Friday, July 15, 2011

ON THE HOME FRONT


Gambia Among Eight Most Difficult Countries To Do Business

Also in the news…
  • Tourism Industry Declining, Energy Unveiled As The Most Expensive For Hotels
  • Gambia Among Eight Most Difficult Countries To Do Business
  • Brig. Gen. Robert Ferrell Harps On Good Communication, Successful Operation
  • AIDS Forum on Advocacy and Human Rights ends
  • President Jammeh Eyes The Way Forward In Human Capital Investment
  • 2.6 Billion People Still Lack Access To Improved Sanitation
  • Jeshwang Women To Bargain With Crocodiles
  • Gambia sustainable land management project lunched


Gambia's Tourism Minister, Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie
Tourism Industry Declining, Energy Unveiled As The Most Expensive For Hotels
Sheraton Hotel, Resort and Spa spends more than D2 million per month on energy, the Kairaba Beach Hotel spends similarly and thus, energy consumes half of the hotels operational cost in The Gambia.
This was revealed by the Executive Secretary Gambia Hotel Association Marion Nyan, while presenting a paper on “Challenges facing the tourism sector” during the recently concluded Economic Summit held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
Mrs Nyan observed that the lack of air accessibility, the global economic crisis and connected factors, reduced the arrival of tourist in the country by 35 percent in 2010, this figure rose up to 40 percent in two months (January – February 2011).
The declining trend came at a point that is usually the peak of the tourism industry of The Gambia.
She lamented that hotels in the country cannot carry out major refurbishment or invests in other areas due to a lack of access to finances with high banking interest rates. Visa application processes are too cumbersome and in most cases had to be obtained via Senegal.
“High municipality tax rates with less or no services provided for the hotels are also challenges facing the hotels; beach erosion - although some efforts have been made to reclaim the beach, but still erosion has reoccurred in certain areas along the coast line,” she said. “Environmental problems such as poor drainage systems during the rainy season, hotels around Senegambia experience floods and with tourism seasonality of six months on and six months off result to most hotels closing, staff sent home, means less or no business for suppliers or craft men, boat operators, restaurants, and taxi drivers.”
Aware of the fact that tourism contributes 12-14 percent to the country’s gross domestic product, GDP (the total value of goods and services that a country produces in a year), brings in foreign exchange, investment opportunities, and poverty alleviation, Mrs Nyan recommend to the government to intervene in three key areas: Air access: providing more incentive to encourage more airlines; Taxation: to reduce taxes and the cost of energy.
While taxes remain high in the Gambia since the economic crisis in 2008, most destinations have taken measures to support tourism sectors to maintain or increase their arrival figures. France reduced sales tax from 19.6-5.5 percent, Turkey cut value-added tax on tourism services from 18-8 percent and Jordan reduced sales tax on hotel rates from 14-8 percent linking it directly to policy drop in room rates and streamlining entry procedures for visitors. Turkish Tourism Ministry also contributed a budget of $320 million to strengthen its tourism sector and expand to new markets via advertising.


Gambia Among Eight Most Difficult Countries To Do Business
The Gambia is ranked 2nd highest tax nation (176) in the world with high municipal taxes, an incoherent tax regime and among the eight most difficult countries to do business in, according to Mr Sulayman M. Joof.
This, Mr Joof, the Secretary General of the Association of Clearing and Forwarding Agencies (ACFA) in The Gambia said it can be found in the World Bank Doing Business Report 2011.
He was presenting a paper on “The challenges of Trade Facilitation in The Gambia”, during the recently concluded Economic Summit held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, organized by the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment in cooperation with the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), GIPEP and GCCI on the theme: “Developing the Productive Sectors to Accelerate Growth and Employment in The Gambia”.
His statement was greeted with disbelief among business tycoons in the country who attended the Summit.
“Lack of compliance by some border agencies and some public officials at the border post, with numerous check points are key challenges of trade facilitation in The Gambia,” Mr Joof continued.
He added that some other challenges include inadequate port equipment, transportation, unreliable electricity supply, telecommunication services, inadequate warehouse facilities for transit and export and a lack of adequate information regarding the draft of the Port of Banjul.
According to him, most implementing agencies have capacity constrains, lack accurate data and insufficient skill labour with high cost of transaction and delays in the clearance of goods, including high cost of fuel, insufficient transports, too many agencies involved in the clearances process, high cost of scanning fee, insufficient port equipment and limited facilities for the payment of customs duty and taxes.
He therefore recommended that the only way forward is to intensify public awareness on trade facilitation with an urgent need for investment in port equipment and facilities in the country. 
He adds that the construction of will also facilitate the transportation of goods while the government lower and harmonizes taxes at national and local levels; develop capacity building programmes for both private and public sectors and also establish a one stop-shop for the registration of businesses.
Mr Joof also call for the streamlining of activities of different agencies involved in the clearance of goods at the Port of Banjul; the need for accurate and reliable official report on the draft of the Port; the need to remove unnecessary check points to avoid delays in the transportation of goods within the country and beyond; adapt the joint border control with our neighbour in order to ease the movement of goods across borders; and the implementation of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and Goods.


