President Jammeh
President Jammeh

(JollofNews) – Bis mil lahi rahmanir raheem. Mr Speaker, I begin my statement with praises to Allah SWT for it is by His grace and mercy that I am able to deliver this statement today. This year’s event is special in that it is the final legislative year in my current mandate as President of our dear and beloved country. And so is it for you National Assembly members.                                                                          This being the case, we are obliged to return praises to Allah SWT for guiding us on the right path thus far in the service of our people. As members of the National Assembly, you have over the past four years demonstrated patriotism and fear of the Almighty Allah by cooperating with my Government in enacting many laws that serve the interest of Gambians in particular and humanity at large. I hope that you will continue to conduct business in this legislative year with more patriotism and fear of the Almighty Allah so that our desire for achieving food self-sufficiency.
Overall, we shall continue to be grateful to the Almighty Allah for our achievements in moving our dear country forward since the advent of the July 22nd Revolution. I take this opportunity to express my gratitude and appreciation to the Hon. Speaker, the National Assembly Members and all administrative and support staff for having successfully concluded the 2015 Legislative year and for the start of the 2016 legislative calendar.
Mr Speaker, we have made admirable progress in attaining certain key internationally acceptable development indicators such as in health and sanitation, education, hunger and nutrition and access to potable water. I therefore feel that we need not recount these achievements on this occasion.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The pleasant fact , for which we continue to thank Allah SWT, that more and more of these achievements are being eloquently acclaimed and applauded in the form of prestigious international awards and accolades, suffices to silence insane critics and skeptics. What is important is that we should view and act upon these achievements emboldened to spur, inspire and motivate us as well as fortify our commitment to aim at the highest levels of performance humanly possible as a nation.
Thus, Mr Speaker, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, this address will and should be forward-looking and will focus mainly on policy measures, strategic initiatives and program activities of the Executive branch of my Government and their related legislations in the Assembly’s 2016 calendar. Before I begin with the economic situation of the country, I wish to reiterate the declaration of The Gambia as an Islamic Republic. In this connection, a piece of legislation will soon be tabled before the National Assembly to begin the process of its implementation. Let me hasten however to assure you that the declaration of an Islamic state does not mean that other religions will be suppressed as there is no compulsion in religion as enshrined in the Holy Quran. For us Muslims however, we will be governed by the laws based on the divine dispensation of Allah SWT’s law which is Sharia based on the Holy Quran.
Finance and Economic Affairs                                                                                                                                                                                 Mr Speaker,
Following the sluggish growth of the economy in 2015, the year 2016 is expected to perform much better. The growth is mainly attributed to a rebound both from the agricultural sector and the tourism sub-sector following the delayed rainfall and the spillover effect from the regional Ebola crisis respectively. The Economy is anticipated to grow at 4.7 per cent in 2016 compared to 0.9 % in 2014.
Government will continue to pursue its cardinal objectives of accelerating growth and creation of more employment opportunities through the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) which is in its final year of implementation. To continue with the broad policy objectives of PAGE, a successor programme would be launched early part of 2017 to consolidate poverty eradication through economic growth and creation of job opportunities. It will also indigenise the Sustainable development goals and the Ten Year Implementation plan of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
In the area of macroeconomic management, we continue to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to assess the state of the economy on a regular basis and to implement financial and economic management systems that will facilitate business transactions and trade. In this regard Ministry of Finance formulated the Payment Systems Bill and the Non-Bank Financial Institution Bill both of which will be submitted to the National Assembly during the 2016 legislative year for enactment.
The objectives of the Payment Systems Bill, 2016 are:
*Provide the establishment, designation. Operation and supervision of electronic and other payment systems
*Make provisions for the efficient operation of payment, clearing and settlement systems with a view to controlling systematic risk and promoting completion for payment services
*Facilitate payments and enhance confidence in the systems and the planned monetary union nationally and across the board.
