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    Gambia-New Year Message

    Gambia: President announces 'priorities' in New Year message

    APA-Dakar (Senegal)

    Gambia’s President Adama Barrow in his first New Year message to the nation, at the end of his first full year in office, has declared “five thematic areas as my presidential priorities during my tenure of office.”

    These are energy and infrastructure; agriculture; health; education and youth empowerment, as well as tourism.

    Barrow was elected in December 2016 to serve a five-year term, which ends in December 2021.

    He described these as “presidential priorities” incorporated in the National Development Plan, the “government blueprint” which is “an all-inclusive plan with clear vision and implementation strategies.”

    Barrow in his speech said The Gambia “has debts of more than 1 billion US dollars which is a staggering 120 percent of debt to GDP”, adding that “this is equivalent to each household owing about 4500 US dollars.”

    The past year, 2017, was Barrow’s first full year in power, and the new Gambian leader said his government did not inherit “the best of conditions”.

    “We started from a position undermined by decades of mismanagement and undemocratic consolidation of power that weakened our institutions; our coffers not only emptied, but we are loaded with a huge debt.”

    Among the achievements of his new administration over the past year, Barrow said Banjul seaport “has seen an increase in trade; tourism has recovered and there is a marked improvement in our macro-economic status”.

    GDP growth for 2018 is projected at 3.8 percent compared to 2.2 percent in 2016; he added that “agriculture, industry and the service sectors are all expected to register positive growth compared to the year ending.”

    Inflation has reversed its rising trend, declining from 8.8 percent in January to 7.4 percent in October 2017 reflecting the gradual decline in food prices and stabilization of the Dalasi (national currency).

    “Treasury bill rates have declined between September 2016 and September 2017. This has reduced the cost of government’s borrowing by close to 50 percent and this trend is set to continue in the coming year.

    “The Dalasi has remained stable since April 2017; with gross international reserves increasing from less than one month of import cover at end-2016 to well over four months by the end of 2017.”

    In the area of international relations, Barrow announced that his government has “set the ball rolling for re-joining the Commonwealth and International Criminal Court, and reaffirmed our membership in the international centre for settlement of investment disputes to encourage and restore investors’ confidence.”

    “My administration has already signed the Trade Facilitation Agreement with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), to ease access to markets and have an improved investment environment,” he added.

    AFS/afm/APA

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