I want to kindly use your medium to say that private sector contribution to the development of any nation is no longer news. Every country including The Gambia is aware of this broad yet acceptable fact. Even in a market-based economy, private firms contribute in many ways to poverty reduction and employment creation: It must be said that at a broader level of poverty reduction, private enterprises have been vital in supporting overall technological advance. This has been tipped to be the long-term driver of economic growth. Technological learning for production occurs at the level of enterprises, both public and private. This has become more important to our government as it tries to make The Gambia reach middle-income status. However, there is the need for us to develop our own technological base in order to compete internationally. I must admit that the private sector in The Gambia is undergoing a lot of positive transformation. This is good but there is a need for partnership especially between the public and the private sector. These two sectors can combine their respective strengths for the development of our nation. The private sector can leverage its advantages of greater efficiency, lower costs of distribution, and more complex delivery systems to reach new markets. The public sector, on the other hand, can ensure access by providing financial support to subsidise impoverished households, thereby enabling private firms to enter the market with guaranteed consumers. Public-private partnerships can also take advantage of creative mechanisms to provide poor people with access to technologies that would otherwise be priced out of their reach. Furthermore, it is also compelling to mention the importance of small and medium size enterprises. In some important development success stories, small and medium enterprises developed much of the local technology that laid the foundation for rapid growth. This is why they need to be supported and encouraged. We have a long way to go as nation in terms of development and any national strategy to achieve the post-2015 sustainable development goals needs to include a clear framework for private sector growth. Many of the public investment strategies being developed must assume relevance for an efficient and dynamic private sector. Let us all now steel ourselves to the fact that the private sector will hold a big say in the development of our nation.
The opposition needs to prevent another political debacle
Let me share through your medium, The Standard, that news coming out from within the opposition for a united front for electoral reform is not entirely pleasant. It left me dismayed when I read on your Tuesday edition that ongoing closed-door talks for the signing of a document that entails an electoral reform proposal by the so-called Group of Six comprising six opposition political parties had suffered a paralysis. According to your report, the PDOIS party had refused to reach agreement after taking issue with the leaders of the Peoples’ Progressive Party and the United Democratic Party who had purportedly had a separate arrangement with an abroad-based Gambian civil society group, Committee for Restoration of Democracy in The Gambia. As a neutral observer of the events, it will be premature or even wrong for me to blame any party for the stalling of talks. However, it will not be misplaced to say that Gambian opposition has had a track record of failing during such talks. The 2006 election for example, was a disaster for the opposition, in more ways than one. It would be recalled that they had planned to form a coalition in the run up to that election but thanks to political manipulation by some of the leaders and widespread disunity, all effort proved futile. The Gambian opposition is clueless, helpless and hopeless in the face of growing of the ruling party dominance. In many ways, the proposal for electoral reform which is contained in their latest document is wise. Most of them argue that the importance of credible elections cannot be overstated and that is why they had to push for reform. But what is even more deserving of mention is that our opposition must strive to prevent another political failure. They have to learn how to strike a compromise and listen to each other. They have to let go of their egos and individual interests. There is also a need for them to put aside politically irrelevant party ideologies. As 2016 election approaches, the importance of their participation as a united front or otherwise cannot be overemphasised. If they are genuinely interested in electoral reform, failure for them to unite in that vein could be politically disastrous. They may be tight-lipped about what efforts are being made, what is important is for them to prove a positive influence in the maturing of our democracy. The Gambia belongs to them just like it belongs to every other person.