The objectives of the Non-Bank Financial Institution Bill, 2016 are:
*To address the operational, institutional, regulatory and supervisory gaps being faced by the micro-finance industry
*Assist in deepening the financial sector with a range of financial products and services to promote financial inclusion, growth and sustainable development
* To provide for the growing micro finance products and services such as branchless banking, leasing, hire purchasing and Islamic micro finance services which were not provided for by the regulatory system.
Trade, Industry, Transport, Regional Integration and Employment
Mr Speaker,
The Ministry of Trade, Industry, Transport Regional Integration and Employment, as part of its mandate to promote and facilitate trade, private investment, industrial development and employment, will continue to pursue measures designed to improve the business environment, promote investment and the development of enterprises through projects and programmes under its purview with a view to contribute to economic growth and employment. To achieve these objectives, MOTIE formulated the Medium Term Plan (MTP) (2016-2020) in 2015 to facilitate the implementation of its policy programmes, which informed the MTEF (2016-2018).
In pursuing its sectoral mandate, the Ministry of Trade tabled the Essential Commodity Act 2015 and GIEPA Act 2015 at the National Assembly during the past legislative year and these were subsequently enacted into law. The Essential Commodity Act will enable Government to closely monitor quality, availability and affordability of essential commodities in the markets while the GIEPA Act 2015 will strengthen the Agency’s capacity to address the concerns of investors as well as promote the participation of Gambians in business.
Furthermore, the Labour Act 2007, Factories Act and Injuries Compensation Act are all earmarked for review in 2016 to ensure that national labour legislations are consistent with international standards and best practices. A minimum wage and occupational health safety regulations are also being developed and are expected to be completed before the end of 2016.
In the area of resource mobilization for project implementation, MOTIE in collaboration with MOFEA and the Gambia’s EIF donor facilitator (Turkey) is working on organizing a donor round table on Aid for Trade projects.
This is to support the implementation of follow-up projects of the Sector Competitiveness and Export Development Projects, the inclusive tourism projects, the National Export Strategy and the MTP activities. The implementation of these programmes would significantly contribute to enhancing the competitiveness of the Gambian economy. In addition, the Ministry is also working with MOFEA to have a successor project to the Growth and Competitiveness Project (GCP) to be called GCP 2.
Mr Speaker,
In terms of Regional Integration, The Gambia will host the ECOWAS Regional Competition Authority (ERCA) headquarters. The Ministry of Trade is now working on the modalities of hosting this sub-regional body including the signing of the Head Quarters Agreement between the Government of The Gambia and the President of the ECOWAS Commission and the securing of a suitable site for the Headquarters.
Tourism and Culture
Mr Speaker, my government continues to recognise tourism as an important pillar of building international peace, economic growth, poverty eradication and employment.
Therefore, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture will studiously and vigorously implement its five year strategic plan (2015-2020). The short term objective is to increase tourist arrivals from the pre-Ebola period to 200,000 in 2016 and to a million arrivals in 2020. The strategies put in place in pursuit of these objectives include product quality development in both culture and eco-tourism, improvements in service standards, increase in hotel bed capacity, reinstitution of the Miss Gambia Pageant, the National Cultural Troupe along with institutionalizing Excellence in the Arts Award.
The Ministry of Tourism and Culture and all strategic stakeholders such as hoteliers, the NCAC, the GTBoard and The Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute are engaged in coordinated activities for the realization of these objectives of the Tourism, Culture , and Hospitality Strategy Plan 2015-2020.
Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment
Mr Speaker, these sectors hold the key to the success of our dear nation. Therefore, we shall continue to implement all policies and programs in agriculture, fisheries and forestry in order to attain food self-sufficiency and sustainable development.
We will focus on innovative ways of food production in order to derive maximum yields. Therefore, just as we now have a national seed policy, the Ministry of Agriculture shall in 2016 table before the National Assembly the West African Livestock Innovation Centre Bill for enactment into law. The centre will serve as a centre of excellence in research for development and innovation in the livestock sector that will benefit not only Gambian producers, but our brothers and sisters in the sub-region.
Mr Speaker, in order to further protect and ensure a sustainable use of our forest resources, which happen to be a source of livelihood for many Gambians, a Forestry Bill will be tabled before this esteemed body for enactment into law in this new legislative year. The Forestry Act will ensure stiff punishment for indiscriminate felling of trees especially of rare species.
