- UNITED DEMOCRATIC PARTY
- PARTY MANIFESTO
- 2016 – 2021
F O R W A R D
This note contains the Manifesto of the United Democratic Party (UDP) which it intends to present as a policy guideline in the forth-coming Presidential/Parliamentary elections. It is a statement of intentions in respect of the socio-economic development as well as institutional and constitutional arrangements it proposes to put in place during its terms of office. The party intends to be identified with the pronouncements in this manifesto the overall aim of which is “The Transformation of The Gambia into haven of peace and prosperity”.
In this regard, major policy areas have been identified across the board and are carefully examined to reflect their relevance to the realization of the above objectives. They range from strengthening democracy and sound governance, security matters, economic policies firmly rooted in free market economy, trade liberalization and monetary and fiscal development to provide an enabling environment for a balanced and sustainable economic growth and development. A pragmatic foreign policy has also been highlighted.
Reforms in the civil service have been mentioned and special emphasis has been placed in national unity, social justice, poverty alleviation, economic management, and empowerment of women and good governance. This is consistent with the UDP Government’s thematic areas which will usher in national unity, social justice and more importantly fundamental and positive changes in attitudes. Mention has also been made of drugs abuse and program envisaged for the rehabilitation of drug addicts.
The transformation of The Gambia into a heaven of peace and prosperity through the realization of our economic objectives for a balanced and sustainable economic growth and for self-reliance is the hallmark of our national policy. In our view, this will guarantee poverty alleviation through an uplifting in our agricultural productivity, industrialization of the economy and the development of the country.
Consequently, the UDP is determined to mobilize all resources both internal and external for the fullest development of the country. We have opted for a free market economy as point of departure in our economic strategy. We are determined that with the co-operation of our development partners we will achieve this goal of improving the well being of the Gambian people. The potential is available and in place and we are not wanting in the will and determination to forge ahead.
- I N T R O D U C T I O N
We the people of The Gambia have arrived at cross roads. The Gambia has endured 22 years of international isolation, economic stagnation, endemic corruption, bridle use and misuse of state power and deliberate fiddling with the constitution to entrench self-perpetuating rule of the APRC government. The choice that we have to make is clear: between a brutal dictatorship determined, by all means necessary, to remain in power even at the altar of free, fair and credible elections and a genuine democratic civilian policies to place The Gambia among the progressive nations of the world. The UDP will provide such a Government.
Important though is the fact that these elections are also a choice between values. At the heart of our conviction is the belief in the freedom of the individual. We believe that for freedom to have real meaning, standards of public service must be high and widely accessible.
That the rights of the individual, like all others in a free society, are the same for all men and women irrespective of age, religion, ethnic origin and class.
Finally for these rights and responsibilities to be exercised fully and fairly, the Government of The Gambia must work hard to promote the general well-being of the Gambian people by adequately supporting new initiatives, research and innovation, the improvement of skills, infrastructure and industrial development.
Guided by these values, we will make The Gambia more competitive, productive and just, more secured against crime and more conscious of the danger of environmental degradation. The Government must serve the whole nation. We will provide such Government.
The realities of current world order require that the Government provide: a stable economic environment; that lays a firm emphasis on productive investment in the public and private sectors, education and training to develop the skills of young people and adults.
The UDP will implement these policies as vital for improvement in living standards of the people. We have confidence in our country and its people. We want to create a society to provide equal opportunities for all and promote development of the people’s potentials and the exercise of their rights. We shall therefore introduce constitutional and other changes that will give renewed vigor to our democracy.
These policies strongly demonstrate our practical commitment to freedom. We will strive to revive a cordial relationship with our neighbors, in particular Senegal; strengthen our participation in ECOWAS, the AU, the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations. We will respect and implement the UN Charter, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and all other treaties ratified by The Gambia.
It is time for change, time for fresh start to a new beginning in our lives and in the life of our country. The Choice is clear. An APRC Government would mean the perpetuation of economic stagnation, political isolation and a repressive social environment. If there is any doubt about the inefficiency of the APRC government, then one does not have to look beyond the destitution of the average Gambian today and the near collapse of a once vibrant economy. The APRC has no policies, which would mean sustained development, better health care or improved educational standards.
The UDP Government will give a fresh start for The Gambia. It will mean action to rebuild confidence, fair taxation and incentives for enterprises and support for essential services. It will mean greater freedom, security and opportunity.
STRENGTHENING DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE
Abraham Lincoln in 1863 described Democracy as “Government of the people by the people and for the people”. We are committed to the concept of a representative democracy in which people choose based on informed decisions as to who they want to represent them and defend their interests and conduct the affairs of the state on their behalf.
The present Constitution was tailor-made to suit the self-perpetuating project of the APRC. A UDP Government will introduce Constitutional amendments, which would amongst others include:
- a) limiting the term of the Presidency to 2 terms of 5 years;
- b) limiting the term of Local Government executives to 3 terms of 4 years;
- c) making the office of Chiefs an elective one;
- d) entrenching provisions relating to the Independent Electoral Commission;
- e) Making provisions which would enable organizations other than political parties to sponsor candidates for elections.
