions, legislative matters affecting this august Body, and the needs and expectations of the people. More specifically, they border on the critical priorities of our national agenda, the significant accomplishments realised during the 2020-2021 Legislative Year, and the bottlenecks constraining the attainment of the development goals and objectives specified in our National Development Plan 2018-2021.

6. The address covers all sectors, comprising the satellite institutions of the various Government Ministries in The Gambia. A brief submission on each sector now follows, beginning with the Finance and Economic Affairs sector.
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FINANCE AND ECONOMIC AFFAIRS

Madam Speaker,

1. Economic growth in The Gambia has been impressive since 2017, with real GDP averaging 6% up to 2019. In 2020, growth was projected at 6.5%, but the pandemic outbreak compelled a revised GDP estimate of minus 1.5%.

2. Despite the economic challenges, domestic resource mobilisation in 2020 amounted to an incredible performance of 13.4 Billion Dalasis. Of this, 11.8 Billion Dalasis was tax revenue and D1.8 Billion Dalasis non-tax revenue.

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3. Although the pandemic has shown that the economy is vulnerable to shocks, the Government remains committed to initiating sound economic policy management.
Along these lines, Cabinet approved the Medium Term Economic Fiscal Framework, 2021-2025 for fiscal policy interventions.

4. In another development, my Administration, through support from UNDP, commissioned an evaluation of Vision 2020 to make recommendations for a long-term Development Plan. The assessment will guide future development strategies.

Madam Speaker,

5. We have engaged most of our external creditors for debt deferral for at least five years. Most of them have granted us principal repayment deferral, which is estimated to yield 4.8 Billion Dalasis from 2020 to 2024. The savings made will be invested in the economy to create growth.

 

6. The Government also engaged the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and secured relief from ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development, Saudi Fund for Development, Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development, and the People’s Republic of China. The DSSI provided relief of 287.24 Million Dalasis in debt service payments for the 2020 fiscal year.

7. Turning to Debt Management Policy, the Medium-Term Debt Strategy, 2020-2024, has been designed for an appropriate medium-term financing path anchored on cost and risk management.

8. Generally, revenue collection fell due to the COVID-19 outbreak; however, grants increased significantly. These came mainly in the form of budget support from Development Partners, especially the European Union, to ease the economic burden of the pandemic on the Government.

9. You will recall that the National Assembly approved a Supplementary Appropriation Bill (SAP) of 2.85 Billion Dalasis. The Ministry spent most of the funds to contain the coronavirus. This included stimulus packages for vulnerable Gambians, procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs), allowances to health frontline workers, and support to deserving Public Enterprises and sectors.

10. The Government provided relief support of food items amounting to 850 Million Dalasis to the most vulnerable. An additional 224 Million Dalasis was approved thereafter as part of the SAP. Stimulus packages for students abroad, businesses, and the tourism sector were factored in the SAP and paid out accordingly.

11. Madam Speaker, Cabinet has approved a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Bill that is being reviewed before presentation to the National Assembly for enactment. It is tied to the PPP Policy and guidelines for procurement processes in accordance with International Standards.

12. Finally, Government will table a Capital Market Bill for the consideration of the legislature. The purpose is to establish a stock exchange market and a Regulatory Authority within the Central Bank.
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BASIC AND SECONDARY EDUCATION

Madam Speaker,

1. The country continues to make impressive gains on enrolment at all levels of the education sector. Gross Enrolment Rates have improved by 5.2 percentage points at the Lower Basic level, 2.4 percent at the Upper Basic level, and 1.6 percent at the Senior Secondary level.

2. Enrolment for Early Childhood Development is above the National Development Plan (NDP) target of 50.2% and 52.9% by four (4) percent for male and female enrolment respectively.

3. Through the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, my government is partnering positively with the World Bank, MRC Holland and other philanthropists to improve access to quality education.

4. Through such partnerships, 2173 new classrooms have been completed within these four years, and the plan is to complete 134 more by end-December 2021.

5. From 2017 to date, the sector renovated 1389 additional classrooms, and built 2505 toilets across the country. One hundred more toilets will be completed by December 2021.

6. Since teacher motivation and welfare contribute to better performance, 836 rooms for teacher accommodation have been built countrywide. Hopefully, the number will increase to 1000, noting that 200 are due for completion by end-December 2021.

7. It is encouraging to state that the sector registered substantial improvements on the pass rate for the 2020 Gambia Basic Education Certificate Examination and the West African Senior School Certificate Examination. We commend the sector for this, and encourage the teachers to strive harder.
8. To motivate its personnel and reward performance, during the year, the sector created new positions in various cadres and effected mass promotions based on merit.

9. Concerning the Zero Out-of-School Children endeavour, the Ministry is working with Education Above All Foundation in Qatar and the Office of the First Lady to combat the out-of-school phenomenon. Similarly, we continue to put more focus on Special Needs and Inclusive Education to attain quality education for all.
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HIGHER EDUCATION, RESEARCH, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Madam Speaker,

1. The Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology is pursuing its transformation agenda with vigour.

2. In this regard, the transformation of The Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI) into a University of Applied Science and Technology (USET), the up-grading of the Management Development Institute (MDI) into a degree-awarding institute, and the integration of Gambia College into The University of The Gambia (UTG) are in progress. In fact, the administrative process has started for the construction works of the new USET structures.

 

3. Overall, access to higher education for Gambians is increasing rapidly. Currently, there are 1,414 students on scholarship at The University of The Gambia (UTG). We support 600 more students in various tertiary education institutions, and 734 Gambian students are on scholarship abroad.

