A voice from the diaspora – After finally managing to break-free from the shackles of tyrannical rule, we vision profound ideas and plans as laid-out for the Gambia beginning a dramatic ascent under President Adama Barrow. As the new leader finally took charge of the keys to ‘State House’, he has come face-to-face with a broken-down system of government lacking vision. He will have come to be faced with an uninspiring civil-service devoid of ideas & laden with bureaucracy. Analyzing the failures & damage the Gambian economy was subjected to during the scandalous APRC misrule, President Barrow has also learnt that those desirable democratic principles of separation-of-powers and checks-and-balances are non-existent, crushed, with absolute power residing in one man, and him only. A lot is at stake folks, every sector of the economy has to be prioritized – and every Gambian made a priority within the development agenda:
As for the corrupt elite who presided over the country’s economic collapse at GAMTEL, GRA, PORTS, NAWEC, SSHFC, GCAA, CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR and his deputies, & any Parastatal where money exchange hands – Why are they still in the job? And, please, relieve the Country’s CLUELESS and USELESS DIPLOMATS around the world for qualified foreign policy experts who know what the job entails. The Gambian people are flabbergasted that the thieves and criminals who presided over the collapse of the country’s economy becoming millionaires in the process, yet allowed to practice at the heart of government. The status-quo is unsustainable. The president has got to show strength and moral fortitude so as to restore credibility within the system – if the Gambia is truly serious about restoring democracy.
As it is, the global PRESS is fixated on the country and how it goes about resurrecting its democracy, plus a worldwide population cheering on the side-lines for the Gambia to succeed. That said – the new-leadership in charge of ‘Banjul Politics’ ought to speed up reform – discard remnants of the old regime, bring in fresh TALENT – as feelings of unease begins to creep in among the population. The Gambian people are in dire straits for far too long. The price of rice must come down, and quickly at that. And as analysts sharpen pen to measure the Barrow-led government’s progress in its first 100 Days in office, I have endeavoured a progressive vision in simulation, for a people desperate for development:
PRISON REFORM: On his first day in Banjul, President Barrow must sign an executive order releasing all political detainees held at Mile Two from 1994 to date. The government, he ought to say, is working to bulldoze that notorious jail and all such detention facilities around the country, to be replaced with modern correctional facilities in LRR and NBR regions respectively. The President should further announce that his government will set-up JUVENILE and REHAB facilities to separate young prisoners and those traumatized respectively. He should address the nation ‘LIVE’ from the seat of Parliament, further declaring the ‘’Abolition of Death Penalty’’, with an executive order.
EDUCATION: The standard of education in the country is at an all-time low compounded by poor results exacerbated by moral & ethical bankruptcy within society. As such the Ministry of Education must order a top-down overhaul of the education system. In a fast-paced globalizing and competing world Asia & China are setting the trend in league ratings; Senegal continues to climb the ladder with Gambia registering in the low bottoms. Something has to give – begin by closing all the so-called private schools in the country raking in millions in tuition fees, and for the ministry to regulate/measure the progress of each school in the country annually. To compete and surpass other nations, the ministry of Education should start by introducing free early years nursery for every child. School curriculum ought to be modernized, with emphasis on the ‘STEM’ subjects in countering the literacy gap. SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING & MATHEMATICS – These are job-creating subjects and professions as the engine of 21st century economies creating wealth for citizens and nations alike. And with Commonwealth membership looming large, the Gambia government needs technical expertise from the UK, New Zealand, and Australia to be embedded in all ministerial departments and within Local government up-and-down the country. Liaising with the Interior ministry and UNICEF country office, the Education ministry must prioritize tackling teenage pregnancy and child abuse through civic-education programs on all media platforms. The Education Minister – to table a bill before Parliament that requires parents to educate their children to a minimum high school level tuition free in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development blueprint. The Ministry should further engage the UN Systems and such development partners in providing FREE Wifi internet access in all schools up and down the country.
HEALTH CARE: Tackling inequities in healthcare is one of the major challenges of our time. As such, aligning with the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ blueprint, the government ought to work in-partnership with the UN country office to design and build 5 brand new Hospitals spread across the country. A major referral hospital should be earmarked for each of the five administrative regions, and never again will Gambians feel helpless, nor seek treatment abroad. President Barrow should further announce that primary health care facilities shall be improved locally in villages and towns so as to reduce waiting times and burden within the system. In an unprecedented move with telecoms providers, the country should have a three-code EMERGENCY Number for calling Ambulance or Police in situations of dire need.
DEMOCRACY + GOVERNANCE: With international observers and the media holding breathe as to the administration’s plans in regards to democracy, President Barrow must uphold the coalition’s manifesto pledge to restore credible and accountable governance. He should stress that Parliament is on the verge of passing a signature legislation halting presidential life to maximum ‘TWO-TERMS’. No president will ever serve more than two terms provided he or she win re-election and this is SACROSANCT. The separation of powers to be further enhanced with a strong parliament to impeach the executive in breaches of the constitution, and an independent judiciary staffed by GAMBIAN JUDGES appointed by an independent judicial panel on merit. Again, an Independent Civil service ought to be restored with neutrality at its heart serving the nation. The President cannot hire or fire any civil servant; nor does he have a say in the Army or Police.
THE ARMY AND POLICE: Major changes must take place in the area of national security. The army has no right to arrest or interrogate anyone. That remit falls under police powers, and no officer was to leave barracks with uniform. Their job is national defence, peacekeeping duties, and helping with natural disasters around the country. Go read the constitution learn the limits to the job! The President should also remind the ‘rank’ that internal security shall be run by the police as of now – and for the State Intelligence Services to closely ‘share data & intelligence’ with its Senegalese counterpart. Meanwhile, ‘’Cassamance rebels’’ fused into all levels of the security sector must be investigated and weeded out to be handed to the Senegalese army.