The Fisheries (Amendment) Bill will also be tabled before Honourable Members as Government seeks to regulate the sector for the benefit of Gambians. The Amendment affects various sections of the Fisheries Act and other connected matters, including issues relating to illegal fishing, licensing of local canoes and vessels, fines/penalties and confiscation.
With regards to the proper management of our environment, anti littering laws will be strictly enforced to prevent reckless disposal of solid and hard waste.
Mr Speaker, the focus of my Government in education at all levels will be on relevance, quality, accessibility and affordability. As we begin the implementation of the new education sector policy, 2016 to 2030, renewed emphasis is being put on Technical and Vocational Education which cuts across the education sector from Basic and Secondary to the Tertiary and Higher Education with entrepreneurship as a key element.
Having updated you regularly since 2013 on the efforts my Government has been making to create educational opportunities for every Gambian child, I wish to inform you with deep sense of pride and satisfaction of the introduction of the School Improvement Grants at the senior secondary level with effect from September 2015 which will eventually enable all children to attend school without funding. My Government will also continue to work strenuously towards making university education free in 2018 as well in fulfillment of our desire for free Universal education for all our children.
Mr Speaker, before the end of this legislative year, a Basic Secondary Education Bill, a University of the Gambia Bill and a Tertiary Education Bill aimed at revising the current Education Act will be brought for your consideration in order to support the implementation of the new Education Sector Policy 2016 to 2030.
Mr Speaker, let me now focus on some of the key activities that would be embarked upon during the course of this year in pursuance of the Ministry’s policy objective of providing relevant quality basic and secondary education.
With support from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and The Arab Bank for African Development (BADEA) in partnership with OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), the construction of over 200 classrooms in 70 madrassas and over 300 classrooms in conventional schools will take place respectively starting from May 2016. In addition, through funding from the World Bank, 27 multi-grade schools will be provided with annexed facilities as well as staff quarters.
The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program which is progressing well in 12 existing Majalis, will be extended to 5 additional Majalis in 2016 to cater for communities with a high population of Talibehs (students) as well as low Gross Enrolment Rate (GER).
Mr Speaker, to improve the quality of teaching and learning, curriculum-linked digital content for mathematics, science and English will be developed for students in Grades 7 to 12 and through the use of customised tablets; the content will be made accessible to these students. I am also pleased that construction of the long-awaited UTG main campus at Faraba Banta will commence this year. This new campus, when completed will enhance teaching and accommodation at the UTG.
Health and Social Welfare
Mr Speaker, the health sector is critically important to the wellbeing of our people and the overall socio-economic development of our dear country as it is only with a very healthy population that economic transformation can unfold sustainably. Thus, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare will in 2016 construct 30 new outreach clinics to minimize distance of travel to access healthcare thereby scaling up the achievements made through the expansion of Primary Health Care circuits from 83 to 123 and Primary Health Care key villages from 696 to 838 in 2016.
Mr  Speaker,
These investments in physical health infrastructure will be complemented by the recruitment and training of young men and women Nurses, continuous supply of home-grown doctors by the UTG and the scaling up of intensive health promotion and education activities for the wider inculcation in the entire populace of sound health seeking behaviour in general and maintenance of perfect health in particular. In this respect, a Tobacco Control Bill will be placed before this Assembly in 2016 the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare will also finalize a legal framework for the establishment of a public health council that will regulate the practice and training of public and environmental health professionals in the Gambia. Thus the Public and Environmental Health Officers Bill will be placed before this legislative body in 2016.
Women’s Affairs
Mr  Speaker, my Government will continue to protect the rights of women and children, particularly the girl child. We shall promote their welfare and enhance their wellbeing as indicated in the recent ban on the long-standing cultural practice of female circumcision which is harmful to the girl child. In line with the strategies for achieving the “Vision 2016 Food Self-Sufficiency” development agenda and by extension, Visions 2020, 2025 and the African Union Agenda 2063, my Government will strengthen efforts to increase women’s participation in large-scale commercial agriculture and increase in the production and processing of all agricultural produce.
