Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gambia, Turkey extent cooperation beyond security

  • National assembly members should be honest 
  •  NAMs agree to fill government budget gaps
  • Gambian children screened for cardiac and heart diseases 

Gambia, Turkey extent cooperation beyond security

The governments of the Gambian and Turkish on Monday agree to extend their long term cooperation beyond defence and security.
Gambia’s ministry of tourism and culture and the Turkish diplomatic mission to Gambia signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) designed to create an avenue for cooperation in the field of tourism.

The tiny west African country have benefited enormously from Turkish military expertise over the years, however, the this new door of cooperation is expected to boost Gambia’s tourism sector, the second biggest contributor to the country’s GDP.

Both governments agreed the MOU is designed to recognise the importance of tourism as an aspect of economic development and to further strengthen relations between the two countries.

At the ceremony held at a local hotel in the Gambian capital, Banjul, tourism and culture minister Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie noted the MOU will improve product and human resource developments and investment in Gambia’s tourism industry. 

This will in turn lead to enhancement of visitor experience and a surge in tourist arrivals, she added.

She recognized Turkey’s economic growth and development in as many years, especially the increase in the number of visitors to the Asian-European country. 

She said there is a certain degree of similarity in the tourism product of the two countries. Like Turkey, Gambia’s tourism is largely centered on a variety of historical sites and seaside resorts. 

The agreement will enable my country to share experience and contribute to the development of the industry in The Gambia, said Turkey Ambassador to Gambia Ali Riza Özço’kun. 

He is optimistic that the new cooperation will create a new tourism market for Gambia. “Turkish do not know where to go in Africa but with this it will make Turkish to know and visit The Gambia because it is an important destination,” he said.

Gambia’s permanent secretary at the Ministry of Tourism, Mr. Momodou Joof said the signing of the MOU is historic in the relations between Turkey and Gambia.

He recognized Turkey’s support to Gambia in the area of health and education.  

“This MOU will provide the two countries opportunity to share experiences, knowledge and information in the area of tourism,” he said. “The country is standing a chance to benefit in the area of product development, hotel gratification among other things in the field of tourism.” 

Gambia’s Ambassador to Turkey Jibril Joof who was in attendance projected that Turkey-Gambia relations would bring various key investments opportunities for Gambia. 

The agreement was inked by permanent secretary Joof and Ambassador Özço’kun on behalf of the two governments.

  • Gambian children screened for cardiac and heart diseases 

Gambian children aged 0-17 years are currently undergoing free screening for cardiac and heart diseases. 

The screening which started on Monday and ending on Wednesday is being conducted by cardiac surgeons from the France-based charity, Mecenat Chirurgie Cardiaque in collaboration with Gambia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare at the Serrekunda Hospital in Kanifing.

25 patients have already registered with the Serekunda General Hospital to undergone the free screening. Children found to have serious cardiac problems will be flown to France for treatment. Mecenat also promises follow ups after treatment to examine their medical conditions.

The programme is targeting children from poor backgrounds, whose families could not afford the cost of treatment for such diseases. Gambia’s medical sector is not equipped to tackle cardiac and heart diseases. 

Gambia’s Minister of Tourism and Culture, Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie who presided over the official launch of the screening, hopes significant progress will be registered during the process. 

It is undisputable that heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the world but also one that can be found and cured if patients are afforded the opportunity to undergo screening she said. 

The objectives of the cardiovascular screening for Gambian children are to identify those with unknown cardiovascular diseases, symptoms of cardiovascular diseases and risk factors for disease development.

Mrs. Jobe-Njie explained the charity will be looking for specific problems like chest pains, palpitations, heart racing and also family history of the patients. 

The experts are brought to Gambia’s diplomatic mission to Dakar, Senegal and the Ministry of Health. 

Dr Ousman Jaye, a team leader t Mecenat Chirurgie cardiaquem said the charity is renowned for its valuable and life-saving services to the world, which it is now extending to the Gambia. “In Africa so many children suffer from cardiac problem,” Dr. Jaye said.  

He revealed over one hundred children benefited from the charity’s medical programme in neighbouring Senegal. 

  • NAMs agree to fill government budget gaps

The Gambia government claims it under budgeted its 2012 fiscal year and have requested the house of parliament to support its quest to access an additional funding close to D500 million with less than four months to the end of the year.

Gambia’s real gross domestic product (GDP), the total value of goods and services that the country produced in 2011, fell by about 5 percent, while economic activity remained weak for much of 2012, though it is projected to pick up substantially in the final quarter based on crop harvest and growth in the tourism sector continues. 

