(JollofNews)- An opposition party in the Gambia has used its New Year’s message to unveil some of the long-term economic and development plans it would implement in the country if voted into office in this year’s general elections.
Presidential elections in the Gambia will be held in December and President Yahya Jammeh will be seeking a fifth term of office.
Mr Jammeh, 50, has ruled the West African nation since 1994 with a trademark mix of witchcraft, oppression and anti-colonial rhetoric. Last September, Human Rights Watch banded his regime one of the most repressive in the world, blaming paramilitaries and secret police for torture, disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
And as the country prepares for the polls, the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) reminded Gambians that they have a choice in the elections to either be the architects of a destiny of liberty, dignity and prosperity or be its gravediggers.
Unveiling plans to give Gambians more democratic freedoms and economic prosperity, the party said despite numerous promises, the APRC regime of President Yahya Jammeh has failed to developed the Gambia, which has now been classed among the least developed countries in the world.
“The Gambia now has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of D42 billion, a domestic debt of D20.7 billion and an external debt of D23. 5 billion,” the party stated.
“Hence the debt burden of the country is more than D44 billion. This is more than the GDP of the country. The interest paid on debts amounts to D2.8 billion in 2014, D3.7 billion in 2015 and D5 billion in 2016. Hence at birth each Gambian carries a debt burden of more than D24,000.
The party added that the country’s budget deficit is increasing and has risen from D3.6 billion in 2015 to D3.9 billion in 2016.
It added that conscious of the fact that the Gambia has a GDP of D42 billion, the party’s strategy of development is not to make every one poorer by increased taxation or propagating equal distribution of the small national cake and leave everyone to starve.
The party said if voted into office: “PDOIS will do what previous governments should have done. It will mobilise national and foreign expertise to do prospecting and identify all mineral, oil and other resources available to generate sovereign national wealth for investment in production and infrastructural development.
“We will sign performance contract with public enterprises and free them from all external interferences so that they would develop to their fullest and pay dividend to government coffers.”
It added that instead of spending D250 million on national celebrations within a span of three years, it would deposite the money in a cooperative bank to enable it to finance family farms and cooperative marketing enterprises to ensure the regular and timely purchase of farm produce at fair prices.
The party added: “Land is the major means of production in the Gambia. Hence, PDOIS will ensure that all family farms receive sustained support from cooperative banks to have seeds, fertiliser, farming implements and markets for their produce.
“Investors on the land must include owners as shareholders in their businesses with the land given a value to serve as a family’s share in a farming , ecotourism or real estate business. We will promote the availability of labour saving devices to encourage food security by enhancing self reliance in processing grain, etc for subsistence and for the market.
“We would encourage banks which engage in the buying and selling of US$1.6 billion worth of foreign exchange to partner with the private sector to control areas like hotels and tourism promotion so that foreign exchange could be earned and employment generated.”
PDOIS stated that as part of its economic plans, micro financial institutions in the country would be used to assist small companies.
“We will engage in tax review, assessment and reform to know the potentials of small companies before formulating tax policies, regulations and tribunals to punish deliberate defaulters,” it added.
“Public works in the form of building wharves for river transport, etc, would be undertaken and the Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI) and polytechnics would provide training for concrete job areas.
“Every village will have a sovereign wealth fund. Cooperative banks will sponsor and assist them to have income generating projects such as village farms, fishing vessels, orchards, etc where applicable. Royalties will be paid to villages from earnings from minerals, oil, timber or the erection of electricity or telephone poles or the digging of bore holes for village development.”
The Gambia has been described by media and human rights organisations as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalist. Journalists in the country are continuously arrested without being charged and are forcefully held in detention beyond the stipulated 72 hours.
But PDOIS said if voted into office, it would open up the state media for coverage of divergent views and dissenting opinions and create state subsidies or tax exemption for established media houses as institutions of public service to assist in their expansion to provide individuals with employment, people with more health, environmental and civic education, government with more information for policy making and businesses with more room for advertisement and exposure.
“We will introduce state funding of parties which meet all legal obligations and all monetary restrictions to the registration of political parties or participation in elections will be removed,” it added.
“We will make it a legal requirement for the president not to conduct any business while occupying the presidency and should put any business owned before becoming president under trusteeship.
“We will put an end to all detention without trials or bail and all disappearances without trace .We will re-orientate the law enforcement, security, intelligence and military apparatuses to be committed to democratic principles and the values of the Republic and be ever ready to protect and serve people and country.
“We will ensure 30 percent gender parity in the composition of cabinet, parliament and councils. We will introduce one term limit if a PDOIS member happens to be president after Jammeh and a two term limit of four years for subsequent presidents.
“We will establish special service commissions to appoint judges and remove them only through impeachment. Magistrates will be appointed and removable by an impartial and Independent Judicial Service Commission with no official representation.
“We will ensure that educational institutions would prepare the next generation for self determined development and for sovereign citizenship. We will establish an academy of science, arts and technology and mobilsed experts and academics to preside over the production of books and other learning material and inventions which could be relied on to ensure self reliant and determined development for sovereign citizens of a secular sovereign republic. The First and Second Republics have failed. Let us now focus on the Third Republic.”