Madam Speaker,

4. The UTG graduated its first batch of doctoral students in Public Administration through the Nigerian Technical Assistance programme. It has enrolled two more cohorts of postgraduate students, one of which is a doctoral degree programme in Law.

5. I am delighted to report the expected completion of the first two lots of the UTG Faraba Banta Campus project this year, 2021. However, the sector is working to mobilise the 22 Million US Dollar funding gap for the remaining construction works.

6. We hope that the Ndemban Skills Centre in Foni, West Coast Region, will begin operations next academic year to train our youths, and equip them with relevant livelihood skills.
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INTERIOR
Madam Speaker,

1. Apart from their regular law enforcement core mandate, The Gambia Police Force (GPF) is engaged in infrastructure development, professional advancement and training.

2. To increase Police management and operational capabilities, the formulation of institutional policies begun in the last quarter of 2020 is progressing steadily.

3. Fittingly also, a Code of Conduct for the Police has been developed and adopted for the Anti-Crime Unit. Furthermore, an Arrest and Detention Procedure Manual is in use, after its successful development in collaboration with the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance.

 

Madam Speaker,

4. The Immigration Department monitors and regulates entry and exit at our border points, besides issuing relevant identity documents to citizens and residents. Despite the pandemic, it is commendable that the Department collected 91,980,370 Dalasis from 1st January to 31st December 2020.

5. On drug control, the National Drug Control Strategy (2019-2023) continues to foster vigilance and action against drug abuse and trafficking. The recent seizures of huge quantities of cocaine and other drugs attest to this.

6. Accordingly, we will continue supporting and empowering the Agency to perform better, and prevent the country from becoming a hub for drug trafficking.
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LANDS, REGIONAL GOVERNMENTS AND RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS

Madam Speaker,

1. In 2020, the Department of Community Development strategically focused on emergency response and recovery. This included capacity building and strengthening their decentralised structures to better address conflicts on land and natural resources, as well as operationalise rent recovery mechanisms. The initiatives employed include harnessing positive social norms and the environment.

2. In particular, the sector worked in partnership with the National Nutrition Agency and the Department of Social Welfare to implement the Social Safety Net Project.

3. These aside, the 2018-2021 Local Climate Adaptive Living Project, funded by the UNDP, is in progress to reduce poverty through green and resilient climate smart-related interventions.

4. A key focus of this project is creating sustainable and equal employment opportunities, with attention on the youths and women. The main objective is to enhance their capacity in food processing, handicraft skills, and business enterprise development. Tactically, the project targets the North Bank, Lower River and Central River Regions.

5. I have noted, with appreciation, that the Department of Community Development is working amicably with the Department of Water Resources and the National Assembly to implement the Climate Smart Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Development Project.

6. Honourable Members, Land Rent Collection from hoteliers and other industries dropped due to the COVID -19 lockdown and travel restrictions. Regretfully, therefore, the 2020 revenue performance for this sector stood at 32,913,776 Dalasis. A similar trend is unfolding this year.

7. The impact of the COVID was so severe on the regional Councils that Central Government had to intervene by providing a salary package for them.

8. To enhance decentralisation, the Ministry of Lands, Regional Governments and Religious Affairs is building capacity for Ward Development Committees on planning and budgeting, and equipping them with financial management skills and auditing techniques to ease accountability and transparency. This links neatly with the decision of rolling out the IFMIS to Area Councils in order to increase efficiency and effectiveness in fiscal discipline and transparency.

9. The Lands and Survey Directorate updated 416 lease files in 2019 and 424 in 2020. We expect a similar trend by the end of 2021.

10. On Physical Planning and Housing, the Kotu Action Area Plan physical survey is 90% complete. The processing of Real Estate Agency applications now takes place at the Physical Planning Headquarters. Similarly, land allocation has reduced drastically, with fewer than five thousand allocations recorded.

11. On legislation, the sector is finalising the NGO Bill for enactment later this year.
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FISHERIES, WATER RESOURCES AND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY MATTERS

Madam Speaker,
1. My Administration remains committed to providing access to safe drinking water and releasing timely and accurate weather and climate information.

2. To achieve this, through the support of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), the Department of Water Resources will construct and install 144 solar-powered piped-water supply systems to provide safe and quality drinking water for additional 400,000 rural residents.

3. With help from the Japanese Government, 20 other solar-powered piped-water supply systems will be constructed and installed in 2021 to serve 80,000 persons in rural communities.

4. On legislative matters, Government will introduce two Bills to this august Assembly for a comprehensive Water Act and to establish a new National Water Resources Management Authority.

5. The National Water Resources Council Act (22 of 1979) is still the main legal instrument for water resource management in The Gambia. Because it is outdated, Government is reviewing it and will submit, for consideration, a Bill to establish a Meteorological Authority.

Madam Speaker,

6. The fisheries sector is crucial in diversifying the economy; thus, it is reviewing its policy and regulatory frameworks to effect suitable reforms.

 

7. In the meantime, rehabilitation of the fishponds in the Jahaly lay-out in Sapu has a production capacity of 10,000 tonnes of quality fish to mitigate the fish supply deficit in the country. The fishponds will enhance food and nutritional security in rural communities.
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TRADE, INDUSTRY, REGIONAL INTEGRATION AND EMPLOYMENT

Madam Speaker,

1. Despite the constraints posed by the pandemic, the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment (MOTIE) registered significant progress on its priority programmes. Key among them is the development of a new Medium-Term Plan, 2021 to 2025.

2. The Ministry also reviewed and updated the 2007 Labour Act to align it with ILO standards and international best practices. It will submit the Bill to the National Assembly for consideration.