Women communal vegetable gardens will be supported with new technology to increase vegetable production, processing, preservation and marketing, improve access to water, fencing, farm inputs and implements as well as construction of storage facilities and food processing plants across the country.
Youths and Sports
Mr Speaker, according to the 2013 population census, the majority of Gambians fall in the youth bracket. Therefore, our success as a nation will continue to depend on this segment of the population. Already significant investments have been made in this sector for skills development, employment creation and self employment generation. Much progress has also been achieved; however, the distraction of the back way syndrome still remains potent not only by the external pull factors but push factors through parental and family facilitation. My Government will however continue with efforts to entice young Gambians to explore greener pastures within the confines of the Gambia.         In this respect, the Ministry of Youth in collaboration with the UNDP has, under the Songhai initiative project, exposed 30 youths in agricultural entrepreneurship training in the Songhai Regional training Centre in the Republic of Benin. The 30 youth returnees have been engaged as trainers and instructors and will transfer their skills and know-how to 54 youths–male and female who will graduate as entrepreneurs in various aspects of agriculture in 2016. The Gambia Songhai initiative is also focused in catalysing the drive towards national food self-sufficiency. Participants have cultivated a vast variety of food and cash crops for adoption by the farming community.
Thus, Mr Speaker, in the year 2016, the Ministry of Youth will continue to mobilise resources for the implementation of the Youth Policy and strategy Plan. I wish to commend the National Assembly for its partnership in this strategic development concern demonstrated in the enactment of the NYSS Act 2015 that resulted from my Governments review of the NYSS Act 1999 to ensure that the scheme only recruits and orient young people towards career development and service to national development.
Also, the PIA Act 2015 that was enacted by the National Assembly in September 2015, will establish a fully fledged legally constituted institution that creates the atmosphere where youths are mentored through the Award programme to acquire hands-on relevant skills and to be endowed with the required attitudes and knowledge to engage in national development.
The Act will also streamline and structure the activities of the PIA to include new trade areas in plumbing, building and construction, electronic and web–designing. In October 2015, PIA decorated at Silver level 350 young participants from various schools and youth organizations that successfully completed all the requirements.
Furthermore, a National Sports Bill 2015 will be placed before you for enactment in the current legislative Year. The Bill is to clarify the roles of some critical sports structures such as regional sports committees, district sports committees, national sports associations and the sports tribunal, enhance transparency and excellence in all national sports disciplines and prevent conflicts and problems that used to prevail due to shortcomings of the national Sports Act 2000.
Justice Delivery
Mr  Speaker, an efficient and robust justice delivery system remains a priority for my Government.
In this connection, as part of efforts to regulate the legal profession, this legislative chamber in 2015 enacted the new Legal Practitioners Act and Gambia Law School Act submitted by the Ministry of Justice.
In the current legislative year, as part of this Government’s legacy of good governance and transparency, the Anti-Corruption Commission members would be sworn in to begin work in earnest; and the Ministry will also table a Bill for the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission, and a Judicial Services Commission Bill.
To solve the perennial problem of the backlog of cases, the Judiciary has also put in place a number of measures to be implemented in 2016. These include:
* the establishment of a new High Court in Kanifing;
* the establishment of a Narcotics Court in Bwiam;
*  the establishment of new Cadi Courts in Central River Region and Lower River Region respectively;
*  the establishment of a Children’s Court in Farafenni, and
*  the establishment of Rent Tribunals in Brikama and Basse.
The Ministry of Justice is also spearheading the development of The Gambia’s first ever Intellectual Property Strategy and Policy. With the Gambia’s accession to the Madrid Protocol on the protection of trademarks in 2015, The Gambia Government intends to protect the “Smiling Coast of Africa” slogan by filing a trademark application worldwide, which will help in the marketing of destination Gambia for tourism.
