Fellow Gambians and Friends of The Gambia,
Witnessing a New Year is a blessing, for which we should be grateful. I thank God, therefore, for the blessings of the year, which include the huge decline of COVID-19 cases globally.
Focussing more on economic recovery than the pandemic, my government began 2022 with renewed vigour and commitment to advancing our dear nation’s development agenda.
Twelve months on, we are comfortably set to implement a soundfive-year Recovery Focussed National Development Plan (2023-2027) and a longer-term Vision 2050 through a robustgovernance structure.
To recollect, after my inauguration in January for another five-year term, 2022-2027, and the National Assembly Elections that followed in April, I formed a Cabinet with new profiles to leadthe march towards building on the gains of our transition periodand to break new grounds. The creation of two additional Ministerial portfolios demonstrates our resolve and manifestsour determination to move swiftly but professionally.
Supported by the Access to Information Act, my government’s commitment to democracy and our respect for freedom of expression led to the retention of a separate Ministry forInformation.
It is obvious that we cannot develop in the absence of a capable human resource stock. As such, the Government highlyprioritises education, skills development and job creation toboost our human resource capabilities.
Incidentally, the Faraba Banta University Campus is ready for operation in 2023. Graduates from our various institutions will feed into the National Employment Policy goal of creating one hundred and fifty thousand (150,000) jobs within the next five years.
My government takes education, health and agriculture with utmost seriousness. That thirty percent (30%) of the 2023 national budget is allocated to these sectors serves as evidence. Additionally, there is a sharp Government focus on economic recovery, agricultural production, construction, and tourism to reduce global pressures on our economy.
As a tax-based economy, we must create jobs and pay taxeswillingly. Aided by new technology, we have improved tax collection and are determined to build on this success.
Fellow Gambians and Friends of The Gambia,
Lessons learned from the COVID-19 and AKI outbreaks have put us in a stronger position to strengthen our health systemfurther. Meanwhile, the Task Force I set up is investigating the cause of the AKI outbreak and will submit its report in the New Year. We will review the report together with the recommendations from the National Assembly to inform Government’s decision on the matter.
The outbreak was indeed tragic. We sympathise with all the families and persons affected and mourn the loss of those precious Gambian children. I assure the nation that the Government will do all it takes to discover what led to the tragedy and how to prevent its recurrence.
The initiative we took to improve the health infrastructure isadvancing smoothly. Besides the wide-spread construction works in progress, we plan to transform the Basse and Brikama health facilities into regional hospitals. Construction will begin in 2023.
Inaugurated earlier this year, the ultra-modern Medical Disposal and Treatment Centre at Farato is another gigantic developmentof the year. Alongside these initiatives, we will steadfastly build the capacity of the health personnel and improve their work conditions.
Fellow Gambians and Friends of The Gambia,
High inflation continues to threaten our survival and growth. Itnegatively impacts on living costs globally and influences prices locally.
Furthermore, the current high dependence on imported rice is neither productive nor sustainable. As a result, supporting farmers is another key Government priority.
Despite the difficulty of providing essential farming inputs, such as fertilizer, during the year, we made a subsidy of millions of Dalasis to avail farmers affordable quality fertilizer.
To begin the trade season on a high note, my administrationincreased the price of groundnuts by 14% to D32,000 per tonnefrom D28,000.
Our farmers also received improved seed varieties for higher yields. We listened to them during the recent Meet The People Tour and will continue to address their plight.
The global price increase of rice is an alert for Gambians to take up rice cultivation more seriously. Importing over 70% of the rice we eat is unsustainable.
Formally, Gambian farmers cultivated most of the rice consumed in the country. With modern technology, we can dofar better. We have the land and the human resource; thus, with private sector investments, we can transform farming intoprofitable business ventures.
Against the threats of climate change, we have taken adaptive measures for resilience purposes. The floods in the Greater Banjul Area remind us to urgently manage our environment,settlements and waterways. I urge everyone to respect the building and land laws to reduce the risks posed by climate change.
