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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Gambia has done well at 50 but…

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Dr Borro Susso said the country that was deemed improbable at independence, given the death of resources has been able to survive as an independent nation. 

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He however noted that neither the first republic under President Jawara nor second republic under President Jammeh has done enough. 

“I don’t think we have done well,” he told The Standard yesterday. “One of the areas that we have failed to address for fifty years is the under-utilisation of our human resources base and the agricultural sector to boost the productive sector of the economy. We have also failed in investing in small-scale industries to boost our value addition capacity and this is robbing The Gambia of the chance to eradicate hunger and poverty among the farming communities for 50 years. We have equally failed to effectively utilise the River Gambia for transportation, fishing and even irrigation. Had we done this, we could have equated places like Singapore. Unfortunately, what was to be the biggest project under Jawara and Jammeh, agriculture, is what lies in ruins.”

According to him, the first republic, like other African countries, never sat down to think about how they would bring about development. 

“The concept of development was new as far as the first post independence leaders were concerned,” he said. “Improving the condition of lives and the eradication of poverty was not looked at from the broader context of development from which they could draw policy initiatives. People were basically doing what they could do to survive, but there weren’t any major changes in their lives.  

“They thought that independence was just about changing of flags, introducing of coins and singing the national anthem without factoring in the fact that the majority of the people that they ruled had expectations.”

With independence, he added, many people had hopes of better living conditions, but were soon disgruntled. 

He explained: “Somewhere along the line, there was disappointment among the population because they realised that some of their expectations weren’t going to be met and they were disenchanted during the first republic under Jawara. This is not unique to The Gambia. This post independence dissatisfaction with leadership continues in many countries in Africa, culminating in coups and rebellion in so many places. So, this dissatisfaction went on until the July 22nd coup. However, I must say that there is one plus which is major as far as the first republic is concerned which is governance. In spite of the difficulties that we faced as a developing nation, the Jawara government was quite sober. Freedom of the average Gambian was assured.”

Dr Susso added further: “When it comes to the second republic, I will say there were some changes of faces, but I don’t think they have made progress better than the first republic. In spite of the fact that the current generation of leaders is more conversant with the idea of development, I am not impressed with the kind of measures that are being taken. Poverty in this country is getting serious by the day and there are families going to bed without the three square meals a day. Farmers are still struggling and are often not been able to sell their nuts on time to sustain themselves.

“The failure of the first republic emanated from ignorance because they have been pursuing policies that were growth oriented, but these economic figures are not being translated into economic development. But the current regime cannot be excused not to know because people are talking, literatures are available and the mass media is here. In the area of governance, under the first republic, the element of governance was there as I said. People were really free to say what they wanted to say whereas under the APRC, they have scored very low in governance, in my opinion. Another place where Jawara might have overtaken Jammeh is spending. In this second republic, there is lots of wasteful spending, perhaps on misplaced priorities.”

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