By Amadou Jadama
A future UDP government will commit at least 10 percent of the country’s budget to agriculture, party leader Ousainu Darboe told supporters at a mass rally in the Central Baddibu village of Njaba Kunda on Saturday evening.
Mr Darboe who has been fancying a shot at leading The Gambia for the past 23 years, said his time has come and that his long-suffering party will be ushered into the presidency next January after the 14 December polls.
Once in power he said his administration will allocate enough resources to ensure the country attains self-sufficiency in producing rice, the staple food in the country.
“If you give this country to UDP, what we are going to do is ten percent of our budget we are going to invest in agriculture, and we are going to eradicate rice importation in the country. We will ensure that every two years rice production reaches a specific number of tonnes. This will be incremental until ten years when rice will not be imported in this country anymore and the price will be affordable,“ Darboe explained.
A native of Bansang, one of the major rice growing areas in the country, Mr Darboe said it is only when Gambians girdle their waists and work hard that they can attain food self-sufficiency.
“If you look at our soldiers, they are a peace-time army because they are not in war. We can use them in the productive areas of the country’s economy like at Jahali-Pacharr, Kuntaur, Niamina and up to URR. Those are all rice fields and I am sure these soldiers would be happy if they are deployed there. We can grow rice in this country and we will not need to import any.”
Mr Darboe said it is absurd that five decades after gaining independence The Gambia has only five public hospitals in Banjul, Serekunda, Bwiam, Farafenni and Bansang.
“There is no hospital in Lower River River Region. They could not even upgrade the health centre in Mansa Konko to become a major hospital. It is a joke. URR is a very large region with a big population but they don’t have a hospital, only a major health centre which is not even properly equipped,” he criticised.
Taking a jab at the nation’s poor healthcare delivery, Mr Darboe stated: “When patients are diagnosed of having kidney problems, they have to spend D4,000 on treatment and buying drugs. How many poor people can afford that? In The Gambia, anybody suffering from such diseases is simply heading to a grave. The Gambia government is not focusing on these things. They are just spending our money on unnecessary things just as a show which is not our interest.”
He said a UDP government will break the cycle of wasteful spending and place value on developing human capital and key sectors like health, education and agriculture.