The programme budget allocation to the Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure indicates my government’s preparedness to provide the needed infrastructure to ease movement and boost the economy.
In this short speech, I cannot mention all areas requiring attention, but be assured that we are taking a holistic development approach, with better coordination arrangements, to realise our national targets.
In this light, we recently initiated an appraisal system for State-Owned Enterprises, which will eventually include all MDAs. I call on all those in public service to do their best for the nation.
Affordable electricity supply for all is top on my government’s agenda. The plan to decentralise and expand access in all areas, rural and urban, and in new settlements is on course.
Our Security Sector Reform programme has progressed in building the capacity of our security forces. The Armed Forces are being re-oriented and motivated to enhance their role and responsibilities to assure maximum security in the country.
For their part, all citizens should take responsibility to controlcrime. While crimes reported to the police dropped in 2022, with public cooperation, burglary, domestic violence and other crimes could be reduced further.
Along similar lines, those in border communities that experience sporadic armed conflicts should collaborate with the Security Services to secure the country. Our territorial integrity must never be compromised.
It is regrettable that a handful of soldiers recently planned to overthrow the democratically elected government of the day. The devastating consequences of illegally overthrowing a constitutionally elected government can never justify the meansemployed, nor the ill-advised purposes for such deadly crimes. Gambians have lived through a military regime, and they know how military takeovers have destabilised, disunited and isolated countries within the sub-region that struggle to live with them.
The Gambia is a multiparty democracy, and citizens can legally contest for public office if they wish. To do otherwise amountsto treason and carries severe penalties.
I thank and commend the Intelligence Service and the GAF High Command for boldly and promptly taking action to foil the plot. They have demonstrated that, if we are united and vigilantas patriotic citizens, we will safely defend our country and continue our development programmes. These are times for national reconciliation and consolidation of our democratic institutions, and not time to revert to lawlessness, subversion, and unconstitutional tendencies.
Because there are effective measures to ensure that justice prevails, all unlawful acts, mob justice inclusive, will not be tolerated. Wherever we may be, we must take charge to make our environment safe and maintain peace, law and order.
At the international level, The Gambia is in the limelight again. Our partners appreciate the Government’s efforts to promote and protect our democracy.
To cite examples, we now head the ECOWAS Commission, and both the World Bank and the IMF approve of our fiscal discipline.
The recent announcement at the US-Africa Summit by President Joseph Biden according The Gambia the Compact Millennium Development Challenge grant is quite significant.
Our ranking in the World Press Freedom index for respecting freedom of expression and enacting the Access to Information Act continue to challenge us to strive harder.
In like manner, we will continue to strengthen our foreign relations through diplomacy and people-to-people relations, thus encouraging investments.
Our achievements in 2022 resulted partly from teamwork and collaboration from the Legislature, the Judiciary, the public institutions, the media, Civil Society Organisations and the public. To a large extent as well, our partners played their roles very well. I thank all of them and urge that we cooperate and work harder to bring about the change we desire without violence or conflict.
In the same way, I appeal to all Gambians in the Diaspora to continue contributing to the advancement of their motherland. Iencourage them to invest in growing the economy and safeguarding our democracy peacefully. Remittances contribute to economic growth, so let no one relent.
I thank our religious and community leaders for standing by the teachings of our religions to guide the people. The African Ulama and Ministers of Religious Affairs conference we hosted signifies international recognition of our beloved nation. Please keep up the good work.
I cannot fail to reiterate to all political leaders and supporters that our love for the country should never be questioned, regardless of our diverse opinions. We have a nation to build,and doing so requires unity, commitment, determination, and professionalism.
We have to strive in unity to maintain The Gambia as the Smiling Coast of Africa. As we enter 2023, we are better prepared to move The Gambia to higher heights. Let us do so together.
I wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous 2023.
Long live The Republic of The Gambia!