Statement by His Excellency President Adama Barrow
At the International Conference on The Gambia
Held in Brussels
22nd May, 2018
Your Excellency, the President of the European Commission
High Representative and Vice-President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini
Representatives of European Union Member States
African Development Bank Representatives
Islamic Development Bank Representatives
World Bank Representative
Members of the Private Sector and Civil Society Organizations
All other Protocols Observed
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
From the onset, let me express my gratitude to the President of the European Commission and the Heads of State and Government of the European Union member states for graciously hosting this Conference. It is evident that they have dedicated time and effort to put together this critically important event. We have also noted with appreciation that a number of other partners assisted in organizing this Conference. They include the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the United Nations and other key development partners of The Gambia. All these efforts reflect the strong support for The Gambia’s development and its transition from an autocracy to a democracy.
Furthermore, it demonstrates the country’s movement away from isolation to acceptance as a member of the global family of nations.
It is with profound delight and optimism, therefore, that I preside over this International Conference on The Gambia. This occasion is meant to discuss the development priorities of my government, as outlined in the first National Development Plan of the New Gambia and to mobilize resources for its effective implementation.
You will recall that on 2nd December 2016, after twenty-two (22) years of dictatorship, Gambians decided to take back their country with great courage, determination and dignity. Prior to this, the abuse of power, disregard for our Constitution and the rule of law, as well as disrespect for the fundamental human rights of the Gambian citizenry, were quite common.
The historic decision that ushered in the “New Gambia” opened a new chapter in our history, and offers us a renewed opportunity to build a modern accountable state based on the foundation of democracy, good governance, respect for human rights, security and prosperity for all. However, it also presents new challenges that need to be addressed urgently.
My Government inherited an extremely challenging legacy, characterized by a broken economy, gross abuse of financial procedures, plunder of our meagre state resources and social regression, worsened by poor and dilapidated infrastructure.
Among the wide-ranging societal challenges are the frustrations and lack of opportunities for our young people. These challenges have forced thousands of them to undertake risky journeys, often with tragic consequences, across the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better future. Similarly, many of our able and eminent sons and daughters in the Diaspora were compelled to live in exile due to the repressive environment that prevailed, thus depriving the country of the vital human capital and resources needed to fuel economic growth and the social transformation of our society.
Since coming to power last year, my government has undertaken many bold measures to stabilize the economy, restore public confidence and strengthen democratic institutions. The first urgent actions included revising the 2017 budget, cutting social spending and engaging our partners to secure their support.
These initiatives helped to stabilize the economic situation, leading to reductions in domestic borrowing and interest rates, alongside strengthening our external reserves. To further contain Government expenditure, a nationwide staff verification and audit exercise was undertaken to eliminate ghost workers.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
In addition to developing an energy sector roadmap for implementation, we had to take urgent steps, using emergency measures sometimes, to address the energy crisis in the country.
On the issue of governance, I am proud to state that the Government has repealed some of the draconian laws of the past regime, reformed the electoral laws and established a commission of inquiry into the economic activities of the past regime. The judiciary has registered significant progress, and the majority of the Judges are now Gambians. However, we are aware that more needs to be done, and urgently too. This is why I declared that a new National Development Plan be developed to provide greater clarity and focus for Government action, and to serve as the overarching framework for our engagement with the citizenry and our development partners, especially those who have been firmly behind us since we came to power.
The National Development Plan (NDP), through its eight strategic priorities and their critical enablers, will not only lay the foundations for a modern democratic state, but also serve to address the pressing economic and social challenges confronting our society. This three-year Plan (2018-2021) has been translated into flagship projects, which form the basis of this International Conference. These projects were developed through a very participatory approach, involving different stakeholders.
Through its robust accountability framework, the NDP responds to my concern to ensure a strong focus on results, sound monitoring and evaluation processes, as well as strengthened engagement between Government and all citizens, including those in the Diaspora.
In order to realize the vision and goal of the NDP, we will work hard to create a secure and stable environment, marked by strong social cohesion, safety and peace. Linked to this, with the assistance of the UN, EU, ECOWAS and other partners, my government has also embarked on a robust reform process of the security sector, which is aimed at bringing the security services under full civilian democratic control. This is to ensure that the structures and human resource are appropriate for our national security needs, and that the men and women in our armed and uniformed services play a meaningful and positive role in national development.
At present, the total cost of the flagships stand at US$2.4 billion, with a financing gap of US$1.6 billion. It is this financing gap that I am presenting to you for funding.
Given the economic challenges we have inherited, and the numerous development issues to address, the effective implementation of the National Development Plan requires significant donor support. As a result, I call on all of you, and implore you fervently, to pledge generously in order to cover the financing gap.
To conclude, I thank the President of the European Commission, Heads of State and Government of the EU member states, the distinguished Ministers and all the senior EU officials present.
I deeply appreciate too the warm welcome accorded to me and my delegation, together with all the efforts that have gone into the successful organization of this conference. In the same vein, we thank all our development partners for their attendance in this meeting and for their invaluable support.
Thank you all for your kind attention.