Saturday, June 18, 2011

NATIONAL NEWS


 Investment outlook for Gambia is positive - Says DPS Trade

More news…..
  • Investment outlook for Gambia is positive - Says DPS Trade
  • Fisheries Director exhorts for the right policies, strategies and programmes  
  • Gamblood commends voluntary blood donors
  • JDRS Mission for the education sector in progress
  • GADHOH reiterates the need to break communication barriers
  • Students Are Encouraged To Pursue Higher Education
  • CRS distributes over 20, 000 insecticide treated bed nets
  • NCAC validates ‘strategic plan’ for 2011-2015
  • Disaster Agency engage policy-makers in mainstreaming risk-reduction

·       Investment outlook for Gambia is positive - Says DPS Trade
Momodou Lamin Ceesay, deputy permanent secretary, Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment has projected that that the investment outlook for The Gambia is positive.
He said the country has witnessed a steady increase in foreign direct investments over the years and with the new Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency, GIEPA Act 2010 and regulations, it is hoped that the government can cement the gains registered by attracting more value added investments.
Mr Ceesay was speaking on Monday June 13, in Banjul during a one-day Stakeholders Forum on Regulations organised by GIEPA. The Forum is aimed at aiding the Ministry’s policy drive to have in place a well defined set of investment laws and regulation. 
“The policy environment is conducive and the new GIEPA Act came into being as a result of the need to remain competitive both within the sub-region and wider world,” he said.
“For the first time, the investment law recognizes the need to decentralize the growth and development prospects around the country through the specific provisions of additional investment incentives for investments registered in the regions outside the urban areas.”
He adds: “There is obviously the need to have a strong investment regulatory framework which aims to improve transparency of investment policies and provide regulatory guidelines fundamental in attracting both foreign and domestic investment and providing the necessary support to develop the export base of our country.”
The regulations being drafted will help defined any grey areas in the investment law to enable all stakeholders to better interpret the provisions of the law.
The Chief Executive Officer GIEPA Fatou Jallow said they had worked with stakeholders in 2010 and came up with draft regulations that were later found to be short of international best practice. This is the reason for engaging all stakeholders again with the assistance of an international expert on the subject matter.
She add that lessons learned from the implementation of the formerly Gambia Investment Promotion and Free Zone Agency (GIPFZA) Act have been the corner stone of the new act and the same lessons should be considered in the drafting of these regulations; of course taking into account the current dynamics of our country and our competitors.
“Since the investment laws and eventual regulations are country marking tools targeting all sectors of the economy, it is crucial that the inputs of all stakeholders, public and private sector are taken into account and we have regulations that do not only reflect international best practice but also cognizant of our local environment,” she said.
Fatou Sinyan Mergan, Chairperson GIEPA Board of Directors, noted they need to have a clearly defined working document that would enable GIEPA implement its mandate in the most transparent and effective manner.
For some of us who had served on the GIPFZA, they are testimony to the fact that today’s discussions once reflected in the regulations would serve as an improvement on the last investment act, she said.
“Our interest as a board and agency is to be able to implement our mandate with the “buy-in” and full support of all implementing agencies since the investment law and regulations, as highlighted by the CEO, is a key marketing tool for our beloved country, The Gambia.”

·       Fisheries Director exhorts for the right policies, strategies and programmes  
The Director of Fisheries Department of The Gambia Mr. Famara Dampha has stressed that the country does not have enough resources to address the many challenges it is faced with in the health, agriculture, education, and other sectors.
Hence, he said it is important to ensure that the right policies, strategies, and programmes are put in place to help develop the fisheries sector, and increase its contribution to national development.
Mr. Dampha was speaking in Banjul on Monday June 13, during one-day stakeholders Validation Workshop on the Fisheries Strategic Action Plan 2012-2016, organized by the fisheries department of The Gambia.
“The fisheries sector is very important in our national economy, health, and a key plank in our development efforts. The sector accounts for about 4.5 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP), and employs thousands of people both directly and indirectly. Fisheries products also provide a good part of our food and nutritional needs, thereby increasing food security, and improving health in the country,” he outlined.
“It makes sense that the fisheries sector is an important plank of our national development policies and strategies of Vision 2020, our national development blueprint which aims to transform The Gambia into a middle-income country.”
According to him, the Agricultural and Natural Resources Policy, the Strategy for Poverty Alleviation (SPA), and the upcoming Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) all acknowledged the vital role that the fisheries sector has to play in national development.
However, he laments that the sector faces a number of challenges, key among them is the inadequate investments and human resources, and the depletion of stocks, thereby threatening its long-term sustainability.
“The Gambia has spared no efforts in developing various policies to help develop the fisheries sector dating ass far back as the 1960s, with the creation of the Fisheries Unit under the Department of Agriculture and the creation of the Fisheries Department in 1980. The sector was also included in the Five-year National Development Plans between 1975 and 1985, the Economic Recovery Programme (1985-1989), and the Programme for Sustainable Development (PSD), implemented during the 1990s,” he outlined.
“A number of PSD policy objectives related to the fisheries sector formed the basis of the Gambia Fisheries Strategic Plan 1994/95-2004, which was predicated on the acknowledgement the enormous potential of the fisheries sector.” The Government of The Gambia also prepared a medium term plan (MTP) for the fisheries sector.