Energy and Petroleum                                                                                                                                                                                               Mr Speaker,
The Government of the Gambia recognises that, access to adequate, reliable and affordable energy is fundamental and a necessity for the achievement of national developmental objectives, for promoting investment and for improving the competitiveness of economies of countries. It is for these reasons therefore, that the Government of The Gambia has consistently pursued policies aimed at not only expanding the electricity generation, transmission and distribution, but also promoting other forms of energy in the Greater Banjul Area and the provinces to meet the growing demand for this essential service.
The introduction of small to medium scale renewable energy projects funded in partnership GEF and UNIDO is part of my Governments commitment to greening the productive sectors of the economy. In this regard, GEF 5 was launched recently in the year with the objective to develop and provide a market environment that stimulates investment in renewable energy based mini-grids for productive uses in the rural areas of The Gambia.
In this connection, to ensure a reliable, affordable and sustainable energy supply and to promote diversification of energy sources, the Government of the Gambia has enacted the Renewable Energy (RE) Law. This laudable move accomplished by the Executive and Legislative arm of Government provides incentives for both local and foreign investors to invest in the Gambia’s energy sector. Currently, work is being done to develop the feed in tariff and the regulation. The ongoing development of the National Energy Action Plan and a five-year energy strategic plan will complete the institutional framework of the sector with a roadmap to develop and implement energy sector cooperation and partnership as well as human and institutional capacity development.
Mr  Speaker,
In the petroleum sector, one of the license holders, African Petroleum, is in the process of preparing to drill this year and another license holder, CAMAC Energy has completed a 3D survey and the data is being processed for interpretation.
With regard to the downstream sector, a petroleum products Bill is being prepared for submission to this august assembly this year. Following the enactment of this Bill, a service station regulations and petroleum products importation Regulations would be developed for effective control of the sector. I am happy to mention here that the iconic new Petroleum House will be completed and inaugurated this year.
Works, Infrastructure and National Assembly Matters
Mr  Speaker, My Government will continue to invest in public infrastructure which is a sine qua non for rapid socio-economic development. We have made significant progress in this regard by ensuring that most major settlements and growth centres are connected by a paved road network system complemented by electric power and potable water systems.
In 2016, construction of the long-awaited Laminkoto –Passimus road will begin and if completed, the whole country on either side of the river Gambia would be connected by a paved road network.
The second phase of the Banjul International Airport Improvement Project would be complete. Through this project the apron and taxi way are being upgraded and expanded in order to accommodate more and bigger aircraft. A new air navigation instrument landing system will be installed and the ongoing new fire and rescue station will be completed and fully equipped. At the end of this project, the airport will be more competitive and would have attained the highest standards both in terms of infrastructure and safety.
Mr  Speaker, with regard to the sea port in Banjul, the Gambia Ports Authority will in 2016 intensify efforts to seek partners within the framework of Government’s Public Private Partnership, to develop and expand the seaport. The Gambia Ports Authority will in 2016 commence the construction of a new Kanilai type ferry at Damen Shipyard in Holland. The ferry is designed to have separate decks for passengers and vehicles. We are also working on building a Deep Sea Port by 2021 inshallah.
Information,Communication Infrastructure
Mr Speaker,
The objective of my Government is to transform the Gambia into a digital economy where trade and commerce will be conducted using information and communication technology supported by the ACE submarines cable system. My government acknowledges that for our economy to be more competitive, the ICT infrastructure must be enhanced hence our decision to be part of the ACE consortium.
As we pursue the transformation to a digital economy, the Ministry of Communication and Communication Infrastructure is drafting a National ICT Agency Bill which will be tabled before the National Assembly in 2016 for enactment. The National ICT Agency will be responsible for the coordination, establishment and sustainable execution of national ICT programmes. Its setting up will help create a highly qualified and competent technical team to effectively manage national ICT systems and networks that are becoming more and more sophisticated and complex.
Internal Security
Mr Speaker,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My government will continue to upgrade the capacity and provide equipment for the men and women of our national security outfits to strengthen the security of our dear country. Despite this effort, security agents cannot be present everywhere and every time. Therefore, I enjoin all Gambians to be security conscious and report violations of the law and any suspicious activity to the nearest security outfit – be it the Police, Immigration, or Drug Law Enforcement agents.
