By Ramatoulie Jawo
Lawmakers on Tuesday ratified a $34 million loan agreement between the Gambia Government, the Islamic Development Bank and Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA).
From the two creditors, the Islamic development Bank will provide $14 million, while BADEA would provide $20 million of the total loan amount, for the widening of the Bertil Harding Highway.
Moving the motion for legislative consideration and approval, the Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Mambury Njie told the members that the widening of the flagship highway will be significant and would complete other government infrastructural initiatives vis-a-vis.
He added that the widening of the highway would reduce travel time as one the direct benefits to the road users and the community.
“Indeed, the average travel time will be reduced by 46% from 48 minutes in 2021, to 26 minutes, after the project completion by the end of 2023,” he said.
The Finance Minister stated further benefits of the road project: “Implementation of the road quality which leads to saving in road maintenance the international roughness index (IRI) of the roads will improved from 10m/km to 7m/km, in 2028 the reduction of vehicles operating cost mainly for the trucks, by about 35% from USD 2 per truck per KM in 2021, to USD1.3per per truck per truck per km.”
He informed the House that the loan came through a multi-stakeholder engagement and the process involved stakeholders from the office of the President, Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure, the National Roads Authority, the Kanifing Municipal Council, NAWEC and Gamtel.
Hon. Abdoulie Ceesay, National Assembly Member (NAM) for Old Yundum supported the proposal for the ratification of the loan agreement.
He argued that ratifying the loan agreement is in the interest of the nation, and would not ‘derogate the sovereignty of the nation’ because it is about the construction of roads that would help Gambians.
Hon. Sedia Jatta, NAM for Wulli West said, it is high time for The Gambia to do things by itself and stop depending on loads and grants.
“As a country what are we up to? Because since we have our own independence, up to date, we cannot move for ourselves without taking loans or grants, and we can’t continue like this. If you look at our economy, since independence up to date, we are not improving in anything and it’s high time for us to be doing our things by ourselves and stop taking loans and grants because it will not help us as a nation,” he added.
Hon. Salifu Jawo, member for Jukadou wanted the Finance Minister to assure members that when the motion is ratified, the government would make sure that they put up ‘a strong committee that would be monitoring the project because the money that should be put in place is too much for it to be played anyhow’.