3. To strengthen labour administration, the sector equally revised and updated the Injuries Compensation and Factories Act, and will submit it to this Assembly.

Madam Speaker,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

4. To implement the revised Labour Act, MOTIE has established an Employment Service Centre at the Department of Labour. This is to facilitate linkages between job seekers and employers. The new five-year sector Strategic Plan will help to make the Centre effective.

5. To promote exports and investment, the Ministry, through GIEPA, successfully developed a new National Export Strategy, 2021-2025. The strategy outlines key priority areas, such as agribusiness, fashion, tourism, and fisheries for The Gambia to realise its export development aspirations.

 

6. In addition, the sector, through GIEPA, issued 18 Special Investment Certificates (SICs) in 2020. These had a combined investment portfolio of 93,615,493 US Dollars and a combined employment capacity of 824 staff members, of which 279 are women.

7. Under the SheTrades Project reported last year, twelve (12) SheTrades companies benefitted from mini-grants, receiving combined support of 2.7 Million Dalasis.

8. In order to strengthen trade cooperation and promotion, the sector produced, during the year under review, an AfCFTA National Implementation Strategy to implement the AfCFTA protocol in the country.

9. They also formulated a National Regional Integration Policy and Strategy, 2020-2025. The two documents focus primarily on production and business expansion for Gambian enterprises.
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INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY

Madam Speaker,

The COVID 19 pandemic has reinforced the need for increased ICT-driven solutions, so much so that the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MoICI) has prioritised the rollout of a National Technology Hub this year.

2. To strengthen cybersecurity and protect The Gambia’s cyberspace, MOICI took the initiative to formulate the Cyber Crime and Data Protection and Privacy Bills.

3. The Ministry will table both before this august Assembly, once they are finalised. Their enactment will equip The Gambia with the requisite laws to fight cybercrime-related offenses.

Madam Speaker,

4. In order to maintain a conducive environment for the media, the Government accelerated regulatory and policy reforms over the past year. I am glad that the Access to Information Bill, 2019 has now been enacted into law. We also look forward to the enactment of the ICT Act Amendment Bill 2020 by this august Assembly.

5. In addition, in 2019, the Government tabled the Criminal Code Amendment Bill before this august Body. The objective is to repeal all the draconian Media Laws that my government inherited.

6. Madam Speaker, it is delightful to announce that the combined efforts to enhance the work of the Media and respect media freedoms have earned The Gambia a continuous favourable rating during these four years.

The 2021 Global Press Freedom Ranking of The Gambia, for example, has improved from ninth position in West Africa to tenth in sub-Saharan Africa.

7. With the new reforms and the increase in the number of Media Houses in the country, which now stand at 40 radio stations, six television stations and numerous online outlets, it is evident that The Gambia is in the right direction concerning media freedoms.
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PETROLEUM AND ENERGY

Madam Speaker,

1. The drilling component of FAR-PETRONAS is now scheduled for 2021. On the other hand, B.P. announced a significant policy shift of reducing their exploration activities worldwide. My government has reached a settlement with them for their work plan commitments in Block A.

2. Based on this, 30.25 Million US Dollars has been paid to the Government as compensation for not fulfilling their obligation to drill a well as per the Licence agreement.

3. BP is expected also to settle the outstanding rental fees and contributions to the Training and Resource Fund. With these settlements from BP, the Block A1 is back on the market for licensing to interested investors.

Honourable Members,

4. Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, the Electricity sub-sector registered tremendous improvements on production capacity. The power rental agreement with KARPOWER and the completion of the 11 megawatts Kotu expansion project have remarkably boosted NAWEC’s ability to operate. Thus, they are now able to meet the peak load demand in the Greater Banjul Area.

5. Through NAWEC, my government has secured a concessional loan of 22.5 Million US Dollars from the Indian line of credit for the Electricity Expansion and Rehabilitation Project in the Greater Banjul Area.

6. Meanwhile, the Electricity Expansion Project was completed and inaugurated in November 2020 in Kwinella. It provides electricity to over 80 communities in Kiang and the Greater Banjul Area. Earlier, in February 2021, the 20 megawatts IDB funded project was inaugurated in Brikama.
7. Upcountry, the entire North Bank Region and parts of the Lower River Region now enjoy stable electricity supply. Also, as part of the final phase of the Rural Electricity Expansion Project, NAWEC has finally linked the Bansang and Basse sub-systems. The recent commissioning of a new 2.7 megawatts engine has centralised supplies in Basse. The capacity for that region now stands above 5 megawatts.

8. To add to the list, under the World Bank-supported electricity access project, ECOREAP, 171 communities will be connected to the network. In the same vein, under the African Development Bank-supported project, about 59 rural and peri-urban communities will have access to electricity.

9. In a bid to address the challenges in this sector, NAWEC successfully utilised funds acquired from the Indian line of credit to increase water production and replace 144 kilometres of asbestos pipes throughout the country.
10. Madam Speaker, in May 2021, I laid the foundation stone to upgrade the Brikama-Kotu transmission line from 33 KVA to 225 KVA through the World Bank-funded Gambia Electricity Restoration and Modernization Project.

11. Additional financing of 43 Million US Dollars for the GERMP project is in hand, and a massive data collection exercise is underway with The Gambia Bureau of Statistics for various operational and transparency purposes.

12. On the AfDB Green Mini-Grid, the project identified ten sites in URR for off-grid connectivity. One of the sites, Nyamanar, already has ongoing projects.