An adhoc UN panel of investigators should be instituted over historic crimes committed by Yaya Jammeh and his cronies – to be chaired by Honorable Hassan Jallow. The minister of interior should hold a press conference calling all victims of the past twenty-two years especially rape victims to come forward seek redress, and that government will be committed to compensate – from the proceeds and stolen wealth by Yahya Jammeh and such thieves. The Interior ministry ought to further liaise with that of ‘Economic Affairs’ in tackling counterfeiting which continues to harm the country’s chances, looking at ways to replace the ‘dalasi’ with new banknotes made of polymer technology.
FOREIGN POLICY: In terms of Foreign Policy, the Gambia must revamp its external agenda in an ethical diplomatic fashion based on national interest. The Gambia will be friendly to all nations, with Senegal our closest ally. A relationship of EQUALS based on respect and mutual interest. President Barrow should further observe that no Gambian has claimed asylum, nor sojourn the back way route to Europe since his inauguration – to the delight of our European partners. The Gambia shall further build on relationships in Africa, further improving on multilateral ties with the EU & the United Nations Systems respectively.
The country should look to open Embassies in Germany and Denmark to service Scandinavian countries, reciprocating diplomatic missions with Canada and New Zealand. The diplomatic post in Belgium could perhaps be exchanged for Netherlands where vast national interest lay, with the Brussels mission refocused on EU affairs and the Eastern European Countries – as tourism hotspots @Destination Gambia in the coming years. The progress continues in establishing credible governance flying the Gambian flag around the world representing the very best in us. That vision shall be warmly received in Dakar – as members of the diplomatic corps assigned to Banjul endorse a new dawn in Gambia’s relationship with the world.
OIL AND GAS: Although the price of crude oil has dropped significantly, drilling shall begin in earnest once the contracts are signed. The government must open a special account at the central Bank of the Gambia for oil, gas, and such precious minerals revenues to be deposited. Further, the scrutiny committee in Parliament must have easy access to quarterly expenditure receipts so as to account for every ‘butut’ saved and spent. The oil ministry should explore a joint-partnership with Qatar or anyone in building a refinery plant upstream, easing supply worries for countries within the sub-region and container vessels plying the Gambia route. These are job creation measures the Gambia can afford boosting GDP numbers too.
AGRICULTURE: The President should assure the country that plans are in place for the Gambia to be food self-sufficient in the shortest possible time. Working with the UNDP and other development partners, land reform bill ought to be put through parliament in order to safeguard and secure further land for agricultural expansion. The country must intensify rice production, and a growing manufacturing sector for an exporter nation in the long run. As vision by the great Thomas Sankara, Import industrial substitution is the solution to Gambia’s woes in terms of jobs & food self-sufficiency. The government should look internally – that’s where the solutions lay. And perhaps, approaching the Dangote Group of companies, a cement and burnt brick factories respectively should be commissioned without delay as a curb on sand mining which must stop if the country is serious about its tourism sector. Such measures shall help quadruple GDP whilst boosting employment numbers along the way.
INFRASTRUCTURE: As expected, foreign direct investment and infrastructural development shall soon accelerate. The government should take bold steps in relocating the ‘Gambia Ports authority’ from Banjul across the river to Barra or Kartong. The Barrow government should cast an eye further into China for investments and partnership. The city of DANDONG, north-East China, is a world leader in sea-freight to be aligned with Barra or Kartong for transformation into a Port-Hub as a leading sea-port freight serving Africa and worldwide. The Gambia ought to look into building ultra-modern highways interlinking the whole country with ease. The country should be ambitious with 8-lane highways linking Gambia and Senegal, further connecting to the Dakar-Abidjan highway – into West Africa. This makes economic sense for Gambian architects to start liaising with engineers for such projects, especially the long overdue Banjul-Barra Bridge connecting the capital to the North. Analysing such a state of affairs gives one confidence to predict the creation of ten thousand new jobs within the main port facility and sub-sectors to be developed in time.
Banjul and Dakar should evaluate and approach the African Development Bank and World Bank to fund a Train line linking Gambia and Senegal right into Bamako, MALI. Meanwhile, the ministry of infrastructure development should also seek Chinese investment to construct a solar assembly plant in the country. The government should prioritize energy, with legislation projecting that as of 2018, all street-lights, traffic-lights, and real-estate developments to be fitted with solar-power reducing stress on the national supplier, NAWEC, and bills.
The new government has to be ambitious – one rather build a single standardised project than several half-baked ones. As such the country should announce plans to construct a brand new capital somewhere plus two new environmentally-friendly cities across the country subject to parliamentary approval, of course. Because of poor urban planning, the country’s largest city, ‘Serrekunda’, should be rebuilt with desirable homes of flowing rivers and recreational parks. Home owners in Banjul shall be compensated or provided with new housing, with Banjul transformed into an international paradise island. This shall see reputable hotel brands queuing up, with a financial sector to match. All the banks in the country will be headquartered in the new financial district, as investors identify the country as a base spreading into the lucrative West-Africa market. The ministry of Informational and Technology should further reach out to GOOGLE and APPLE to build a TECHNOLOGY HUB; with YAHOO and all other tech companies consulted too. The hub shall attract young entrepreneurs and graduates from across West-Africa as a Mini-Silicon Valley to harness and harvest talent. Learning lessons from the ill-fated Jammeh years – the president should refocus his government onto soft-power diplomacy encouraging businesses to come and invest in destination Gambia with an educated-ready workforce to inherit. Analysing that – the country stands to register an unprecedented double digits GDP growth rates in the coming years as employment numbers accelerate and with it, prosperity.
Mr Gibril Saine