By Fatou Dahaba
In his State of the Nation Address, President Adama Barrow called on the members of the National Assembly to put aside their political differences and work towards national development by opening dialogue and initiating bi-partisan collaborations among themselves.
The Gambian leader outlined his Government’s achievements and shortcomings: “This would allow you to table issues not exclusively from political party perspectives, but from genuine patriotic standpoints and through the people’s lenses.”
Barrow told NAMs that the legal frameworks, policies, and programs developed and mentioned in his address are relevant and potent enough to guide the people to success. ‘This Assembly has a role to play in facilitating the process.’
In the address, President Barrow sets out the Government’s key policy objectives and deliverables for the year ahead, challenges, and outlines interventions that he said his administration gives sustained attention and priority to.
On the economy, the president said the Gambia relies heavily on imports for the consumption of essential commodities, which includes wheat and maize from Ukraine, causing disruption in the supply chain and leading to shortages in supply has translated into intense inflationary pressure on the economy.
“As of end-December 2022, inflation stood at 13.7 percent, from an initial projection of 5 percent. Generally, global inflation has significantly reduced the real incomes of people abroad. As a result, the Gambian economy faces reduced personal remittance receipts and lower tourist arrivals, despite the strong recovery footings reported in 2022. These will continually worsen the negative impact on the growth experienced from 2020 onwards,” Barrow said.
He further disclosed that revenue performance during the year highlights the negative effect of the crisis, noting that total Domestic revenue collection in 2022 declined by ten (10) percent against the same period in 2021.
“Comparison of revenue performance from 2022 and 2023, between January and April, shows domestic taxes have increased by 5%, while customs and excise taxes increased by 20% over the same period.”
The president further said the increase in global oil prices put pressure on Government and forced them to subsidize fuel to lower the high pump prices. Thus, this harmed domestic revenue mobilization and the 2022 national budget.
The president announced that the crime rate has decreased in numbers, and the crimes recorded in the third quarter of 2022 have decreased by 12.6% compared to the third quarter of 2021.
“A total of 1426 cases were reported in the third quarter of 2021, while in the third quarter of 2022, 1247 cases were registered. We commend the Police for this remarkable decrease but urge them to lower the rate further.”
Barrow added that the Ministry of Interior, with its partners, has launched the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration capacity-building project for the Gambia.
The project aims to strengthen the capacity of about forty government officials directly involved in migrants’ Return and Reintegration in the country by equipping them with the needed skills and resources to manage return and reintegration processes.
Trade and Employment
President Barrow also states that the national employment policy and action plan (NEAP) 2022-2027 will reduce unemployment.
He said the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration, and Employment had established the National Employment Technical Committee to report to a Cabinet sub-committee on employment.
“This demonstrates commitment at the highest level of Government to address unemployment and underemployment and, by extension, poverty. The policy targets creating at least 150,000 jobs in five years.”
In Gambia’s quest to improve cross-border trade, Barrow said the Gambia remains active in Phase II negotiations of the AfCFTA and has prepared draft tariff schedules through a consultative process.
He said the tariff Offers, covering the 90% tariff for the liberation, 7% tariff for sensitive products, and 3% tariff for exclusion, have been submitted to the AfCFTA Secretariat.
“The Ministry will embark on a sensitization mission, as defined in the communication strategy, to raise awareness on the AfCFTA, update the National Trade Policy (2024-2029), and develop the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act utilization strategy (2023-2028).”