13. Madam Speaker, our national company, GNPC, has happily launched its renewable energy project. The project is aligned with the National Renewable Energy Policy for various services, mainly for rural settlements.
14. To sum up, the National Oil Company has already acquired about 209,268 US Dollars from the UNIDO/GEF Five Project to implement a 455.6 KWP solar system project. All these will make a massive difference in the country.
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GENDER, CHILDREN AND SOCIAL WELFARE

Madam Speaker,

1. During the reporting period, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare initiated several legislative and policy developments. One of them is the Strategic and Investment Plan, 2021-2025.

2. Additionally, with support from the African Development Bank, formulation of the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Policy, 2021-2030, is in progress.

3. In partnership with the Directorate of Social Welfare and the Department of Community Development, the National Nutrition Agency is leading the NaFa Quick programme to support vulnerable households.

Madam Speaker,
Honourable Members,

4. Supported by UNICEF, as part of the COVID-19 response, this Ministry assisted 1,000 vulnerable families with children through cash transfers of 1000 Dalasis per month for three months.

5. Besides this, the Ministry provided 575 vulnerable households in the Greater Banjul Area with rice and oil in January of this year.

6. Another important initiative is The Women Enterprise Fund (WEF). This is a flagship project of the National Development Plan 2018-2021, with the objective of strengthening the capacity of 10,000 women and girls in Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). The Fund provides low-interest credit to women entrepreneurs, using a group guarantee micro-credit model.

7. The WEF is entirely funded by the Government, with 8,315,000 Dalasis already disbursed to 103 women groups across the country.

8. In August 2021, the Women Enterprise Fund Management Board approved 7,000,000 Dalasis for 350 women groups who are currently undergoing training on entrepreneurship and business management skills. The fund will be disbursed to the beneficiaries upon completion of the training by the end of August 2021.

9. For September, 10,000,000. Dalasis will be required to meet the demand for the additional 400 Women Groups assessed.

Madam Speaker,

 

10. In October 2020, the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Welfare, acting in partnership with the Office of the First Lady and the World Food Programme, launched a project to reduce the negative impact of gender-related factors on women working in the Fisheries Value Chain. We expect this partnership to grow usefully.

11. Turning to another intervention, the Ministry provided 200,000 Dalasi-support to 80 vulnerable families and 40 vulnerable elderly persons under the Family Strengthening programme. These efforts target sustainable solutions within the sector.

12. Finally, guided by the Government’s commitment to the concept of inclusiveness, the Ministry tabled a Bill on disability here in June 2020. It was enacted this year to provide the legal basis for all future Government policies and programmes to take cognisance of the unique needs of Differently Abled Persons.
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ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Madam Speaker,

1. Concentrating on the significant developments in this sector, I am pleased to report that the construction works of the OMVG Soma and Brikama Power Substation Projects are progressing very well.

2. Turning to the environment, this year, the Government distributed 350 000 poly pots and seeds of assorted indigenous tree species to the central nurseries nationwide for breeding. The tree growing project is part of my government’s policy to promote an eco-friendly environment.

 

 

3. Among other initiatives, through the Large-Scale Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Project, the sector planted 4,000 hectares of degraded agricultural land, supported 40 school orchards, engaged in enrichment planting in community forests, and embarked on mangrove restoration in CRR and LRR.

4. On legislation, the National Environment Agency finalised the revised National Environment Management Act, the Waste Management Bill, and the Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides Management Bill, all within the year.

5. To conclude, I hope that the ongoing Global Climate Change Alliance Project, funded by the European Union, will strengthen the sector’s performance.
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YOUTH AND SPORTS

Madam Speaker,
Honourable Members,

1. To effectively and efficiently promote youth and sports development, the Youth and Sports sector is reviewing some of their sector policies. These include the National Sports Policy and various frameworks of the satellite Institutions. Among them is a draft five-year strategic plan (2020-2024) for sports development.

2. In line with the development of the country’s human resource base, 3,724 young persons have benefited from skills training. Some of them have already earned skills in construction and related areas. The Ministry profiled 1,000 youths for possible financial support. These achievements are a result of the partnership built with NEDI, PIA and the NYSS.

3. Taking cue from the decentralisation policy for youth empowerment, the Youth and Sports Ministry signed a contract to establish agro-food centres and build nine stadiums, a bakery and an auto-mechanic centre this year.

4. Meanwhile, the National Youth Service Scheme is actively engaging and equipping our youths with livelihood skills in various walks of life. Unfortunately, the proposed Youth National Service is on hold due to the pandemic.

5. Despite this setback, the National Youth Council was able to facilitate, for over 25,000 youths, access to financing, employment, or economic development opportunities offered by YEP and TEKKI FII partners. To complement this, the Council is mapping and profiling 172 youth organisations into thematic areas for better coordination and facilitation.

6. I must add that over 3,000 youths and schools benefited from Migration Information and Counselling (MIC) activities. These included training of School Peer Education Clubs, peer educators and teacher coordinators on Migration and MIC.

Madam Speaker,

7 The Gambia is doing very well in various international sports competitions, such as football, athletics, volleyball and boxing.

8. For the first time, the nation looks forward to participating in the 2022 CAF tournament, and we do so with enthusiasm and hope. We congratulate all those who raised the Gambian flag high in recent years, including the participants in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Madam Speaker,

1. At the bilateral level, engagements with countries in the ECOWAS sub-region and beyond, as well as with our development partners globally, are developing very well.

2. To cite examples, my government continues to have strong ties with countries in the Middle East and the Gulf region. The United Arab Emirates, for instance, donated substantial medical items for the fight against COVID-19.

3. Like many other countries, relations between The Gambia and Turkey remain solid and beneficial. We maintain a healthy Development Cooperation Agreement, and have signed a Protocol on the Exchange of Land Plots for Diplomatic Missions.

