By Sarjo M.Camara
His Excellency Vice President Mr. Badara A. Joof recently received at State House a delegation from the World Bank, headed by Nathan M. Belete, Country Director for Cabo Verde, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, and Senegal.
During the meeting, Director Belete announced that the Bank is giving $330 million support to Gambia Government. The financial support is meant to ease Gambia’s economic uncertainty largely caused by the war in Ukraine.
Elaborating on his discussion with Vice President Joof, Mr Belete told the press that education, energy, tourism, agriculture, infrastructure as well as social protection were central.
He assured of working with government through their interlocutor, Minister of Finance, to start a three-year financing engagement on July 1st 2022.
His Excellency Vice President Joof informed the World Bank team of other priority areas for government; such as civil service reforms, education, the telecom and information sectors.
He highlighted some government initiatives aimed at empowering the youth and women; such as the Women Enterprise Fund, Youth Enterprise Project, as well as initiatives to reverse rural/urban migration, and irregular migration abroad.
He went on to inform the World Bank delegation about the transformation at higher and tertiary education sector.
On agriculture, VP Joof said government is working on initiating a technical audit on the country’s capacity to feed itself. “For a long time Gambia has been talking about being self-sufficient in rice. Given the impact of the war in Ukraine on grain we would have some challenges. So we would need to have cereal banking,” he said.
He went on: “We have the river; we can go into river irrigation or tidal irrigation, or motorised irrigation. The question is, why for decades we are not self-sufficient in rice? Is it the type of soil or seeds that we get, or the technical know-how, or is it the inputs we are using, the fertilizer, the yield type?”
On trade, VP Joof pointed out the need to increase volume of trade in many areas; such as textile and consumables, as well industry, in which people can be incentivised to build light industries in these areas to enhance employment and technological transfer.
In the area of finance and economics, the Vice President underscored the urgency to address the cost of living, lamenting that for the first-time in many decades inflation has gone two digits, almost 11%. “We have to look at that and that means GRA, the Ministry of Finance, Central Bank, and Gambia Ports Authority, will have to come together and see how to sort it out”. He emphasised the imperative for GRA to look into the tax regime. “We have to look at that and how VAT and other taxes are impacting on prices,” he stated.