By Tabora Bojang
The Minority Leader and National Assembly Member for Brikama North, Alagie S Darboe, has advised President Adama Barrow against using donor projects as ‘soft bribes’ to win elections.
The opposition UDP NAM made these remarks before Energy Minister Abdoulie Jobe who represented Finance Minister Seedy Keita to seek the national assembly’s approval for a financing agreement between Gambia and the European Investment Bank under the Gambia Renewable Energy Project.
The project comprises a tripartite funding package involving a loan of 8 million Euros with an interest rate of 1.25 percent, payable in 25 years, and grant of 24 million Euros and a technical assistance of 3 million Euros.
Energy Minister Jobe informed lawmakers that the Gambia is experiencing acute electricity crises and these can only be improved through sustained investment to improve transmission and distribution networks.
The minister said if approved, the project will provide solar energy to 1000 schools and 100 health facilities across the country.
But in his contribution to the minister’s remarks and request for approval, the minority leader condemned what he called ‘wrong acts’ committed by President Adama Barrow in the past, when he distributed national resources at his political rallies to score political gains.
Darboe noted that while all members are open to support programmes geared towards addressing the concerns of their people, they are equally concerned about the executive’s use of politics in the implementation of projects even when they are approved by the national assembly without political considerations.
“We are told that 1000 schools and 100 health facilities are going to benefit but we want to know how many schools and how many health facilities are going to benefit from each region. We want this to be evenly distributed and not centered in just one region or implemented like a political fanfare. I know the minister will understand what I mean. You should start your work as soon as these funds are approved, and not wait until when it is a political campaign time for the president to distribute it to people as if he is doing it just to have gains. We have seen projects here where President Barrow only waited until when it was time for campaign and then distributed or launched them during his political rallies. That is very wrong. These are issues that need to be addressed immediately. When the approved funds are available you should not wait for any other consideration to implement the projects,” Darboe said.
He continued: “I am making reference to things that happened and I don’t want a replica of that. We are very open here in this assembly, objective and rationale in our work as parliamentarians so the executive should implement whatever we agreed for the national interest sincerely and in good faith.”
Minister Abdoulie Jobe in response, assured of government’s commitment to implement the project to the benefit of all Gambians, saying the “effective implementation of this project will contribute significantly to the attainment of the NDP objectives specifically the strategic priority of building our infrastructure and restoring energy services to power our economy “as we strive to attain universal access to electricity for all Gambians by 2025.”
The agreement was unanimously approved by members.