Brig. Gen. Robert Ferrell Harps On Good Communication, Successful Operation
The Director of Africa Endeavour 2011, Brigadier General Robert Ferrell has noted that good communications are an integral part of any successful operation.
“It goes beyond a physical connection,” he said during the opening ceremony of a 10-day Communication Text Exercise of the African Endeavour 2011 at July 22nd Square in Banjul, The Gambia on Monday, adding: “While you rehearse establishing connections between your equipment, you will also be passing information.” 
The Exercise, which started on July 11, will enable the participating nations to gauge their individual as well as collective needs and preparedness for military operation as far as the area of communication is concern.
Officials believed that the knowledge and experience gathered during the exercise will undoubtedly have guided participating nations in making the right plans in the field of communications.
The exercise will include a disaster relief scenario provided by the African Union. Funded by the United States Government, the U.S. Africa Command is meant to strengthen the partnerships between the United States military and the militaries of African nations.
Brig. Gen. Ferrell added that it is crucial to follow the established formats and procedures, communicate messages clearly and listen. He reiterated that good communication skills will ensure that all levels of command, during a peacekeeping operation, remain synchronized and work together towards a common goal. 
“The partnership between countries and people set the foundation for a safe, stable and secure Africa. The exercise provides the unique opportunity to continue refining our communications procedures in a low threat environment and a perfect time to identify shortcomings and correct them,” he said. “In the long run, a well developed, well practiced plan will make the difference in response to a real world situation”.
Speaking on behalf of President Jammeh, the Vice President Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy said the Africa Endeavour Programme is one of the numerous initiatives in which the United State is working in partnership with Africa through the African Union to support peace and security on the continent.
Dr. Njie-Saidy, who is the Head of the Security Council in The Gambia, added: “the overall goal of the Africa Endeavour programme series is to develop command, control and communication tactics, techniques and procedures that can be used by the African Union in support of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peacekeeping missions.”
“Essentially, the much needed communication; information system interoperability should facilitate the use of military telecommunication networks both at regional and international levels inline with the concept of the development of the Africa Standby Force.”
Meeting the challenge of today’s threats, according to her, means getting serious about prevention; the consequence of allowing existing threats to spread are simply too severe and must not be endorsed.
When he took his turn, the Chief of Defence Staff of Gambia Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Masanneh N. Kinteh, said the benefits of the Exercises are multifaceted and cross cutting. “Another important facet of the African Endeavour initiative is that it compliments Africa’s unification and integration process.”
According to him, the basis for unification and integration of the African continent is indeed greatly enhanced by engagements such as the Africa Endeavour. However, he notes that efforts are needed to harmonise all facets of human endeavour.
“Effective communication is the key to success for any military operation,” he stated.


