By Omar Bah
President Adama Barrow has said his administration is committed to reducing the country’s dependence on foreign aid as he led Gambians on Friday in celebrating the country’s 57th independence anniversary.
President Barrow said the attainment of true economic independence is contingent on how practical and how far Gambians are ready to go in raising the nation’s productivity and production capabilities.
“In this era, the dilemma of African countries largely remains the attainment of economic independence in an interdependent world. Like many other nations around the world, this is one of The Gambia’s major challenges,” Barrow said.
The Gambian leader said although absolute economic independence is impractical, “it is certain that we can reduce our heavy dependence on the outside world. The question is: How can we do this meaningfully?”
He said the imbalance between imports and exports for the country is enormous, and this needs to be offset.
“Generally, there is a great need to transform the population into a more productive resource. To free ourselves from economic dependence, among other strategies, we must invest more freely in the productive sectors, produce as much of what we consume as we need, and eat more homemade products. By the same token, we need to expand and patronise local businesses, while developing, encouraging and tapping local talent,” he added.
To increase national income generation, Barrow added, communities must be encouraged to set up joint businesses, engage in more productive ventures, and make the most of the country’s natural resources.
“Old and ineffective approaches have to give way to greater application of technology and modern techniques of production. Industrialisation is surely one of the key areas to promote and develop. We should work towards mechanising and diversifying agriculture, preserving and processing our produce, and changing our lifestyles to depend less on imported goods, especially imported food commodities,” he noted.
The president said his vision for The Gambia is a nation with top-class infrastructure, sufficient energy for national coverage and a technology-supported society that matches the digital world, all of which propel growth, economic development and social cohesion through an adequately equipped human resource base.
“To advance economically, there is an urgent need to inject value and derive value from whatever we do. We should insist on designing value-driven projects and programmes that add value to the lives and livelihoods of the people, and ensure that our interventions yield tangible results that are not short lived,” he added.
He challenged the relevant ministries and institutions to transform such ideals into workable strategies and infuse them into “our next development plan and national policies”.
President Barrow urged Gambians to commit themselves to the rule of law, and go about the electoral process in an orderly and peaceful manner.
“We did well for the December 4th presidential election and can do better in the next round of elections,” he said.