In response to President Barrow’s State of the Nation address, the opposition United Democratic Party has questioned the sincerity of the President’s remarks.
Last week, President was at the national assembly outlining his government’s achievements, challenges, and way forward for the country and responding to some of the issues raised by the President on behalf of the UDP, Lare Sisay, Chairman of the Policy and Program Committee said:
“Even though the President said we should not “mistake” the SONA as an activity report, it is essentially a sectoral activity report of the 2022 (not 2023) Legislative Year. The President is right in informing Gambians that, in essence, our economy was influenced by several exogenous and endogenous economic shocks and headwinds. The President did not tell Gambians how his government dealt with and intends to continue to deal with these shocks and headwinds with a specific vision and policy proposals. The President should have a vision for the country, and the specific policy proposals should be based on this vision.”
The veteran policy expert believes the vision for the Gambia should take into account: ” The key global trends such as the pressures on the post-WW2 international system, lack of reforms of the UN Security Council and its impact on international security, the rise of China and the Brix Countries as an alternative to the Bretton Woods Institutions; Climate change and its impact on our future survival; fossil fuels, the transition to renewable energy and gas; The Russian-Ukraine War and its impact on the global economy, on the African regional economy in general and the Gambian economy in particular: supply chain disruptions; inflation, the rise in the cost of living, subsidies; and Regional stability and security issues such as unconstitutional changes of government, subversion of constitutions for self-perpetuation; Weaponization of state institutions and the judiciary against critics and opponents of the government; and Election integrity for free, fair, and transparent elections.”
He said The Gambia is classified variously as an LDC and asked: What is the President’s vision in moving the country from its current LDC status to subsequent stages of development?
“Reforms stalled: public sector reforms for creating a civil service that’s agile, fit for purpose and can deliver transformational development results, legal/constitutional and electoral law reforms, security sector reforms, and social sector reforms: health, education utilities. Contrary to what the President said, public confidence and trust in state institutions is at its lowest ebb. Our public institutions are not independent, neutral, or impartial.”
Mr. Sisay added: ” The increases in cases before the courts, as the President asserted, may not be the best indicator of trust in the judiciary. A good indicator is the number of cases filed, the length of the adjudication process, fairness and transparency of judicial decisions, bearing in mind that justice delayed is justice denied.”
He accused the government of weaponizing the law by using the criminal justice system for political purposes.
” Examples of this are too numerous to highlight here, but Gambians know what I am talking about. The lack of due process and transparency in the lands and assets confiscated by former President Jammeh are glaring. Private lands confiscated by Jammeh in Batokunku and reviewed by the Janneh Commission remain unreturned to their rightful owners without due process and compensation since 2017. Meanwhile, a select group of landowners, partial to President Barrow and his party, have been leased in Batokunku while the others remain unreturned. The impunity, lack of respect for private property rights, and lack of due process are glaring hallmarks of the Barrow Government: there is no equality under the law.”
He said: ” A key feature of our economy is the huge debt stock of the country. This situation could be described as “debt overhang” with severe social consequences not dissimilar to the highly indebted countries (Srilanka, Ghana, etc.): (i) Jammeh’s debt stock in 22 yrs: D48B.
(ii) Barrow’s debt stock in 7 yrs is said to be approximately D51B for a total debt of D99B. This is unsustainable for FDIs to invest in the country, and where are the returns on these debts?.’
Reviewing the President’s SoNa speech, the former UN Diplomat added: ” A partial sectoral look at what is conspicuously lacking in detail in the SONA: our broken healthcare, education, utilities, and security situations in the country. Another hallmark of the Barrow Government is maladministration and maleficence. It is a government wherein the President operates based on blaming everybody but me, where there’s no accountability or consequence management.”
According to him, UDP’s fight has historically been and continues to be, a fight for the poor, the marginalized, the voiceless, and the powerless of our society.
“Our fight is based on ideas, principles, the truth, honesty, respect, integrity in government, and respect for the rule of law.
Our “fight is for a government of laws, not of men” (John Adams, “The Federalist Papers.”
For our part, he said, ‘the UDP has developed a document with a spelled out vision as to where a UDP Government will take the Gambia. This document is entitled: UDP Working Paper Number 1: Building a New Gambia. The Party Leader will launch it in due course.’