AIDS Forum on Advocacy and Human Rights ends
A one day sensitization forum on advocacy, gender and human rights in relation to HIV/AIDS ended at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi on Thursday.
The forum, organized by the NGOAIDS in the Gambia, is funded by the UNAIDS Office in Banjul. It was aim at discussing the challenges facing “universal access on human rights” for people living with the HIV virus, emphasis were also laid on stigma and discrimination and a call for more concerted efforts in the national respond to the HIV virus and the achievements since the disease was discovered in The Gambia in 1978.
In his welcoming remark, NGOAIDS Coordinator Mr. Sheikh E.T Lewis noted that HIV/AIDS has no face to look at and the only human right to HIV/AIDS is protecting yourself and to protect others.
He said the virus has no boundary, and women and children are among the most vulnerable group to the virus, adding that this forum is part of series of awareness creation activities they are to implement in relation to gender, HIV/AIDS and human rights.
He admitted that since the virus was discovered in the country, a lot of programmes have been designed to inform the people about the virus and now must Gambians are aware of the epidemic.
“Emphases now should be the focusing on stigma and discrimination and how to achieving universal access and human rights for people living with the virus,” he charged.
“People living with HIV/AIDS should not be stigmatized, they deserved to see their basic human rights are protected; and there is also a need to sensitize people on the importance of social protection as a key element in the drive to meet universal access and human rights.”
He also called on all actors to play their part, especially the policy makers, and religious leaders.
Mr. Ahmad Jaagan Loum, the President of the Network of Aids Services Organization (NASO) noted that the forum is important and timely. He said The Gambia has achieved a lot in the national response to the epidemic and has also gone beyond by making sure that essentials services needed are provided people living with virus.
“HIV2 is on the decline, while HIV1 is on the increase, this need to be urgently looked into and be addressed,” he said.     


President Jammeh Eyes The Way Forward In Human Capital Investment
The Gambian President Yahya Jammeh is of the view that in a globally competitive and highly challenged environment, success is attained through competitive advantage.
However, he said this requires one to position themselves in such a way that they have an edge over their competitors. “This is the way forward towards enhancing capacity through training of practitioners and investment in human capital,” he said in a statement read on his behalf by the Vice President Madam Isatou Njie-Saidy during the opening ceremony of the “International Executive Development Congresses” and the “Excellence in Governance and Management Award to The Gambian President.
BEEC International, the Management School London, the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) and the Public Relations Association of The Gambia (PRAG) are holding three congresses at the Sheraton Hotel Resort and Spa from 4th -7th July, 2011.
The Congresses are aimed at enhancing the strategic thinking of Chief Executives, Directors, General Managers and top Managers from the private and public sectors and as well ensuring good corporate governance of directors and top management.
The programme avails the participant the opportunity to discuss how to leverage public relations as an organizational strategic partner and review best practices in strategic public relations practice in government and private sector.
The congresses will also provide an opportunity to participants to network and share experience with international consultants and colleagues, and update themselves with the current global thinking on issues, the organisers says.
However, President Jammeh emphasize the need for capacity development at all levels of professionalism, saying training courses hold globally are assets for sustainable development which the Government of The Gambia recognizes.
He note that the development of the top human resource skills amongst board directors, directors and chief executive officers is critical if they are to have a skilled workforce to accelerate the country’s economic development.
“In Government, we also welcome the continued interaction and development of human resources, public relations and management skills as we need to relate better with our citizens through professional and effective dissemination of information,” he said.
“In this age of the rapid development of information technology coupled with the dynamic and ever changing information society, the convergence of mediums for effective communication and projection of institutional values that create wealth and alleviate poverty becomes ever more relevant.”
Also speaking, the President of BEEC International Mike Okereke explained that the International Public Relations Association is the professional body of public relation practitioners worldwide with a membership drawn from 96 countries.
Its mission is to provide intellectual leadership in the practice of international public relations and also to help its members meet their professional responsibilities and succeed in their careers.
He described the Management School as a global leader in human resource development and learning, while working closely with BEEC International, Africa’s leader in human resource development and learning.
“The International Human Resource Congress will examine professionalism in Human Resource management and Human Resource professional as strategic thinking performer, and will also discuss how to build a high performance team,” he said. “One of the key benefits of the Congresses is the opportunity to network and share experience with international consultants and colleagues.”


