Hon. Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service,
Hon. Cabinet Ministers,
National Assembly Members,
Senior Government Officials,
Members of the Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning to you all,
Let me warmly welcome you all to the State House here in Banjul.
This is a unique opportunity at high level to discuss the issues of concern, outline the expectations and chart the way forward for the development of our country. The timing for my very first engagement with you, the senior functionaries of the public service today is not by any means impulsive.
It is taking place as part of planned activities marking the first anniversary of my administration. The theme for this milestone is reflection and soul-searching for inclusive national development. After one year of engagements, observations and assessment of the public service from my vantage point at the presidency, it is reasonable for one to acquire some insight and be able to share some vision on the transformative agenda.
Clearly, the public service that you all manage is the machinery of the government that is critical to national transformation and development. Needless to point out that, the realization of our national development goals and objectives as enshrined in the National Development Plan depends largely on the critical role each one of you play at both technical and management levels.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Indeed, it is an open secret that the public service itself became the first victim of the brutality of the past regime. This important institution has been generally politicized, abused and rendered irrelevant as most operational and strategic decisions were surrendered to the Office of the President for one man to make them all.
This, coupled with great instability of tenure and the brain drain, the public service became largely non-responsive and low performing.
Fundamentally, when people went to the polls on the 1st December 2016 and voted in a new government, there were many transformative agenda items on the ballot which translate into a social contract between the government and the people. The expectations were and are still very high and deserve to be managed and attended to, through deliberate and specific programs and projects designed to provide dividends of democracy. This process requires commitment, hard work and sincerity by all especially you as sector leaders.
On our part, at the level of the Executive, there is a huge political will to pursue the path of reform and restoration of best practices and not punishment. This is why my first administrative orders as President were all aimed at revamping and sanitizing the public service. These include:-
· setting up a panel to orderly reinstate the officials who were wrongfully dismissed by the previous Government,
· decongest the Office of the President by re-assigning institutions and line departments to the purview of the ministries where they rightfully belong, and
· effectively empower the sectors to be in charge of their mandates and be accountable for their actions.
We have also reviewed terms of references for the appointment of the Regional Governors and other key personnel to be nonpartisan in their day to day administrative work. The Public Service Commission is now fully staffed and ready to discharge its oversight functions to ensure the application of due process across the service.
At the national level, the National Development Plan (2018-2021) has now been validated and is ready for implementation. This plan which carries the hopes and aspirations of the Gambian people has fully embraced the manifesto and philosophy of the Coalition 2016, as well as the priorities of the individual Ministries and line Departments.
In the Public Service there are many well-articulated policies, strategies and plans that do not get implemented because of the mindset of the so-called ‘implementation bottlenecks’. This culture has no place in the new dispensation. As we set out to implement our new development blueprint, it cannot be business as usual. We need to understand that no progress can be made in developing our country if we continue to conduct business as usual. Change needs to happen and it needs to happen now. Let us therefore take charge of our destiny and make this country a better place for generations to come.
I know that most of you are experts in your own rights and I also know that for the past 22 years, the complaint has been that you have not been given the space and the flexibility to apply your expertise to improve service delivery to the population. Under my administration, the artificial barrier to the application of human creativity and inspiration to service delivery has been completely removed. What we now have is a Public Service environment with a clear vision and one that encourages critical thinking, collaboration and positive engagement.
In this new Gambia therefore, we must put all hands on deck to restore the Civil Service back to its former glory.
In this vein, it is important to give a bit of context to demonstrate the magnitude of the challenges we are faced with.
As you are aware, our debt burden is currently unsustainable with a GDP ratio of 125%. This means a huge quantity of our revenue goes to servicing of our debt rather than investing in education, health or other social developing projects.
Beyond the economic challenges, we are also faced with a major energy crisis, poor road networks and inadequate infrastructure. The potentials of our agriculture subsector still remain largely untapped due to limited investment and the resultant use of primitive farming methods.
These challenges, stiff as they may be, are by no means impossible to overcome. It is my fervent belief that together, we can turn them into opportunities and transform this country with strong foundations for rapid socio economic development. This however, requires complete positive attitudinal transformation and professional discipline as well as loyalty to the motherland.
In order for this process to be meaningful, you all as Public Servants have been entrusted with a responsibility to perform a noble duty for the betterment of the lives of our fellow citizens. The Reforms will only be meaningful if the benefits are visible and felt by all Gambians especially those at the grass-root level.
We are faced with challenges but we are willing to listen and learn to succeed, but we can’t succeed without unity. Others can help us but the ultimate responsibility lies with Gambians. We all faced challenges of uncertainties but we have to be determined to set up and connect. Gambian experts have to take risks for the sake of The Gambia.
We were united in our fight for freedom; let us continue to be united to work for the development of our country. I call on Gambians with the expertise –knowledge and skills to reflect on how to contribute to the development of our country. We have to be fearless, take courage, faith and determination to succeed as a nation. Together we shall progress, let us come together.
We can learn from China, by opening up, they have been able to advance in less than four decades, much more a small country like ours. Our size, location, sea and land give us advantage. We have to take the advantage, it is now or never. There is light at the end of the tunnel, business can’t be as usual, if business is as usual, then the purpose of the New Gambia would be defeated.
I therefore urge you all to take the courage to be committed and loyal in order to realise our dream and vision of a better Gambia, a nation with a clear vision and a strong, ethical and responsive public service. The realization of the vision is possible if all of us here dare to assert professional ethics in our daily interactions.
In conclusion, I once again urge you to be steadfast in your duty as public servants who have the responsibility to instill best practices in the implementation of our National Development Plan at all levels.
There will be quarterly performance review starting this quarter. My expectation is that the sectors will report on the stage of implementation of the National Development Plan to determine our performance.
Along this line, the month of April will be dedicated to review the implementation of the NDP and all official travels will be curtailed to the minimum during this month.
I assure you that I value each and every one of you and I shall endeavor to harness the potentials of everyone wherever, and whenever possible.
The law shall be our foundation. This new Gambia requires everyone to be ready to give our best to our country.
Together let’s love our country. Let’s work for country. Let’s take care of Gambia as if it’s our own house…build it nice, keep it safe; keep it comfortable; and keep it clean! Certainly if all of us begin to treat our country as if it’s your own house, am convinced that we will soon have a country that everyone will be proud of. This is your simple yardstick of patriotism.
We surely can do it, let’s Just do it. Belief me, The Gambia is back!
I wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year, and thank you all for your kind attention.