Mr Speaker, peace and Security looms large in the minds of politicians and policymakers especially in recent times when the world situation is more volatile and major threats compounded by civil strife in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe cause major insecurity and displacement of people in many parts of the world.
For Africa and our West Africa region in particular, the Gambia continues to participate in all fora of the African Union and ECOWAS in the process of peaceful negotiation and mediation in conflicts. Also our efforts take into consideration the potential threat of terrorism and other destabilising crimes such a trafficking and banditry that make populations vulnerable and bring about socio-economic problems for regional governments.
In the search for peace and in the monitoring of conflicts, our Government will continue to participate in peacekeeping operations and all productive interventions that could bring about regional stability.
This policy will always be complemented by strict monitoring of the security environment so as to ward off any potential threats to national security within our borders and beyond.
Let me reiterate that Africa must have a concerted effort in resolving conflicts and monitoring activities in hot spots but we must be in charge of our security apparatus and not to leave it to the control of outside forces whose interests might be detrimental to the African interest and economic progress.
Foreign Affairs
Mr Speaker, in the area of foreign policy and international relations, my government remains relentless in its subscription to the principles of good-neighbourliness, non interference in the internal affairs of nations and the legal equality of nations irrespective of demographic and economic size. Our upholding of these principles relates to our firm and unshakable commitment to the values of justice, fair play, peace and security as well as mutual respect for the identity, dignity and sovereignty of nations regardless of racial and religious affiliation. In this respect, my Government will not hesitate to stand up against injustice, racism, terrorism and crimes against humanity.
In promoting these objectives, I wish to inform this assembly that my government will table a UN General Assembly Resolution on Slavery and Colonialism to declare these barbaric chapters in human history as crimes against humanity and for the nations that perpetrated these crimes to be obligated to reparations and unconditional apologies. I am also delighted to inform this august assembly that my Government has secured the endorsement of both the African Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation. And because of the common experience between African and Caribbean countries, we are quite hopeful of the support of Caribbean Governments. Meanwhile, however, as part of the intensive sensitization and awareness creation activities, my government will organize an international colloquium on the themes of the resolution along with the Roots Homecoming Festival in May, 2016.
Mr Speaker, before concluding, I wish to reiterate my congratulations to you and through you to all national assembly members for carrying out your responsibility to enact the laws that govern this country effectively and to the satisfaction of the citizenry. I also commend you for effectively following through your prerogative of appropriating the scarce financial resources to operate the executive, judicial and the legislative branches of Government through your PAC/PEC sessions that scrutinize expenditure to ensure that it is done in accordance with laid down financial and procurement procedures. This institutionalisation of transparency and accountability by the PAC/PEC mechanism has strengthened and improved financial and economic governance in this country.
Mr Speaker, this has clearly indicated that the relationship between the Executive and the legislative branches of Government in the Second Republic does not mirror a fusion of powers as was the practice in the First Republic. While Governmental powers and responsibilities are too complex and interrelated to be neatly compartmentalised, it is very clear that we have been able to define our responsibilities distinctly without any attempt to usurp each other’s core functions.
Yet, Mr Speaker, we have also been successful in forging harmony between the Executive and the legislative branches of Government. We thank Allah SWT for the continued blessings and guidance that have enabled us to respond to the challenges of national socio-economic development within the context of a multi party system and representative branches of government with complementary responsibilities and with effective use of the principles of discretion and prerogative in the interest of all Gambians. This is a contribution of the Second Republic to the history of constitutionalism and governance in the Gambia and we should all guard and further develop this legacy to ensure that it is not compromised or tarnished.
I also thank very sincerely, the Gambian women and youths who have turned out in their large numbers today as usual to convey their love, loyalty and support to me and their Dear Motherland. May the ALMIGHTY ALLAH BLESS US all abundantly so that we can vanquish all the evil forces of this World.
On this note Mr. Speaker, distinguished audience and Patriotic and ALLAH Fearing Good people of this great country, I thank you all for your attention.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              AS SALAMU ALAIKUM WARAH MATULLAHI WABARAKATUH