By: Kebba Ansu Manneh
Seedy Keita, Minister of Finance and Economics Affairs, has disclosed that the Government of The Gambia and its development partners have spent more than three billion five hundred million dalasis (D3.5 billion) on the strengthening of social protection initiatives in the country.
He made this disclosure at the launching of The Gambia International Social Protection Conference on Monday, 6th November 2023, where he said the Government is on track to introduce a social protection bill that, once adopted by the national assembly, will inform the modus operandi of the funding.
The Theme of the three-day conference is ‘accelerating social protection financing to increase coverage and reach.’
Dilating on the significance of the confab, the Minister of Finance and Economics Affairs revealed that social protection is at the center stage of government policy that hopes to leave no one behind, adding that the Theme of the conference is in line with Government set aside policies for social protection that hopes to reduce poverty within the poor and the vulnerable groups of the society.
According to him, the Government of The Gambia, in collaboration with development partners, has injected more than three billion, five hundred million dalasis in the fight to reduce poverty, noting that these whooping figures have been spent on the course of the poor and vulnerable in Health, Education, agriculture and subsidies on petroleum products.
“On the health sector, we (The Government) have just established the National Health Insurance Scheme, which will contribute towards out-of-pocket expenditures and is expected to finance up to 24.4 percent as per the national health account. In more directed national protection-sensitive budget line, the Government has expended approximately D161million to date, these include the vaccines and other essential medical supplies which benefit the poor and the vulnerable,” Seedy Keita, Minister of Finance and Economics Affairs, disclosed.
He added: “On Education and in line with the classification of national social protection policy, gov expenditure on social protection in Education amounts to a whooping D420m. These include school improvement grants, teaching aids, learning materials, open scholarships, bursaries, and school feeding programs that go a long way to improve both access and quality of Education for both poor and vulnerable in the society.”
The Finance and Economics Affairs Minister continues to disclose that the policy of the Government to provide universal access to free Education from Kindergarten to grade 12 is a clear testimony of its support of social protection in the area of Education, adding that similar interventions have been registered in the area of agriculture through the value chain and entrepreneurship training and entrepreneurship training for improvement of the lives and livelihoods of the economically active population.
“In agriculture, we(The Government) continue to provide support to the value chain and entrepreneurship training for improvement of the lives and livelihoods of the economically active population. This supports social protection priority area goal 3, promoting the livelihoods and incomes of the poor and vulnerable communities, especially the active population. These are implemented through various agencies and partners funded intervention,’ Seedy Keita further disclosed.
He added: “To ensure food self-sufficiency, the government has provided farmers an input subsidy to the tune of D665 million.”
According to him, the Government continues to provide subsidies for petroleum products in the country that trickle down to the poor and vulnerable people, noting that the Government has so far injected D307 million in subsidies. For the year ended, it has further provided subsidies to the tune of D1.7 billion subsidies to farmers meant to reduce poverty among the poor and the vulnerable.
The Vice President of The Gambia, H.E Momodou Jallow, United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms. Seraphine Wakan, Representative of European Union Ambassador to The Gambia, and Permanent Secretary Office of the Vice President, Madam Kordu Jabang Senghore, all expressed their resolve to support the strengthening of social protection in The Gambia.