In support of the Vice President’s policy perspectives
Dr. Sidi Sanyang
Kombo South, WCR
The recent policy pronouncement in terms of tone and orientation by the newly appointed Vice President (VP) of The Gambia, Mr. / Dr. Badara Joof is indeed encouraging and has been on the minds of many Gambians for years but more so, in the last 5 years.
I am particularly encouraged when the VP appeared to recognize that the reforms he led as former Minister of Education did not go far enough, because that reform largely focused on structural changes – reorganizing the University of The Gambia (UTG) and / or creating an additional one on technical skills – but less effort on improving the QUALITY of Education – which is the critical missing link in our education system – from basic to tertiary across disciplines. This recognition within the context of ‘Performance Metrics and Evaluation’ to me, is one characteristic of a quality leadership we can be hopeful of, in the next 5 years, provided the VP is empowered by The President and supported to work for public good.
On that note, building on some of the pragmatic key performance indicators that the VP cited to measure the performace of each Ministry and its operational units, I urge the VP and relevant Ministry to objectively operationalize a Performance Monitoring System based on data i.e. quantitative and qualitative data and information. This implies putting in place, tools and systems that will: observe, collect data and information, organize that data, analyze and report, and widely disseminate for the public to gauge the performance of Government in quality service delivery, in a timely and consistent manner.
Specifically, and again, building on the pragmatic examples of the VP, the focus on measuring the ‘Performance’ of the Ministers and other key players in the policy, research, and development space should be on OUTPUTS achieved and not the completion of an ACTIVITY. When one focuses on OUTPUTS, it is highly probable that this will be achieved and if not, the LESSONS LEARNT – which can be challenges and / or opportunities that have not been taken into consideration during implementation, can be better understood and internalized for future action. Unlike ACTIVITY, one can carry out an ACTIVITY and not achieve the expected OUTPUT(s) and yet, that entity could believe that it has done its job and it is others that have not done their part – the usual blame game.
In this regard, I attempt to give some common / simple examples of OUTPUTS that I believe can be understood by the readers of this opinion piece, to additionally help them think through what to look for when some of the ‘Performance achievements’ are being reported at Cabinet Retreats, among others. There are also OUTCOMES and IMPACTS, but these are not the focus at this stage of the process, but should be addressed few years down the end line.
(i) Curbing inflation and enhancing purchasing power of individuals and households. This is a fundamental development objective of nations and cannot take a back seat in favour of other development targets. And, one does not have to be an economist to understand that inflation is not “fought” through salary increases and pumping more money into the system. Fiscal innovations that significantly reduce or maintain inflation in single digit should be the INPUT and when that single digit inflation is achieved in very low percentage points – that is the OUTPUT!
(ii) National tree planting. The number of trees planted is not an OUTPUT but an INPUT in this context. The OUTPUT will be the number and / or percentage of trees that have survived over a targeted area and timeframe which may be determined by the responsible Ministry and its stakeholders.
(iii) Increasing yield and productivity. Incremental crop yield in terms of Kg/ha for example is a good OUTPUT. However, it is common to find production increase as OUTPUT because that can be easily achieved through area expansion without necessarily increasing yield per unit.
(iv) No. of patients admitted at hospitals and health centers. This is an INPUT and the OUTPUT here is the number of patients that have been successfully treated and / or the reduced number of deaths in hospitals and health centers.
(v) Improving safety of lives and property. Number of arrests and prosecution by the Police and the Ministry of Justice respectively is an INPUT. The OUTPUT here is the successful prosecution and / or conviction of persons that committed crimes.
(vi) Enhancing the quality of tourism. This has been adequately mentioned by The VP and will not be repeated. One of the key additional OUTPUTS should be the improved quality of beaches from the effects of semi-industrial fisheries and sand mining activities. Thus, promoting for example, artisan fisheries in favour of women which attract tourists and can be part of the eco-tourism, referred to by the VP.
(vii) Upkeep of State property and maintenance. To me, this is the most forgotten duty of the State. The focus has been on constructing new roads and buildings and not maintenance and upkeep. Take for example, the most obvious national icon and image of a country – the National Television (GRTS). GRTS is the worst TV station in the sub-region in terms of visual image and national pride. It is disheartening when one walks/drives by GRTS seeing the dilapidated state of what’s meant to be a national treasure, so one of the key OUTPUTS here should be enhanced physical / visual image of the national broadcaster site and other key buildings. Also, parts of the coastal and the Sukuta/Jabang/Jambanjelly roads for example are becoming dumping sites. If this continues to be widespread in the urban areas, the Smiling Coast’s pride will be dampened by a dirty country and we will not be respected. However, thanks to the Central Bank, they continue to demonstrate responsibility in this regard.
(viii) Good neighbourliness and foreign relations
Building on the VPs policy pronouncement in this area, I believe that our Foreign Policy should stand on three (3) fundamental pillars: (i) good neighbourliness with immediate neighbours, the wider sub-region, and the AU that promote people-to-people relationships and businesses, to ease the movement of goods and services for public good; (ii) historical relationships e.g. Commonwealth; and (iii) strategic opportunities eg. EU, China, Turkey, etc… However, because of the huge cost involved, physical representation in foreign countries should be rationalized and consolidated to give priority to improving livelihoods and reducing poverty in-country.
To conclude, if we continue to do the same thing, we should not expect a different result. Therefore, systematic structural and institutional reforms should be the hallmark of meeting our development objectives which will include fore-sighting but also, looking back at what worked well in the past regimes and organizing that in new ways to enhance the quality of life for households and society in general.