Gambia to commence rail system in 2013:- Discloses President Jammeh, as he opens parliament
Monday, April 23, 2012
In its bid to improve the country’s transport infrastructure system, the government of The Gambia will by the grace of the Almighty Allah commence the construction work of Phase One of the first ever rail system latest January 2013, the president of the Republic disclosed to the National Assembly Friday.
His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh was speaking to a full-to-capacity Legislative Chamber at the National Assembly in Banjul, while delivering his 2012 State Opening of the National Assembly address, listened to by legislators, development partners, members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps, invited parliamentary heads in the sub-region such as the speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the deputy speaker of the Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, and Gambians at large.
President Jammeh’s 46-page address touched on all sectors of the country’s socio-economic development endeavours, outlining his government’s policies, achievements, development programmes and the legislations to be tabled before parliamentarians in 2012. In his address, the Gambian leader expressed his government’s commitment to pursue the implementation of the rail system in 2013 as promised to Gambians.
His words: “I have made a promise and pledge to the Gambian people that we would have not a high speed rail but the 21st Century type of rail. So for that being the case, each time I talk to people, possible donors, they would look at me and say what did you say? You little country is aiming for what the giants want – it’s practically not possible. But there is no harm in aiming for the best, after all small is beautiful and good things come from small things. So that being the case, I want to inform this gathering that before the end of next [month] there will be a comprehensive feasibility study consultancy agreement with a renowned United States company that is well known worldwide in building high class rail. So before the end of the year, the feasibilities studies would have been completed and by the grace of the Almighty Allah, construction work for the Phase One of the rail system would commence latest January 2013.”
Shifting his comment to the agriculture sector, the Gambian leader informed the lawmakers that the main thrust of his government in this all important sector is the attainment of not only food self-sufficiency, but becoming a major player in the “Agriculture Exports Market”. This sector, he posited is one that has the greatest potential to provide employment for hundreds of thousands of people across all walks of life in this country and to eradicate poverty.
“In this endeavour to achieve the above stated objectives, my government through the Ministry of Agriculture and in collaboration with the Taiwanese Agricultural Mission, is putting under rice cultivation about 400, 000 hectares over a period of five years that has started since the year 2009. The objective is that even with an output/yield of one tone of rice per hectare, once the entire 400, 000 hectares are put under rice cultivation, we will have produced more than what we consume and can go into the export market,” the Gambian leader disclosed.
He also disclosed that given the current experiences, his government will explore irrigational agriculture to ensure production is not affected even without rain. However, he decried the negative attitude of the youths towards the agric sector; something he said has led to the sector being dominated by women. He then stressed the need for all out involvement in this sector to ensure food security.
Health and Social Welfare
The president asserted that his government is committed to the attainment of the ‘Health Policy’ goals and objectives, while indicating that there have been tremendous improvements on physical access to health care due to the rapid expansion of health services to the communities.
“The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is also implementing two important projects, namely; the Health Facilities Expansion Project (HEEP) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) support to the Malaria Prevention and Control Project, which are jointly funded by the government of The Gambia and the IDB,” he stated.
In the area of child protection, the Gambian leader said the Department of Social Welfare continues to enhance the protective environment for children in difficult circumstances through the setting up of 29 community child protection committees in some regions of the country.
President Jammeh also dilated on the strides made in the education sector over the years. He said that in order to increase access to education in an equitable manner, apart from the continuation of the construction of classrooms to cater for the underserved communities, gender equity and special needs education initiatives will be introduced.
“During this legislative year, the task of improving the
quality of teaching and learning will focus on new initiatives that have been
tested and found to be effective in improving children’s learning achievements,
as evidenced by the annual national assessment tests and the bi-annual early
grade reading assessments.
These initiatives include, but are not limited to, early grade literacy programme in English and the use of national languages to enhance the reading abilities of early graders, the provision of adequate trained teachers together with core instructional materials sufficient for all children in lower and upper basic schools at no cost to the households,” he indicated.
In this area, the president said to mark the declaration of
2012 as Year of Science, Technology and Innovation, activities to be organised
will include the promotion of and sensitisation on science, technology and
innovation at institutional and community levels, with private sector
“Young people, particularly boys and girls, will be encouraged to pursue careers pertinent to science, technology and innovation to enable them contribute effectively to national development,” he stated.
While disclosing that the foundation stone for the construction of a multi-million dollar ultra-modern technical and vocational education and training centre at Ndemban village in the West Coast Region was officially laid, the Gambian leader also recalled that the University of The Gambia Faraba Banta Campus Project Phase One was launched in February, 2012.
Tourism and Culture
President Jammeh noted that given the significance of tourism to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), his government continues to boost the sector. He reported that the 2011/2012 winter season registered an unprecedented success, with all the major hotels receiving full bookings, something he attributed to aggressive marketing.
The transformation of the Gambia Hotel School into a Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute, according to the president is well on course, with the first phase of the construction of the project almost complete. He also disclosed that plans are underway to construct a multi-purpose National Theatre Complex for the effective promotion and development of the visual and performing arts heritage of the Gambia.
“Efforts will be made in the near future to nominate the “Kumpo” masquerade and the “Kora” as masterpieces of the Oral and intangible heritage of humanity,” he further informed the gathering.
Finance and Economic Affairs
The president informed the Legislature that over the past five years (2006-2011), The Gambia recorded a moderate and stable growth rate of 5 to 6 percent of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), for which agriculture remains the strongest driver, growing at an average rate of 7-9 percent per year.
However, he said: “Due to crop failure during the 2011-2012 crop seasons, the growth rate fell. Tourism and residential construction (financed by remittances) were also hit hard by the global crisis, but the strong rebound in Tourism that began late 2011 helped to moderate the decline in overall GDP.”
On this sector, the Gambian leader underscored that in the face of recent global economic challenges, measures are being instituted to reduce entry barriers and operating costs for businesses and to enhance access to finance and attract private investment flows, while improving business performance, especially for firms in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
Works, Construction and Infrastructure
While underscoring that infrastructure continues to be a priority area in view of the fact that there cannot be any meaningful socio-economic development without it, the Gambian leader noted that government has made significant investments in the rehabilitation of major trunk roads and the building of the new ones through the assistance of the European Union.
“We are making sustained effort towards the construction of
Laminkoto-Passamas Road,” he added: “Significant improvements have been
registered on both the design and civil works of the Basse-Sabi-Velingara road,
for which has already begun. Funding has been secured for the construction of
the Brikama-Dassilami-Dimbaya Road.”
President Jammeh also informed the Legislature that feeder roads linking villages to agricultural and social centres are key development concerns. In this regard, he disclosed that resources are being committed under the 10th EDF [European Development Fund] to rehabilitate a total of 240km of feeder roads in earmarked locations.
Much to the delight of new legislators, the president informed them that construction work at the new National Assembly Complex is “progressing well”, promising that he will address the 2013 state opening of parliament in that edifice.
“When completed, this three-storey edifice will be a magnificent and state-of-the-art structure comprising the main assembly hall, a visitor’s gallery, an auditorium and a service sub-section. We are glad to announce that the required additional funds are made available for the remaining part of the work,” he concluded.
For more on the presidential address, follow our subsequent editions.
Author: Hatab Fadera