4. My Administration’s engagements with key Asian partners, such as India and China, continue to be fruitful. The Government of India, for example, generously donated medical items worth over 500,000 US Dollars to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Furthermore, they have pledged a grant of 500,000 US Dollars for crucial projects in our priority areas.

5. Under the framework of FOCAC, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of The Gambia signed, in June 2020, an Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation. In addition, the Chinese Government provided a grant of 300 Million Yuan for the National Transmission and Distribution Project. This is a top priority for my Administration.

Madam Speaker,

 

6. The Gambia Government is grateful to all its development partners and friends in Europe, Asia, America, Africa and all parts of the globe. We cherish all relations and partnerships, and will work to strengthen them.
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OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT

Madam Speaker,

1. To begin with regulation, in 2020, the Food Safety and Quality Authority developed and gazetted the Registration and Licensing Regulation and the Food Fortification Regulation. It also drafted two regulations on food packaging and alcohol.

2. Last year, in collaboration with the Department of Community Development, the Directorate of Social Welfare and the National Social Protection Secretariat began implementing the 31 Million US Dollar Social Safety Net Project. The project targets very poor persons in the West Coast, North Bank, Central River, Upper River and Lower River Regions.

 

3. One of the components of the Project, NaFa, provides cash transfers of 1500 Dalasis each to about 15,600 poor households for 18 months. As part of Government efforts to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, 78,359 households in 30 districts received support with a double round of 3,000 Dalasi cash transfers, covering July to October 2020.

4.The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), under the Office of the Vice President, continues to engage in providing relief support to households affected by the pandemic in the various regions.

5. Regarding disasters, during the reporting period, some victims in the country received support in the form of cash, food and non-food items.

Honourable Members,

6. The validated National Nutrition Policy (2018-2025) and the draft Nutrition Bill are scheduled for submission to Cabinet and the National Assembly, respectively, for approval and enactment. Aside from these, the National Population Policy will be revised this year, 2021.

7. On the Civil Service Reform, the Personnel Management Office (PMO) aims to maintain an efficient and duly responsive public sector. In this respect, Cabinet has approved the Pay and Grading Review report.

8. The objective of the review is to overhaul the current pay and grading structure of the Civil Service. PMO has designed a new Civil Service Grading system and a Pay and Incentive Policy to establish, among other things, a realistic minimum monthly salary for civil servants.

9. To repeal the 1950 Pension Act, a new Pension Bill is before the National Assembly. When enacted, it will address all issues on pension. Importantly also, PMO is working on re-introducing a Performance Management System in the Civil Service.

10. Other areas in the civil service reform include conducting Functional Reviews to streamline and rationalise the mandates of MDAs.
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AGRICULTURE

Madam Speaker,

1. The Government’s vision is to increase food and nutrition security, while enhancing economic growth through the agriculture sector. The Ministry of Agriculture strives, therefore, to increase productivity, based on the sustainable use and management of our natural resources.

2. To achieve this, the Agricultural Transformation Programme (ATP) has been structured around production and productivity, promotion of value chains, market competitiveness, and youth employment in Agriculture.

 

 

3. To increase production and support the farming community during the 2020 cropping season, 36,489 bags of fertilizer, 3, 751 bags of improved rice varieties, 2,358 bags of groundnuts, 727 bags of maize, and 11 bags of findi were procured and made available to our farmers.

4. In preparation for this cropping season, the Ministry of Agriculture, through GGC, procured a consignment of 20,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer and delivered it in March, 2021.

5. I am proud to say that Government also distributed farm implements to the farmers to reduce unnecessary hard work and boost production and productivity. The items included power tillers, threshers and milling and pumping machines. For use this farming season, 50 tractors were distributed recently.

 

6. To develop the agricultural value chain and marketing promotion, the ATP will continue to promote mechanisation by supplying land preparation, seeding and weeding machines.

7. Implementing the project will upgrade and upscale rice processing by introducing an integrated rice parboiling and milling machines through Public-Private-Partnership.

8. The ATP will promote small-scale processing at the level of the farmers. Training small-scale processors will expose them to good processing practices for product safety and quality assurance, besides investments in expanding irrigation facilities.

9. Government will continue to invest in mechanised harvesting methods to stimulate mechanical threshing and reduce the workload on women.

10. Rightly too, the sector puts due emphasis on supporting medium-scale businesses, processing facilities, strengthening public and private sector veterinary service delivery, and efficient management of resources.

11. On a parallel development, from its 100 Million Dalasi supplementary budget allocation, the agriculture sector spent 60 Million Dalasis on equipment. On the list were threshing and milling machines, power tillers, harvesters and pumping machines for irrigation. Aside from these, draught animals were purchased and distributed to the farmers on demand.

12. Specific to Value Chain Financing, the programme will expand matching grant funds using grassroots structures, such as credit unions. Similarly, it is hoped that initiating at least 5 Agricultural insurance schemes will make agricultural lending safer.

13. Through PPP, the programme will provide seed money for these schemes. On the other hand, the PPP will entrust the partner private sector insurance body with the management responsibilities.

14. Besides, it will facilitate establishing an Agricultural Development Bank that focuses on development financing for agricultural value chains.
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TOURISM AND CULTURE

Madam Speaker,

1. The indication is that the Tourism and Culture sector contributes about 25% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and creates employment for about 200,000 jobs. Unfortunately, it is one of the hardest-hit sectors, as a result of travel restrictions.

2. Overall, the estimated loss to the sector from January to June 2020 was about 6.7 Billion Dalasis. This figure has undoubtedly increased, noting that many establishments are still struggling to get back to full operation.