Photograph: Joern Pollex/Getty Images
·       Gamblood commends voluntary blood donors
Unpaid blood donors in The Gambia have been praised for giving blood during celebrations marking World Blood Donor Day on June 14, 2011.
Held at the Serrekunda Hospital in Kanifing, under the theme “More blood, more life”, the organisers (the Ministry of Health) aim to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products and to thank voluntary blood donors for their life saving gifts of blood.
In her statement, Fatim Badjie, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare said her ministry is committed to ensure that maternal and mortality reduces to its minimum, noting that blood donation plays a key role in achieving this goal.
She underscore the need for safe and secure supplies of blood and blood products, while noting that the demand for blood used for transfusion, continues to increase, hence, many countries cannot meet the existing needs.
“Blood and blood products are needed for routine and emergency surgery, including life saving treatment for growing numbers of people injured in road traffic accidents, and for treating congenital blood disorders,” she said. “At least 90 million units of blood products are donated each year to save lives and improve health.” 
Without blood donation, she said their will be inadequate supplies to replace blood lost in childbirth which is a major cause of maternal deaths and to treat anaemia which threatens the lives of children who have malaria or are undernourished.
On his part, Mr. Makie Taal, director of national public health laboratories, stated that the theme reinforces urgent need for more people all over the world to become life-savers, by volunteering to donate blood regularly.
He outlined that Gambia have registered success in both blood donation and safety, with specific mention to Bansang Hospital, which have registered only one maternal death in the first quarter of this year.
The Bansang Hospital regularly supplies blood to the Basse Health Centre, which impacts on the reduction of referrals and maternal mortality, he disclosed. “Safe and reliable supply of blood is an essential component for scaling up health at several levels, and it is one of the important visions of the Ministry of Health.”
More than half a million women die every year from complications, related to pregnancy and childbirth worldwide. 99 percent of those are from developing countries. Haemorrhage accounts for 25 percent of the complications and is the most common cause of maternal death.
Aminatta Sarr Bojang, programme manager Gamblood said blood transfusion service in Gambia is largely hospital based, with 80-90 percent of the blood supply coming from relatives of patients and only 10 from non-remunerated blood donors. “Donating safe blood means one has committed himself to participating in a vital community service to improve the quality of life.”

·       JDRS Mission for the education sector in progress
Educationists at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, donor partners from World Bank and other key stakeholders are currently meeting on a Joint Donor Review and Supervision (JDRS) Mission for the education sector in The Gambia.
The five-day meeting started on Monday at the Regional Education Directorate, Region One, Kanifing, is due to end on June 17, 2011. It is organized by the Project Coordinating Unit under the Ministry, in-country and external partners with the aim of improving accountability, transparency and results for the education sector.
In her opening remark, the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education Fatou Lamin Faye noted that the joint donor review is to ensure that her ministry is able to provide and deliver effective quality educations services to all Gambians.
“The JDRS is very important and timely as it will give us the opportunity to assess the progress made since the inception of the project and also look at what challenges still remain,” she said.
She adds that the meeting will also try to establish and the funding gaps as well as resources mobilization and challenges confronting the implementation processes. 
Mrs Faye noted that it’s difficult to mobilized resources but the idea is to look at solutions that will move the agenda forward, in order to achieve the quality educations for children.
According to her, the education sector have been able to benefit and improved immensely from the constructive criticisms coming from outside the sector, while noting that the occasion will increase the level of accountability and transparency of the implementation programme.

