Suffice to say that government has identified flagship and priority projects for implementing the plan. The total cost of these flagships and priority projects, after accounting for committed resources is $US1.6 billion, of which $US 157 (9 per cent) is expected to be government contribution, $US 1.0 billion (62 per cent) from ODA and $US 471 (29 per cent) from private sector investments – see Table 4.2. Fuller details are provided in the Financing Strategy of the National Development Plan.
I will not delve any further than this into the financing strategies as they are still being considered for assistance by overseas donors. The mode of my critique will be left hanging on two perspectives. One, is gauging the realism or otherwise of the plan by looking at some of the expected outcomes. Two, is delving into the choice of some of the so-called strategic priorities.
A look at some of the key expected outcomes
First let us have a look at the expected key results in agriculture:
“An agricultural policy and sub-sectors with costed strategic plans increased from 20% to 100%.”
My Comments: I am not sure I understand what these strategies and percentages denote here.
“An Animal Health Act” and “A Phytosanitary Act”.
My Comments: What about an act on the land tenure that will make it possible for traditional agricultural lands to be used as collateral for loans to the agric sector? What about a seeds policy that will determine the type of groundnuts farmer will produce, FAQ for food oil or HPS for the confectionery industry?
For agro-processed products by type (000′ Mt):
Increase Fruits production from 127(000′ Mt) to 162(000′ Mt) My Comments: Unrealistic and overoptimistic
Increase vegetable production from 34,000 Mt to 50,000Mt My Comments: Unrealistic and overoptimistic
Increase Dairy production from 0.811 000 Mt to 30,000 Mt My Comments: Unrealistic and overoptimistic
Increase Honey production from 5,000 Mt to 6,500 Mt My Comments: Unrealistic and overoptimistic
Increase Maize production from 38 000 Mt to 43,000 Mt My Comments: Possible
Increase Groundnut production from 89 000 Mt to 100,000 Mt My Comments: Unrealistic and overoptimistic
Increase Rice production from 69 000 Mt to 122,000 Mt My Comments: Unrealistic and overoptimistic Increase Onion production from 6 000 Mt to 19,000 Mt
My Comments: Unrealistic and overoptimistic.
Increase off-take rate by animal species as follows:
Cattle from 11.9 to 15.9
Sheep from 22.3 to 29.8
Goat from 25.1 to 33.5
Pigs from 50 to 66.8
Poultry (Local from 40 to 53.4.
My Comments: Where are the baseline figures 11.9; 22.3; 25; 50; 40 taken from?
Increase Quantity of eggs produced per/annum from 675 to 1,148 (000’Mt)
My Comments: Fantastic!
Key Expected Results for Macroeconomic Stabilization and Economic Management
1.) Reduce Overall Deficit as % of GDP from 9.8 to 3.0%
My Comments: Fantastic!
2.) Increase Tax revenue by source as % of GDP from 18.05 % (Tax) to 23.6%.
My Comments: Possible
With respect to the Country’s debt burden, the key results for the plan period are:
3.)?Reduce Net Domestic Borrowing as % of GDP from 11.4% to 1%
My Comments: Unrealistic and overoptimistic
?Reduce Total public debt stock as % of GDP from 120.3% to 87.1%
My Comments: Unrealistic and overoptimistic
?Reduce Domestic debt stock as % of GDP from 67.9% to 45.1%
My Comments: Unrealistic and overoptimistic
3.) Reduce Procurement violations as % of total procurement from 33.7 to <=5 (Procurement)
4.) My Comments: Possible and even feasible Key Expected Results for ICT
? Increase the % of population using the internet daily from 46.8% to 90% My Comments: Fantastic!
? Increase the proportion of population with access to mobile phones from 78.9% to 90% My Comments: Possible
? Increase the proportion of schools connected to broadband Internet from 6% to 12% My Comments: Possible
? Existence of National Information and communications Infrastructure policy II My Comments: Possible
Chapter 2: The Strategic Priorities
2.2 Restoring good governance, respect for human rights, the rule of law, and empowering citizens through decentralisation and local governance
2.2.1 Governance, Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
My Comments: Definitely a strategic priority since it significantly impacts on all that follow.