3. In 2020, The Gambia Tourism Board (GTB) recorded 89,232 arrivals. The figure marks a significant decline against the NDP target. In 2021, the arrival figure further decreased to 50,000. Consequently, the loss of revenue to the GTB is high.

4. As part of its support packages, Government gave the Tourism sector a 100 Million Dalasi stimulus package.

5. This year, the Government will bear the operating license for hotels and municipal rates. The GTB is not expecting any revenue from the operational license in 2021.

6. The National Centre for Arts and Culture experienced similar setbacks during the year under review. The closing or scaling down of social events resulted in loss of revenue; thus, it is necessary to develop the sector through innovative means.
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DEFENCE
Madam Speaker,

1. The development of the National Security Policy, National Security Strategy and the Security Sector Reform Strategy by this sector is a major step towards a landmark transformation of the Security Services. To reinforce this, the Ministry of Defence is developing a National Defence policy.

2. In like manner, The Gambia Armed Forces Act, which came into existence in 1984, and the Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers and Soldiers developed in 1993, are all under review to meet the realities of the day.

Madam Speaker,

 

3. The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) leadership demonstrated commendable solidarity with other sectors to tackle the pandemic. For example, the GAF Command attached medical doctors and other essential personnel to the Public Health Emergency Operation Centre of the Ministry of Health. Similarly, they provided logistical support and participated in various activities to control the spread of the pandemic.

4. As part of the Security Sector Reform process, we will continue to embark on more purposeful and realistic training programmes for our Armed Forces. We have entrusted them with the security of the nation and will support them to the fullest.
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TRANSPORT, WORKS AND INFRASTRUCTURE

Madam Speaker,

1. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Transport, Works and Infrastructure sector registered impressive results. By the end of 2020, Government had achieved 100% completion of the 818-kilometre Primary Road Network set in the NDP. This covers the north and south banks of the country.

2. In addition to a paved distance of 650 kilometres, also completed are 120 kilometres of the Laminkoto-Passamas Road and the 48-kilometre road from Basse to Koina.

3. Complementing the Lamin Koto-Passamas Road is a secondary paved road of 13 kilometres connecting Yorobawol to Basse. Another link to the Laminkoto Passamas Road is an 18-kilometre paved distance from Kaleng Junction to Bush Town.
4. Added to the network of the Laminkoto-Passamas Project are two gravel feeder roads of about 20 kilometres. These comprise the Sare Teneng – Sare Ngai road link and the Nyakoi – Mbye Kunda – Dasilameh link.

5. With the Primary Road Network completed, the sector is engaged in constructing secondary and tertiary road links and bridges. Along the new Basse-Koina Road, two new bridges at Chamoi and Suduwol, 25 metres and 32 metres long, respectively, have been completed this year.

6. In Basse, a 250-metre bridge and another 170-metre bridge in Fatoto have been completed. This 82 Million US Dollar project was financed through a grant from the Government of the People’s Republic of China.

 

7. Following the completion of the Sukuta-Jambanjelly secondary link road of 13.5 kilometres, the Government is constructing 104 kilometres of feeder roads to ease and expand access to economic and social facilities in various parts of rural Gambia. This project, funded through an EU-UNOP grant, has been completed.

8. We have initiated major secondary paved roads on the North Bank, mainly using local resources and funding. Currently, works are in progress to construct 88 kilometres of paved roads in the Niumi Hakalang area. Accompanying this is another set of roads, totalling 175 kilometres. The contract was awarded in January 2020 to be completed in 16 months.

9. Madam Speaker, the construction of the Kiang West roads has commenced with 39 kilometres of paved roads. The execution period is 12 calendar months. Negotiations are underway for the Contractor to continue with the remaining 46 kilometres in Kiang.
10. In the capital city of Banjul, the Government reconstructed 14 kilometres of severely dilapidated roads and drains, using local funds, under the Banjul Rehabilitation Project.

11. In a similar development, the Government has secured funding from Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), equal to 50 Million Dollars, to construct 50 kilometres of roads in the Greater Banjul Area.

12. From the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, OPEC Fund for International Development and Abu-Dhabi Fund, Government secured 83 Million US Dollars to upgrade the Bertil-Harding Highway into a dual carriageway of 22 kilometres. This stretches from Yundum Junction to Sting Corner. The civil works will take 24 months.

 

13. Contracts have been signed as well, using local funds, for the maintenance, rehabilitation and reconstruction of selected roads in the Greater Banjul Area. They include the Bakoteh-Kotu Highway, Brusubi Phase II access road, Kanifing Estate access road and Kololi Gamtel access road. The estimated cost is 90 Million Dalasis.

14. On building projects, the major rehabilitation and reconstruction work at the Banjul International Airport (BIA) is now complete, doubling the capacity of the Main Terminal Building.

15. The Traffic Control Tower was renovated during the year and re-equipped with new communication facilities. Works are on-going to construct a new VIP lounge.

16. Additional building projects include construction of the Governor’s Residence and Offices in Kerewan, both of which are progressing well and due for completion this year.
17. There are on-going construction works of markets in various parts of the country. Among them are the fire-ravaged markets of Basse and Brikama and the Latri-Kunda, Soma and Farafenni markets.

18. Finally, the Ministry has developed a Public Building and Facilities Management Bill, and will submit it to this august Assembly for consideration. The Bill proposes a new framework for the design, construction, operation and management of all Government assets, both in the country and abroad.
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JUSTICE
Madam Speaker,

1. My Administration will never waver in upholding the principles of good governance, democracy, the Rule of Law and respect for human rights.