·       GADHOH reiterates the need to break communication barriers
The Gambia Association of the Deaf and Heard of Hearing (GADHOH) on Thursday held a one-day advocacy programme at the Brikama Community Radio, in the West Coast Region.
GADHOH started operating in The Gambia since 1992 and have opened six branches in the country including Brikama, Banjul, Jarra Soma, Barra, Farafenni, and Bwiam.
Speaking on the day, Mr. Lamin Ceesay, deputy director GADHOH noted that their mandate is to work together for a better future for the deaf and their families in The Gambia through advocacy and sensitizations.
He said it is a fact that deaf people are faced with enormous communication barriers especially when they are in dire need of health services and are discriminated against when they need to access such service.
He strongly believes more can be done by the authorities to ensure equal access to information for deaf people and is essential that this is done as per their sign language. This includes mandatory requirements for appropriate and effective communication support to be provided at no expense to the deaf person.
He stressed that whereas the Government has not put in place mechanisms to bridge the communication barrier, should a deaf person be culpable where actions are initiated by the state against him or her.
He said it is necessary the deaf to be well-informed of treatment procedures during health services; when arrested by the police or appear in court. Therefore, we are appealing to the government to improve the quality and standards of Deaf Education and to extend opportunities for dead persons.
The Director of GADHOH Female Wing Madam Isatou Sanyang put across concern that Deaf children of hearing parents are not exposed to sign language during their early childhood development.
She exhorts the relevant government departments, NGOs and the private sector to put up support programmes for parents to learn sign language soon after the birth of the deaf child. “Parents of the deaf needs to know the importance of Deaf education and communicating with them because they need to sit with their deaf children to teach them how to prevent themselves from teenage pregnancy and other sexual abuses,” she charged.
On his part, Mr. Karamo Sanyang, Head Teacher Brikama Nursery School for the Deaf said challenges the authorities to ensure that the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing are involved in the country’s decision making processes.
Highlighting talents, he said most of the furniture at his school and in his house is made by the deaf. Even most of our schools are built and roofed by the deaf. The association condemns the concept that the deaf and hard of hearing cannot do anything.

·       Students Are Encouraged To Pursue Higher Education
The Late Francis Degaulle Njie Foundation holds its second motivational lecture on the theme “The importance of university education – studying at the UTG”, on 10th June, 2011 at the Father Farrell Memorial Hall in Kanifing.
Vivat Thomas Njie, the Chairperson of the occasion stated that the purpose of the seminar was to raise awareness for the young people of the Gambia to be awakened to the educational opportunities around them. The outreach targeted senior secondary schools in the Greater Banjul Area.
She outlined the importance of hard work, determination and discipline to pursue university education, saying “the baton has been handed over to you now to the run and it is up to each of us, as to how we prepare ourselves to get to university”.
She said university education is very important to the development of The Gambia. “We need teachers, health workers, economists, bankers, lawyers, scientists and many more to develop our country.”
Momodou Lamin Tarro, AG Registrar University of The Gambia, told the students that as prospective leaders, the very destiny of our nation lies in their hands. We revere our leaders; admire the glamour, the benefits and the opportunities that leaders are provided with in society. Naturally, we do not always see the challenges and responsibilities that come with leadership.
“University education is a great way to implement your desire for a career change. A higher education gives you the confidence to change tracks from what you have been doing all these years,” he said.
“Qualitatively, education equips the labour force with the requisite skills and competencies for the advancement of the nation, citing that there is a major link between higher education and socio-economic advancement.”
He adds: “Research have shown that a higher qualification reflects on career progress not only in terms of climbing the ladder faster, but also in making bank accounts fatter.”
Mr. Ismaila Ceesay, a Lecturer at the University of The Gambia says the UTG aspires to be a socially responsive university by encouraging social outreach programmes through the Student Union and other clubs operating within the ambit of the union. “The aim is to prepare our students to be valuable members of society.”
“The last three to four decades has ushered in an era of rapid globalization gaining impetus from the revolution of Communication and Information Technologies. This era comes with a plethora of challenges and to effectively grapple these challenges, concerted global efforts are needed, as higher education institutions, especially universities, are not immune to these challenges and in fact, they have significant roles to play in this regard.” 
He underscored the need for improving local capacities at less privileged communities and promoting individual and collective self-managed skills and self-esteem that facilitates the needed conditions to assure accepted per capita standards of living and national development in general.

·       CRS distributes over 20, 000 insecticide treated bed nets
The Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Banjul on Tuesday presented over 20, 000 insecticide treated bed nets to more than 20 institution, among them reproduction and child health clinics, the Armed Forces Training School, and the Imam Malick Islamic School.
Other beneficiaries include the burden schools, and the prisons. The presentation ceremony was held at CRS Warehouse at Kanifing South on 14th June 2011.
The CRS is one of the “Principal Recipient of the Global Fund Round 9 Grant” responsible for “Behavioural Change Communication” and the distribution of “Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets (LLINs)” in The Gambia.
The Minister of Health and Social Welfare Fatim Badjie said  malaria is one of the most formidable public health problems that confront Gambians, but noted that the health sector has also undergone corresponding transformation to meet the challenge it offers.
“Government has accorded high priority to malaria and other diseases of public health significance and since the operation eradicates malaria, and the subsequent implementation of indoor residual spraying, the fight against malaria has been relentless and sustained,” she said.
She stressed that they have intensified their efforts as a government, to strengthen collaboration with their development partners in mobilizing the requisite resources to contain malaria.
She commended the global fund for pioneering the mass distribution campaign of the insecticide treated bed net, adding that through their commitment and relentless partnership, significant gains have been made in scaling up malaria pre-elimination and control in The Gambia.
She urged all the beneficiaries to make the most out of these nets by actually sleeping under them. “The nets have been proven to be useful to prevent contact with targets for all diseases, including malaria. This re-distribution campaign offers an opportunity for every family to sleep under the comfort and full protection of a treated net,” she advised.
“The net distributions have been limited to certain vulnerable groups who were considered as high risk groups in 2007, The Gambia has the highest record in Africa, of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs)used by children under five and pregnant women. I would like to reiterate the continued commitment of government to explore every possible frontier geared towards disease prevention and wider health promotion.
The Chairperson of CRS Mr. Ebrima Jarju said that this is not the first time for CRS to distribute nets to people. “We have been given out net to people and this time we are going to give the net to institution regarded as high risk group such as burden schools, health centres, and the prisons,” he said. But, appealed to the beneficiary to make good use of the nets.         