Alert : Governance, Human Rights and the Rule of Law and Decentralisation are really strategic Priorities but risk being merely given lip service.
Crtq: Coalition character of government not even acknowledged much less recognise and acknowledged
Crtq: IEC to review the Voters’ Register and the Right of Diaspora Gambians to vote
Crtq: Role of the Ministry of Affairs of Gambians Abroad not properly defined; should be done with participation of Diaspora Gambians
2.2.2. Security Sector Reform
My Comments: A strategic priority since it can impact on most that follow.
Alert: The primary aim of this reform, is to avoid waste of national resources and should be done in consultation with Senegal for shared costs and mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty.
Alert: Security Sector Reform indeed a Strategic priority, but risk being watered down to a few superficial measures
Alert: Should be seen within a long-term post Ecomig perspective
Alert: On Casamance Government must make it clear that while it may sympathize with all efforts at regional equality it condemns all separatist tendencies in Senegal and regards all such attacks against Senegal as such against The Gambia.
Crtq: Of the existing security sector organizations, the focus should be on the GAF for downsizing and solely for international peace keeping on cost recovery basis in the short-term and for eventual scrapping in the long run.
2.2.3 Decentralization and local governance
My Comments: Important component of appropriate governance but of limited strategic prioritisation.
Crtq: VDCs and WDCs, APRC crypto-political appendages ought not be regarded as legitimate tools for decentralisation
Crtq: Direct election of alkalolu and chairpersons of LGAs not reintroduced
Alert: Where decentralisation leads to costs that cannot be financed through taxation of citizens of any area, the exercise ought to be stalled till later when such tax can be reasonably levied. Prudence and not flamboyance of structures ought to be our watchword in this one.
crtq: Increased number of professional staff in total council/LGA staff from 8 to 52 is rather too much may tend to increase council/LGA expenses, official corruption and wastage in output.
Appreciated: Increase in the number of functionally decentralized structures including VDCs, WDCs, SWDCs with implemented Action Plans from 0% to 100%
Appreciated: Increased existence of a financial management systems at all LGAs from 2 to 7
Appreciated: A unified financial management systems in existence at all LGA’s and Governors offices
Appreciated: Existence of regional strategic plans in all regions.
Appreciated: Develop and implement evidence based planning, monitoring and evaluation: Government will work with councils on the formulation of municipal strategic plans, as well as, the activation of planning authorities/boards. Currently, only 37 per cent (3) of councils have strategic plans. With these interventions, it is expected that all councils (100 per cent) will have functional strategic plans.
Appreciated: Strengthening systems, tools, and procedures for effective and efficient management. This will involve the procurement of systems and licenses for accounting and auditing, development of working tools and documents, procedures and building the required infrastructure for greater efficiency and effectiveness in all municipal councils.
Appreciated: Implementation of participatory slum upgrading programme (PSUP): Government’s interventions will involve construction and rehabilitation of some basic social services such as roads, drainages, markets and waste management programmes in selected slums (Ebo Town, Banjul-Tobacco road and Brikama Jambarsanneh).
Appreciated: Support LGAs in the establishment and functioning of decentralized structures. Government will bring together partnerships comprising the private sector including the non-state actors such as Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to work towards more responsive, viable and productive decentralised structures.
Appreciated: Government recognizes that effective local governance requires vigorous local politics in which competition spurs political entrepreneurship and policy innovation as parties vie to win new voters. Government will therefore facilitate (i) an open and transparent electoral system, which both promotes and is (indirectly) sustained by (ii) a competitive party regime. These will combine to produce a third, endogenous requirement of good local politics, especially important for a substantive focus on local issues and local people.