Jeshwang Women To Bargain With Crocodiles
After three years of making do with scary crocodiles, now the Women rice growers and gardeners of Old Jeshwang, a town in the Greater Banjul Area, are seeking out plans to settle their long standing problem.
A host of crocodiles are trapped in an open rice and vegetable growing field in the town due to a blockade of a canal caused by flooded rubbles, which is preventing the crocodiles from swimming down the canal into the river. 
Their presence have brought so much fear in the hearts of gardeners, however, there are no reports of incidences of crocodile attacks on the people. 
Aja Mai Kambi, a vegetable gardener and a rice grower is already setting out possible measures to send away the crocodiles from their gardens.  Speaking to The Voice July 9, Mrs Kambi underscored the need to remove the blockade, and cutting down grasses behind the rice fields, which is serving as a safe heaven for the “harmful reptiles”.
“They cause alarm and fear in us during work. This hinder most of our works,” she decried, while calling on the Government and Non-Governmental Organisations to assist them in their struggle. “We lack the ability to carry out such a task.”
On her part, Mrs Awa Joof, a rice grower described their ordeal as “terrifying” and needed urgent attention.
Other vegetable gardeners also expressed similar sentiments.


2.6 Billion People Still Lack Access To Improved Sanitation
Access to sanitation has been recognized by the United Nations (UN) as a human right, a basic service required to live a normal life, and yet, some 2.6 billion people or half the population in the developing world still lacked access to improved sanitation.
In a bid to improve the health and well-being of millions of people worldwide, the United Nations on June 21, 2011 launched a major push to accelerate progress towards the goal of halving, by 2015, the proportion of the population without access to basic sanitation.
The Report: “Sustainable sanitation: The Five-Year-Drive to 2015,” was established by the UN General Assembly in a Resolution adopted last December, calling on Member States to redouble efforts to close the sanitation gap, one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that world leaders pledged to achieve by 2015.
The resolution also called for an end to open defecation, the most dangerous sanitation practice for public health and one that is practiced by over 1.1 billion people who have no access to facilities.
“Sanitation is a sensitive issue. It is an unpopular subject. Perhaps that is why the sanitation crisis has not been met with the kind of response we need,” the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the launch. “But that must change. It is time to put sanitation and access to proper toilets at the centre of our development discussions.”
However, he admitted that ending “open defecation” will not be easy. It will require strong political commitment, a focused policy framework and reliable supply chains for both building and maintaining affordable latrines. “Most important of all, we need effective public education so people understand the hazards of open defecation. We must convince people to change these unhealthy practices.”


Gambia sustainable land management project lunched
The permanent secretary ministry of agriculture Mr. Babucarr Njie has officially lunched The Gambia sustainable land management project, marking the beginning of the implementation of the Gambia’s component of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).
The launch, held at the Paradise Suites Hotel, Kololi, was organized by the Department of Agriculture and funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) through GEF project.
Speaking on behalf of the deputy minister of agriculture, PS Njie noted that the participatory integrated watershed management project (PIWAMP), as the host project for the GEF is co-financed by the government of The Gambia (GOTG), the international fund for agriculture development (IFAD) and the African Development bank (AfDB).
He said PIWAMP has a demand driven integrated watershed development approach to plan, manage and address our natural resource degradation problems. “Land degradation is one of the major limiting factors to agricultural production, increased food security and also has both local and global environmental consequences.”
He described this as an acute factor on which an agreement was sought from the GEF to complement the GOTG/IFAD/AfDB investment in PIWAMP. The incremental GEF investments is  aimed at ensuring that  PIWAMP interventions contribute to the realization of optimal global environmental benefits, including reducing land degradation, conserving biodiversity and improving the adaptive response to climate change.
Mr. Timothy Mkandawire, financial management specialist of AfDB, noted that the project is an illustration of the bank’s partnership in development among various institutions for the Government of The Gambia.
He said the key objective of the sustainable land management project is to improve livelihoods through promotion of community-based watershed/landscape management approaches.
And also to enabling resources-poor community to reverse declining land productivity and overcome the causes and negative impacts of land degradation on the structure and functional integrity of The Gambia’s lowland and upland ecosystem resources.
“The project is expected to result in environmental and socio-economic benefits through investments in sustainable land management interventions aimed at restoring, sustaining and enhancing the protective functions of lowland upland ecosystems,” he said.
  • Source: The Voice Newspaper

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