·       NCAC validates ‘strategic plan’ for 2011-2015
The National Center for Arts and Culture, NCAC in Banjul, The Gambia on Tuesday opened a three-day (14-16 June) workshop to validate its 2011-2015 Strategic Plan at the Dune Hotel, Kololi.
The NCAC, by virtue of its legal mandate is charged with the responsibility to preserve, promote and develop all aspects of Gambia’s cultural heritage, the tangible as well as the movable and immovable.
The Chairman of the Board of Directors, NCAC Mr. Francis Mboge admits Gambia needs bold new strategies to grow into the future, strategies that will revamp her policies on culture to contribute positively to the objectives enshrined in Vision 2020.
“These strategies should also link culture firmly to areas of national priority, such as tourism, agriculture, health, housing and a traditional art to ensure that it is entrenched as a fundamental component of development,” he said.
“It has been acknowledged by scholars and development planners internationally, that they cannot in fact talk of meaningful and sustainable socio-economic development if they fail to include the cultural dimension of it. Development must be recognized and mainstreamed if a nation is to realize the development needs of the people,” the Minister of Tourism and Culture Fatou Mass Jobe Njie said.    
“It is an indisputable economic fact that the cultural industries contribute more to the gross domestic product than any other sector for many of the developed countries, and provides employment to hundreds of thousands of people in these countries.”
According to her, the government places great emphasis on culture, notably the institutionalization of the “international roots home coming festival” and the “Kanilai international cultural festival”, and the unrelenting financial support to all manners of artists and artistic group.

·       Disaster Agency engage policy-makers in mainstreaming risk-reduction
The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) in an effort to ensure Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is inculcated and mainstreamed into all development agenda, held a one-day awareness creation programme for policy and decision-makers in The Gambia.
Held on Thursday at the Paradise Suites Hotel, in Banjul, the event is aimed at strengthening and improving the proactive role of Parliamentarians.
NDMA’s Executive Director Mr Essa Khan said disaster is a development challenge which need to be addressed holistically to enable the country achieve its blue print development plan of Vision 2020, the millennium development goals (MDGs) and the programme for accelerate growth and employment (PAGE) in 2015.
He noted that the emphasis is now shifting from managing crises to managing risks and towards reducing vulnerability through exposure and hazard. “Reducing disaster is not the role of the government alone, but that of all partners so as to empower communities to take DRR as a top priority,” he said.
“DRR supports development aid, and achieving the MDGs will be a cushion if DRR is not taken as a priority. National Assembly Members can champion this advocacy initiative and thereby make sure all sectors mainstream or integrate DRR into their development agenda.”
The Majority Leader and Member of Serrekunda East, Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta warns that the Gambia is already vulnerable to disaster risks, including a range of hazards such as droughts, wind storms, locust invasion and landslides.
“A reactive emergency response approach is no longer the solution in the long term. However, we are now transitioning from managing crisis to managing risks and it is therefore important to adopt a new strategy, which directly involves vulnerable people themselves in planning and implementation of mitigation measures,” he declared.
“This bottom-up approach has received wide acceptance because communities are considered the best judges of their own vulnerability and can make the best decisions regarding their own well-being.”
Despite the NDMA director’s position that the Government cannot do it alone, Hon Jatta argued that the change in strategy would not have been possible without the government taking the lead role and firmly in the driver’s seat by establishing an institutional framework for disaster management in the country.
He said: “The loss of life and property and the challenges that were faced in the aftermath of the 2010 floods, exhibited the need for strengthening existing policies and institutional arrangements to reduce losses from disasters in future.”
The 2010 floods tested the resilience and capacity of The Gambia and its people to overcome disasters, and the responses speaks to the fact that the first responders where the persons from the immediate communities. Hence, the reason for strengthening disaster committees at the community level is critical.
He concluded that the awareness creation for policy makers, the media, civil society, UN agencies among others on disaster risk reduction needs a more systematic approach.
  • Culled from The Voice Newspaper in Banjul, The Gambia

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