In fulfillment of your campaign promises to Gambians, the new government under your leadership has finally launched what it dubbed ‘Think Tank’, believed to be ‘an apolitical’ and a body of experts from variant disciplines of academic and professional circles, selected to create policy direction for the new government. But I wonder how apolitical this body can be when it is expected to work on achieving a political goal. At this juncture, it is important that the body is independent to work as an expert body not to give fake and impossible advices that will lead to white elephant projects all in the pretext of scoring political goals.
This body of experts is expected to set the road map for the much needed change Gambians have voted for on December 1; a change anchored on the fundamental principles of democracy, rule of law and good governance that will see a massive and total reformation of our various sectors of development, ranging from civil service, to job creation, housing to the productive sectors which include agriculture, fisheries, tourism and forestry, among a whole lot of other issues which space might not allow us to list and exhaust.
However, it is indeed vital at this juncture to ask an equally vital question: what is the mandate of the coalition government in the first place? Indeed, its mandate is to build a new Gambia where the rights, liberty and dignity of all Gambians will be recognized and equally respected and guaranteed without prejudicial treatment based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion, region or political affiliation. In addition, the coalition government is here to restore confidence in Gambians and “bring all on board and provide them with equal opportunities in rebuilding a new Gambia through a new development paradigm, a process in which most Gambians were deprived from participating meaningfully over the past 22 years of the APRC repressive rule”, as stated by Women’s Affairs Minister during the launching of the GNTT.
During your campaign, you promised Gambians of a three year plan to reform this country through various sector reforms, especially our judicial system, thus to embark on a constitutional reform that will see the overhaul of the rotten laws that have subjected Gambians to two decades of bad governance, corruption, inefficiency and repression. This constitutional overhaul is to usher in a third republic which is yet to be borne (as we are still in the second republic). This ushering will have to first witness a total constitutional reform followed by a referendum. Since the work of the Think Tank is inclusive of institutional and sector reforms anchored on the principles of democracy and rule of law, you should prioritize term-limit which was key on your campaign promises.
Mr. President, it is important that Gambians are well informed of your mandate as the leader of a coalition government that is expected to restore their hopes which have been dashed away. Your mandate is to deliver your three year plan, though which you might find difficult considering the time available in the wake of a dead economy, rotten productive sectors, education and judicial systems etc.
In addition Mr. President, now that the Think Tank is launched, it is important that Gambians are also informed of the specific terms of reference of these experts as they are expected to work under the Office of the Vice President at State House. The challenge of your government is to come up with a clear national development blueprint that will guide the operation of the coalition government in delivering on its campaign promises. In light of this, I am of the opinion that it is either a national development blueprint is late (at whatever stage it might be for now), or the Think Tank is late to be set up.
This is premised on my opinion that the Think Tank should even work on the expected development blueprint. Of course, the Think Tank’s advice on government policies and programmes will have to be in line with the latter’s development blueprint. Again, for the sake of accountability and transparency, it is important that Gambians are informed how much will be spent on this Think Tank in terms of finance. Since it is public fund that will make the work of the Think Tank effective, it is important the body is accountable to the public in terms of financial spending.
In addition Mr. President, universities are created to solve the political, social and economic challenges of a given society, and the University of The Gambia is not an exception to this. It is indeed bemusing that the Think Tank does not include any member of the university. It is no secret that when countries are faced with challenges; they turn to universities for solutions. There are two issues at play here; either the University of The Gambia has failed in its mandate of being a solution provider to our myriad and complex political and socio-economic challenges, or the government does not in any way attach importance to the country’s highest citadel of learning. At least an individual, probably in Agriculture would make a good member of the Think Tank from the UTG. This is not in any way an advocacy for the university, but ensuring that its proper role is executed as expected.
Furthermore Mr. President, it is not only about launching the Think Tank, but more importantly how our political and socio-economic challenges can be addressed. Expectations are that, we will have a constitutional reform that will see the dawn of a truly new era of justice, respect for the fundamental rights and liberties of Gambians. Expectations are that our already dead economy will be brought back to life, that our productive sectors will get prudent investments to address our economic challenges. Expectations are that, our crisis of unemployment especially among young people will be addressed.
Expectations are that health and other relevant sectors will see massive transformations. But more importantly, expectations are that we will stop the civilized yet dishonorable form of begging from international donor agencies in the forms of loans and grants and utilize our resources to create a sovereign national wealth that will usher in a truly new Gambia. This I believe is the greatest task of the Think Tank, to advise the government that aid is not the solution to our problems. Mr. President, Dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid”, that aid has not been working for Africa will be a good work for you to read.
Yours in the service of the nation