2. In this respect, with support from UNDP, the Ministry of Justice succeeded in developing a Strategic Plan (2021-2025), and revised the 2013 Sexual Offences Act, the 1994 Evidence Act and the 2016 Legal Practitioners Act.

3. In the same vein, the legislative reforms and Transitional Justice Process commenced in 2017 resulted in the presentation of various Bills to this august Assembly. These range from matters of crime, human rights and freedom to amendments of discriminatory laws against women. We hope to have all pending Bills enacted and implemented eventually.
4. As disclosed earlier, consultations and dialogue are continuing to build consensus on a Revised Draft Constitution. My government will provide support for this to happen amicably.

5. On policy, the Ministry of Justice now has a National Human Rights Policy and Action Plan, 2021-2025. The Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies will implement the Action Plan jointly with national and international agencies and partners.

6. Externally, The Gambia signed and deposited the Instrument of Ratification for The Gambia’s accession to the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization on trademarks, otherwise known as the Banjul Protocol. It came into effect in May 2021. Hopefully, it will lead to more investments in The Gambia and boost revenue generation.

7. Regarding registration of businesses and companies, the Single Window Business Registry (SWBR) registered a twenty-one percent (21%) drop in revenue from March and June 2020, compared to the previous year. From January to August 2021, 1500 companies were registered, compared to 1340 during the same period last year.

8. Despite the challenges, the SWBR managed to collect 17,946,700 Dalasis from January to December 2020.

9. Supported by UNDP, the Ministry will review the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act (2005) this year to incorporate more progressive provisions on dispute resolution.

 

 

10. Focussing attention on legal aid, in 2020, the National Agency for Legal Aid services, tasked to provide legal services across the country, received a total of 486 cases. Out of these, 147, representing 30% of the cases, were resolved. The remaining ones are on-going.

Madam Speaker,

11. In January of this year, Government extended the mandate of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission by six months to enable the Commission to complete and submit its report this year. Once the report is received, Government will study it for appropriate action.

12. Internationally, we have complied with all international obligations, and I assure this august Assembly that we will continue to respect our legal obligations.

13. The Judiciary Five-year Strategic Plan launched in January 2021 provides a solid framework to promote an independent, effective and efficient justice system. We look forward to the forthcoming donor conference, with UNDP assistance, to secure funding for its implementation.
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HEALTH
Madam Speaker,

1. Focusing on the pandemic, the Government has sourced essential supplies and encouraged local production to meet part of the country’s demand for them.

2. As of now, my Administration and our development partners have committed over 200 Million Dalasis on medical and non-medical supplies. As a result, the health sector was able to secure substantial face masks, gowns, goggles, IPC materials, ventilators and other vital equipment for use countrywide.

Madam Speaker,

 

3. Ndemban Clinic and the Sanatorium now operate as treatment centres for people infected by the coronavirus. Three other treatment centres, Essau, Soma and Bansang, are in use, and the construction of eight others in various parts of the country has started. These projects were supported mainly by the United Nations Agencies.

4. The Gambia received its first batch of Covax vaccines in record time, and the vaccination campaign has been a success. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine, donated by the Government of the United States, is now being administered successfully across the country.

5. Government plans to construct an emergency treatment centre with 104 beds in Farato. It will have 20 fully equipped ICU rooms. The World Bank is supporting the construction works and will provide the equipment.

6. The project is the first phase of a proposed teaching hospital in Farato, with 1,500 beds and at least 17 faculties. The contracts for another set of 8 permanent treatment centres, housing 40 beds, have been awarded already. In this endeavour, we appreciate the support of the World Bank, SSHFC, UNFPA, and TAF Global.

Honourable Members,

7. Through the Expanded Programme on Immunization, the health sector is administering vaccinations against 12 preventable diseases.

8. The Government is working on mobilising resources to secure about 2.5 million doses of vaccine for national coverage. Working with our partners, we intend to vaccinate at least 60% of the population.

 

9. As part of efforts to revitalise and implement the concept of Primary Health Care (PHC) in the country, PHC has increased in a few key villages from 722 to 942, marking an increase of 30%.

10. In a new development, plans are at an advanced stage to establish a national community ambulance service, with an initial fleet of 80 ambulances. Complementing this is the plan to renovate 50 facilities and construct six new health centres and 13 new health posts. All these will contribute tremendously to strengthening our health system.

11. Finally, I thank the Honourable Members for approving the National Health Insurance Authority Bill tabled here some time ago.
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DEPARTMENT OF STRATEGIC POLICY AND DELIVERY

Madam Speaker,

1. With the support of UNDP, the Department of Strategic Policy and Delivery (DSPD) under my Office has made significant progress in building capacity and strengthening the much-needed tools for improved analysis, information sharing, stakeholder engagement and training in the country.

2. During the reporting period, the Department completed and circulated a comprehensive compilation of Government policies. To extend the reach for evidence-based policy development and implementation, the DSPD, earlier this year, launched a Policy Forum on research and policy development.

3. As expected, the Department continues to monitor the implementation of priority projects within the MDAs for timely service delivery. They are also coordinating and monitoring the performance of the President’s flagship Programme for Accelerated Community Development Project reported here last year.

Madam Speaker,

4. The DSPD is coordinating Government’s response to the 2019 TIP Report recommendations. The staff is working closely with the National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons and the National Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons (TIP). In this respect, I am happy to report that the upgrading of The Gambia to Tier Two Watch List status in the 2020 TIP Report resulted in the country’s re-selection for the Millennium Challenge Cooperation Threshold Programme in December 2020.