Mid last year, the legislature gave a nod to a supplementary appropriation bill tabled by the executive, enabling the government to acquire additional financing of it policies and programmes.

On Tuesday September 25, they did the same when they approved a D470.701, 622 Supplementary Appropriation Bill (SAP) tabled by the Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Abdou Kolley.

The funds will be divided among government institutions such as the Office of the President D101, 639, 222; National Assembly D9, 300, 00; Ministry of Defence D31, 000, 000; Ministry of Interior D15, 000, 000; Ministry of Foreign Affairs D15, 000,000; Ministry of Finance D41, 600, 000; Miscellaneous D70, 000, 000; Ministry of Agriculture D121, 562, 400; Ministry of Health and Social Welfare D52, 600,000; and Ministry of Youth and Sports D12, 000, 000.
Tabling the bill before the House, Abdou Kolley, the minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, said that the 2012 Budget was premised on constraining the growth of the domestic debt and thereby consolidating macroeconomic stability. He said revenue performance had been increasing marginally in nominal terms during the previous two years, accentuating the need for moderation in government spending.So far, he added, budget implementation has been prudent and revenues have performed beyond expectation and the first half of the year has recorded GLF spending of D2.5 billion, representing 64.1 percent of total GLF funds budgeted for the fiscal year 2012.

All these spending pressures were not anticipated in the formulation of the current budget, said Mr. Kolley who argued his Finance Ministry is presently facing what he called “urgent spending pressures.”

These, he said, is related to the 2011 drought and procurement of vaccines and pharmaceuticals etc. 

He stressed there is a need to seek for a supplementary appropriation for the rest of the fiscal year of 2012. 

He revealed these expenditures will be funded through the budget support of US$8.7million of which the World Bank has (WB) already disburse US$5.9m and the African Development Bank (AfDB) is expected to disburse US$2.8M by the end of 2012. 

“The remaining gap would be met from better than expected revenue performance,” he hoped. 

The motion was seconded by Hon. Netty Baldeh, NAM for Tumana, who is content with agricultural inputs being one area where government is spending lots of money this year. He argued most of the items on the SAP are forces outside the control of the Gambia government such as inflated fuel and food prices.

  • National assembly members should be honest

As peoples’ representatives, national assembly members should be honest to tell the truth no matter what it may cost, Hon. Buba Ayi Sanneh, the member for Kombo Central Constituency said on Wednesday. 

Hon. Sanneh, who was speaking at the adjournment debate of the 3rd legislative session of the national assembly on 26 September, 2012, lament Gambia’s capital city, Banjul is in terrible condition.

This is not the Banjul we use to know in the first republic when all roads were fixed, he argued.  He said whenever he raise the issue in parliament people defend it for no just cause. 

“As national assembly members we should be bold enough to tell the truth no matter what the circumstances,” he said.  “We should be able to set the records straight for the future as role models. We are not going to remain in parliament forever.”

He said it is difficult for people to get to Busra, Dasilameh and Marakisa villages in Kombo Central because the roads are in bad condition. “Though questions have been raised and answers have been given, I don’t know whether it will be implemented,” Sanneh, an independent member of parliament said with pessimism.

Cheap popularity
However, his opponents from the ruling party suggest he wants to gain cheap popularity by making the above comments.

The Majority leader and member for Serrekunda East Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta described Hon. Sanneh’s comments as “unfounded.” Gambia is the only country where everybody feels like home, Jatta argued.

Hon. Buba Gaye Sonko, a nominated member, argues Banjul is looking good compared to the first republic. He claims that residents of Banjul find it difficult to sleep during the first republic in fear of being submerge in water by the flow of water from the river. 

“As National assembly members we should be objective in making such comments just to gain cheap popularity despite our political differences,” Sonko said.

Terrible condition

Nonetheless, Hon. Buba Ayi Sanneh appeared to have been vindicated when a resident Hon. Abdoulie Nyang, a member for Banjul South said “Banjul is a capital, but Banjul south is in terrible condition.” 

“Banjul is turned into a river whenever it rains and the national roads authority (NRA) should know that Banjul is the capital and should be given priority in terms of fixing roads,” he stressed.

For Hon. Amadou Khan, a member for Jokadu, Banjul is a capital for everybody. Not only the market and the roads are in bad conditions and we should not only depend on the NRA for the maintenance of these roads. 

He believes Banjul should be well decorated so that strangers can feel like this is the capital city of The Gambia.           


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