Appreciated: For civil society to provide useful oversight and a feedback mechanism for the governing process, it must be able to accomplish a limited, but important set of tasks. It must be able to identify a specific failing of local policy at the community level. It must then be able to formulate a coherent demand or complaint and transmit it upwards through its own hierarchical levels. Local civic leaders must be able to take up this complaint and communicate it convincingly to the mayor/governor or municipal council.
Appreciated: Procure and operationalize a standardised and unified financial management and accounting system: Currently, only 37 per cent of councils have computerised financial management packages. Government will during the plan period ensure that all the 8 councils (100 per cent) have standardized and unified financial management systems.
Appreciated: Develop and operationalize a resource mobilisation plan for each LGA: The current base line is that only 1 council has a plan in place. Government will by 2021, ensure that all the 8 councils have their resource mobilisation plans in place (100 per cent coverage) and implementation is in earnest. 26
2.3 Stabilising our economy, stimulating growth, and transforming the economy
My Comments: A definite strategic priority since most other government policies will depend on its success.
The NDP claims that “The Gambia has experienced prolonged periods of macroeconomic instability and poor economic management, arising principally from bad governance. The goal of this priority area is to: enhance macroeconomic management for sustainable and inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction.”
The plan’s Key Expected Results for Macroeconomic Stabilisation and Economic Management are as follows
Reduce Overall Deficit as % of GDP from 9.8 % to 3.0 % Highly unlikely,6% likelier
Increase Tax revenue by source as % of GDP from 18.05 % (Tax) to 23.6%. Highly unlikely, 20% likelier
With respect to the Country’s debt burden, the key results for
the plan period are:
Reduced net borrowing as % of GDP from 111.4% to 1 % Highly unlikely,78% likelier
Reduced total public debt stock as % of GDP 120% to 87% Highly unlikely, 90% likelier
Reduced domestic debt stock as % of GDP from 67.9% to 45.1% Unlikely, 65% likelier
Outcome 2.1: Prudent Fiscal Management for Debt Sustainability and Enhanced Resource Alignment
My Comments: This outcome is very unlikely to be realized. For example Government’s attempt to implement its proposed Vehicle Policy was stiffly resisted till it had to be abandoned earlier this year. How will government capitalise on the “opportunities” presented by remittances; what exactly are these opportunities?
Outcome 2.2: Transparent and Accountable Public Financial Management
My Comments: Calling a fiscal management prudent does not necessarily make it prudent. It is very unlikely that this transparent management system will lead to the desirable outcome.
Outcome 2.3: Sound Monetary Policies in place for Price and Exchange Rate Stability
My Comments: Normally it is loose monetary policies that lead to inflation running out of control. But in the Gambia the Central Bank has been relentlessly fighting to keep inflation under control although under a system of prolonged deficits that have been nearly four decades old kept and fueled by white collar crime and rampant, systematic thieving of meager state resources that has served as the major propellant of inflationary forces will tend to continue.
Outcome 2.4: Well-governed and financially viable State Owned Enterprises (SoEs) for enhanced macro-economic stability and service delivery.
My Comments: Official corruption remains the main stumbling block to any of the thirteen State owned enterprises becoming well-governed.
Outcome 2.5: Enhanced, Independent and Autonomous Economic Governance Institutions for effective Macro-Economic Management and Stability
My Comments: The same as in above.
2.6 Modernising our agriculture and fisheries for sustained economic growth, food and nutritional security and poverty reduction.
My Comments: None of the two sectors is in line for modernization just now. Normally modernization follows a process of exhausting up the traditional, rudimentary, self-sustaining agriculture or artisanal fisheries subsector. Premature modernisation often leads to costly reversals back to the old forms.
– Encourage farmers into founding their own organizations or cooperatives for discussing and dealing with issues of their lot, like training, input – credit management and marketing, and so forth.
-Land reform to facilitate collateralisation in the face traditional land tenure.
