By Ousman Sallah
Now that the Cabinet retreat at Kololi has ended,I took time to reflect on the proceeding and the public tirade made by the Vice President which to my surprise, received reaction from the galleries. But with due respect, I have decided to take a rather deem view of the performance of VP so early in the proceedings. His decision to level merciless diatribe against his colleagues and by extension the President that appointed him baffled me and totally beyond the pale. Singling out cabinet colleagues for dishonorable mention so blatantly for not performing when collective responsibility rule supreme is difficult to understand. In doing so, the Vice President may believe that he has the right answers but only advanced the wrong arguments.
In the first instance,”retreats”are only very rarely used by leaders at the highest level in the quest to grabble with serious issues which,if remain unchecked could spell disaster. Retreats have almost become institutions in The Gambia and in my view a total waste of time and resources. But if it must take place at Cabinet level,it should engage in strategic thinking,uniting the efforts of government towards improving the quality of life of citizens.It should also provoke ways of developing working relationships among Cabinet colleagues and their senior advisers in an informal setting but strictly private.The Vice President decided in Kololi very early,to throw out the window,all the good attributes of a retreat and went on the attack of his colleagues collectively and individually like a Pit-Bull.
I found it rather distasteful as well as being disingenuous to attack the Tourism Ministry for non-performance during the COVID-19 years. Even Thailand, which by a long shot could boast of having the most successful tourist industry in the world,often exceeding forty(40) million tourists a year,could only muster less than half a million tourists per year during the ravages of COVID 19.To attack the Ministry of Tourism under the circumstances is plain wrong and may be even malicious. A brief visit to New York City earlier in the year revealed that the most iconic hotel or one of them in the world The Waldorf Astoria was in the process of being converted into Condo Apartments or part of it.How on earth does any fair thinking person expect The Gambia tourist industry to excel against such odds?What was expected from the cabinet retreat was to deliberate the difficulties faced by the industry and a very important foreign exchange earner at that,and come out with suggestion as how to mitigate the difficulties.
The Secretary General of The Gambia Red Cross, a thinking leader with good intentions, made admirable suggestions and contribution to what could lift the industry up and not offer verbal pull down.
As for the Ministry, I know best and dear to my heart-The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Vice President yet again offered no solution. Instead, only advanced rather incoherent verbal public attack.I cannot for the life of me understand the Vice President’s remarks that The Gambia Foreign Policy could not be found in frequent foreign travels.Of course not.Foreign travels are very important instrument in the quest to advance a country’s objectives and therefore not the culprit for any failures.Major powers with embassies in almost every sovereign country in the world,send their home based diplomats around the world to win friends and deter danger before it becomes real.What I expected from the Vice President,is the use of his clout and influence to help the Ministry of Foreign Affairs develop the following:
1. 1 increase the number of highly trained personnel who are now lacking or insufficient to become professionals and able to perform at a high level
2. 2 Enhance the structure of the Ministry of Forein Affairs in order to improve the development of comprehensive strategic diplomacy
3. 3 strengthen the functions of the overseas missions by enhancing critical management.
I agree with the Vice President that The Gambia should be prepared to move the direction of the economy towards the direction of the digital age. But little does he know that as far back as about twenty five years ago and to be precise,on July 22,1994, the Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service Abdou Janha led a delegation which included the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance and Trade Alieu Ngum among others to sign a grant of US 80 million dollars from the World Bank towards setting up a Teleport a cutting edge technology even at the time as The Gambia prepared for the digital economy and would have been the first in Africa or at least West Africa.The hope and the promise for a bright future erased by events of 1994.
It is also worthy of note, that DS-TV of South Africa with capacity to transmit all images via satellite and now the second biggest industry in South Africa was about to be born in The Gambia also in 1994 as as the Secretary General was about to preside over signing the Teleport project with Jay Cox of the World Bank. The foundation stone of the system that obtained in South Africa was about to become a reality in The Gambia.
I also agree with the Vice President that we have long passed the test of putting in place a structural adjustment and in fact The Gambia under the old order before 1994 went pass structural adjustment and had a viable program sustained development all to the credit of the very efficient servant of the day. But puting place a structural adjustment program is not a one time thing but instead,an all time thing,if countries do not control the proper managements of their economies with wreckless use of very limited resources.
The Vice President in his performance was just a bull in a China store ready to destroy every thing in his wake except the Ministry of Higher Education he headed. He tended with his remarks the Government he served for five years a total failure. I have no dog in the fight but for the President to accept the utterance of the Vice President is deeply troubling.