Fifty-seven years ago, a country called The Gambia was declared independent from Britain. Ever since, 18th February has been celebrated as the day when we broke the chains and shackles of subservience and assumed our responsibility as masters of our destiny.
We started on a shaky footing with many writing us off as an “improbable nation”. We had no money in our exchequer. We had no trained manpower. We had no extractive natural resources to export. And we had no strategic infrastructures. But with grit, determination and faith, the founding fathers led by Sir Dawda Jawara, gave form and shape to our country, poor but proud and respected for its values by states near and far.
Making it as a country this far is in itself worth celebrating. BUT we as a government and as a people have to girdle our waists tighter. We have a lot of work to do at all levels and strata of our country. First, we must develop a realistic vision for the country. What kind of Gambia do we want and how are we going to achieve it? What are our comparative advantages and how are we going to win or gain the most from the competitions nations are always engaged in?
We are living beyond our means and it is not sustainable. We end up spending most of our generated revenue on servicing debts and interests on debts leaving us no choice but to borrow more money domestically and outside and so we remain entrapped in the vicious cycle of debt strangulation. We cannot increase taxes because they are high enough but we should broaden the tax base by capturing and streamlining the informal economy sector and ensuring more overall diligent enforcement and tax compliance.
We cannot depend on handouts from outside to build our roads, hospitals and schools for ever. We must take pride in ourselves as dignified people and do things for ourselves. That is the real meaning of independence. And we can do that through prudent spending, investing in the productive bases of our economy and eliminating corruption in all its forms in our management of public finances and services.
If our leadership is serious about it, we can do it. Other nations, even in Africa, have done it. It is doable. That is what The Gambia deserves and what Gambian people desperately want. If we do what we should do as a government, we can have a Gambia where no child or adult will go to bed hungry, where no sick patient will die for want of medicines or appropriate care, where no child will drop out of school because the parents cannot afford tuition fees or lunch money, and where we can take care of our disabled and marginalised.
This is what independence should be. But to achieve this, we need an inspired leadership to lead us. And this, President Adama Barrow must provide. That is what we voted him for. Happy independence to all Gambians!