– Reviewing the seeds and input policies for selecting the appropriate seeds or inputs for each crop
-Identify new big Gambia farmers for special strategic assistance to become a core of potential class of progressive farmers likelier to venture into modern farming.
-Review previous resolutions on groundnut sector revitalisation in The Gambia.
– Review revitalization of the cooperative sector.
-Government should look into the possibilities of introducing, through select, commercial banks some agric credit lines.
– The Horticultural Unit should be revitalised and capacitised to meet the challenge for crop diversification for cultivation and exportation of select vegetables and greeneries for exportation to the Gambian Diaspora.
-The cultivation of cashew for breaking the constraints of monoculture should be seriously looked into.
-Government should hasten up the establishment the Agric Extension System
-Improve on the groundnut marketing; better pay for better post-harvest treated crops to fight infestations.
As mentioned earlier the fisheries sector is yet to be up for modernisation. Most of the sector is under the control of artisans. Even the about half a dozen companies active in the industrial sector largely depend on artisanal catchers for supplies for processing and exportation. What makes it a strategic priority apart from the employment opportunities, food security and foreign currency earning potential is the relatively short rate of return on invested capital.
– There has not been any proper survey of our fisheries resources since the 1960s or early 1970s so government should use this opportunity to suspend all licensing of trawlers until it is embarked upon a three to five year fisheries resources survey in order to establish reliable biomass estimates and maximum sustainable yields.
– Just like most of the factories are currently owned and run by foreigners perhaps over 80% of the artisanal fishermen are also foreigners. Whatever fisheries policies are adopted today with an eye to possible indigenisation, sooner rather than later.
-Government’ s policy objectives in this sector should be to improve its contribution on to national development through increased food security, increased employment and increased foreign exchange earnings.
– Government should encourage the use of both pelagic as well as demersal fish resources, which are fast approaching their optimal yield.
– Government should make optimal use of riverine, marine as well as aquaculture fisheries as well as promote value-added processing
By way of conclusion
I will conclude this critical look on the National Development Programme by taking a brief glance through some of the other strategic priorities like Education, Health, Energy, Public Works, Job Creation, Tourism and Transportation. The release of the results of the GABECE at the end of August 2018 was as disappointing as that of the WASSCE a month or so earlier. They are both a wakeup call for need for a drastic overhaul of our educational system. It is a challenge we cannot not let unattended. So is our health system. It must be shaken to its core; dust off of widespread thievery and incompetence and look into the possibility of a return to restoring a robust primary health care system. The authorities have done rather well with the electricity system but this is not a sustainable long-term solution so we must rest on our laurels but look at the solar, wind and other renewable alternatives.
Let us not waste time talking about culture-centred tourism for sustainable growth, it is the there S, sun, sea and the sand that make this our destination attractive not the loud, noisy, repetitive and non-Gambian djembe-based drumbeats that attracts the tourists. Yes, The Gambia-brand needs refurbishing but let us look at our river, undisturbed since the sinking of Lady Wright, about forty years ago. The river has not been this idle perhaps for more than two thousand years. What opportunities does this misfortune gives! What spectacular new landscape, what new organisms, perhaps only to be seen in The Gambia. What touristic resources for adventurous discoveries and exploratory adventures! Let us combine building our infrastructure, reconstituting a system of public works for job creation. Leaving it all in the hands of private sector growth may never happen. Without jobs the young must flee by any means possible. Apart from the restoration of the wharfs for the revival of river transport Government should perhaps also look into regulating and even intervening in use of animal-drawn carts as means of transportation by even encouraging the rearing of horses, donkeys and even mules.
Let me conclude by thanking the Barrow regime for the peace, stability and democratic tolerance it has been able to maintain and exercise so far. Among the things it is also due for praise and hailing are enormous improvements on electricity supplies around the whole country, the slashing down of budgeted expenditures to the presidency and efforts to reduce fiscal deficits. However, I must call on the regime to be more vigilant on the