Madam Speaker,

5. The DSPD is also implementing an “Open Government Initiative (OGI Hour)” to promote regular communication and enhance dialogue at central and local levels. The Initiative seeks to foster transparency and accountability in public policy. This is supported by the UN Peace Building Fund.

6. To enhance private sector participation in national development, Her Excellency, the Vice President, and the DSPD continue to support the Ministry of Trade’s reforms to improve “Ease of Doing Business in The Gambia.” Thus far, the key milestones include providing credit rating at the Central Bank of The Gambia, bringing back the Single Business Registry and creating a dedicated commercial court.
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23. CONCLUDING REMARKS

Honourable Speaker,
Honourable Members of the National Assembly,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. As this address shows, my government has registered significant successes over the years. On the other hand, the issues raised in the address demonstrate clearly that the tasks at hand are many and quite complex. Addressing them effectively requires unity, peace, stability and the desire and will to promote and defend the nation’s cause.

2. Without the pandemic, our rate of development and achievement levels would have been much better; but, as good citizens and true democrats, we should appropriately and honourably respond to challenges by remaining focussed, continuing to manage our affairs and move on undeterred.

Honourable Ladies and Gentlemen,

3. The national discourse on the country’s political evolution has been a significant source of divergence. The Executive acknowledges its importance and appreciates the various strands of social life, political standpoints, governance structures and development approaches fed into it.

4. With reference to this, it is worth emphasising that my Administration’s performance needs to be examined within the context of 2016, with due cognisance given to the state of the Gambian economy at the time, the socio-political divisions, the poverty levels, the disparities, the high unemployment rate, the dysfunctional Government machinery and systems, and the inappropriate use of state resources.

 

5. The future is much brighter today because of the opportunities created from 2017 to date. Now, we can forge ahead with insightful lessons from the past and the present.

6. There are tangible results to build upon for consolidation and expansion. To cite a few examples, these range from the substantial gains made in energy supply and infrastructure development to the achievements recorded in the critical components of institutional strengthening and reforms across all sectors, Transitional Justice, education and training, civil liberties, media freedom, Health and Agriculture development. Fortunately, our vision is clear, and we have well-defined goals for future action.

7. I will patiently continue to appeal to the people’s sense of civic responsibility, as genuine patriotic citizens committed to democratic principles and values, to give the nation their utmost. I urge further that we engage in constructive participation in all national and community issues and events.
8. Aside from this, let us engage in constructive dialogue and discharge our civic and social responsibilities diligently.

9. While we individually have the freedom and right to define and express the concepts that inform our philosophies, we must be alive to other people’s ideas and the values that cut across social life, religious conviction and peaceful co-existence.

10. Democracy guarantees voice and participation to each citizen, but it does so with conditions. Universally, multiparty democracy, which our Constitution seeks to uphold, is derived from legitimacy, as defined by the Law; thus, the Law must guide our actions.

11. Unfortunately, we have noticed and experienced, in some instances, unjust and deliberate actions that are anti-democratic; yet they are committed in the name of democracy.

12. As human beings, it is contrary to good citizenship to disregard our sense of justice and act on impulse, grudge, hate, revenge, or engage in crime and other negative tendencies that undermine progress and development for the people. In this context, we must appreciate the worth of every citizen, honour the labour of every worker and reward everyone in due measure.

13. As Gambians, we must be sensitive to the pain, sorrows and desires of those around us, and work towards making life easy and comfortable for every one of us.

14. Concern for the welfare of all is the essence of inclusive development and progress in a democracy. I am happy that, together, we supported and empathised with the victims of the 7th July windstorm. This is the true Gambian spirit.

15. Let our citizenship rights, blood and social ties, religious faith, goodwill and love for family and nation unite us. Indeed, our common values should oblige us to work together in the best interest of the country.

16. Crucially, all these need to be understood and put into practice in accordance with the Constitution and the laws and principles that govern our institutions. For Government, the legal frameworks and operational arrangements of our institutions will continue to condition the content of our national agenda and plan.

Madam Speaker,

17. In the face of the COVID-19 Pandemic, my government has continued to show character, and so have the people. Let us sustain this spirit.

18. As we prepare for the December Presidential election, it rests on all categories of leaders and influential persons, especially those belonging to the political parties, to preach peace and stability for another cycle of free, fair and transparent elections. Let the Gambian citizens be allowed to vote for the candidates of their choice without pressure or hindrance.

19. I ask the security personnel to be more vigilant than ever, and ensure that the Rule of Law prevails. It is a duty on everyone to fight the criminals in the country, and a collective responsibility to stop every form of injustice.

Honourable Speaker,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

20. I thank everyone for supporting my government, especially when it mattered most. This includes our partners who have stood by us as we pursue the advancement of our dear country.
21. In particular, I thank every Gambian citizen, either living in the country or the Diaspora and every resident of the country, for making this transition period a very successful one.

22. The dissenting voices in a democracy contribute to success if taken into consideration for positive action. This has helped me immensely as a statesman and democrat; so, I acknowledge every citizen’s positive contribution to the nation.

Madam Speaker,

23. To you and all the Honourable Members of this august Assembly, I sincerely express much appreciation and gratitude. Through the National Assembly, you made many good decisions and approved numerous Bills.

 

24. The budget requests granted have contributed remarkably to the multiple projects my Administration has implemented successfully, as well as those in progress. Thank you very much indeed.

25. I renew my promise to the people of this beloved land and the international community to commit myself to the principles of democracy, good governance and the Rule of Law within the framework of serving my people and my country selflessly and devotedly. In this regard, I ask for your continued support and cooperation.

26. To conclude, I thank you all for your attention and pray that the Almighty God continues to bless our efforts, protect us and grant us peace and stability.

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