COMMITMENT TO DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS
The UDP has a fundamental belief in and is committed to democracy and respect for Human Rights. There can be no sustained and meaningful development in the absence of a genuine democracy. The people of this country have an inalienable right to participate in all decision-making process on all issues affecting their lives and the conditions of their existence.
Alleged fraud, waste and embezzlement are absolutely no reasons for the seizures, abuse and demolition of the rights of the citizens of this country or any other country. All citizens of The Gambia must be treated equally as human beings in the eyes of the law.
Everyone has the fundamental right to be listened to and be heard when accused or found to be in breach of the law.
The UDP will ensure the establishment of an independent judiciary as the executive arms of the law to take all legal actions necessary to preserve the rights and privileges of the society.
We are strongly committed to the protection of the rights of the citizen at all times as reflected in the Constitution of The Gambia, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and similar legal instruments that seek to protect the individual against the might of the state. We shall also give full support to the individual against the might of the state. We shall also give full support to the strengthening of the democratic institutions in the country. These will include:
- i) Political Parties
Political parties will be recognized as the vehicles for expressing the political will and aspiration of the citizens. As one of the pillars of democratic practice, political parties shall provide the necessary framework for the effective participation of the citizenry in the political process. We shall support and encourage the operations of a multi-party environment that will subscribe to the process of affecting a change of government. Any law that seeks to restrict the operations of such political parties shall be abrogated. As important agencies in the political educational process, the UDP Government shall provide support to political parties in carrying out their civic education programs.
- ii) The Press
The Press has a particularly important role to play in strengthening democracy. It has the responsibility of informing and educating the citizens as well as the Government on the concerns, needs and possibilities of the ship of the state. To fulfill this role effectively calls for an active press and committed journalists whether from the public or private sector.
We will support and encourage a free press as a pillar of democracy. We will abolish all unjustified restrictions on the press. We shall also ensure that individual privacy and personal information are protected for all citizens.
- iii) Civic Education
Civic education can only take place effectively in an atmosphere devoid of authoritarianism. We will encourage and support civic education through the National Civic Education Agency, the schools and the political parties so that the citizens can play a more active and enlightened role in the political and general development of the country. An enlightened population will be a bulwark against political abuse of power and a defense against military interference in politics.
- iv) Judiciary
We shall strengthen the justice delivery systems of The Gambia while at the same time ensuring the independence of the judiciary to dispense justice in a credible, impartial manner. We are committed in the name of justice to providing all people who feel unjustly treated an opportunity to appeal before an independent judicial commission for a review of their cases.
- The Security of The Gambia
The role of the Armed Forces, Police and other security agents is to defend the sovereignty of the country and maintain peace and stability for all citizens.
We will provide adequate resources and needed equipment for the effective defense of the country. The Police force will be strengthened to deal with crime and drug trafficking that is becoming a national embarrassment.
We will provide improved professional military and other training facilities to allow the army to play a useful role in the development process especially in constructing roads bridges; and gully erosion control and forest management during peace time.
The Gambia successfully implemented a number of bold macro-economic policies in the latter half of the 1980s that have released the productive sectors of the economy from the crippling control of the Government. The liberalization of the economy and the encouragement of private sector development constitute a necessary first step on the road to macro-economic policy reforms already undertaken with the support of the World Bank and IMF. These policies led to improvements in The Gambia’s business climate and encouraged in inflow of investments. Unfortunately, since the coup in 1994, there has been a complete reversal in prudent economic governance in The Gambia and with it, the economic fortunes of the country. UDP aims to put our economic policies/governance, among others, back on track.
Economic Policy and Management
Our economic policy shall be based on a free market principle, which will aim to secure maximum economic growth through private sector initiatives and development. The UDP Government will provide a sound economic environment using prudent fiscal, monetary and structural policies that will aim to achieve the following:
- i) Taxation
Currently, the Gambia government has three major tax brackets:
VAT- Value Added Tax which stands at 15%, this is tax incur by consumers at the point of buying goods and services. The impact this system has on Gambians is adverse. However, since the Gambian economy is mainly tax base, the introduction of VAT could have been better managed. A UDP government will set up a panel of experts to analyze the cost-benefit of VAT on the people.
Income Tax is at 25% whilst corporate tax is 31%. There are other taxes on property, stamp duty etc ranging from 2.5% to 10%. A UDP government will again, as the case of VAT, assess the impact of these taxes on businesses, on employers, employees and the economy as a whole. A more equitable and rational implementation of tax rate and payment execution will put in place to ease the negative strain on the people and the country as whole.
The tax system in the Gambia requires improvement and streamlining. The UDP will make the tax collection procedure and processes easier and flexible. Currently, taxation on rental income (0.3%) is a burdensome element to many landlords. For example enforcing the fringe benefit tax or tax on rental income will be revised to enable landlords, property owners to see clearly the benefits of paying tax and less aggressive methods of enforcement for late or tax avoidance.
Taxation on Small Businesses
Some small business may not find the turnover tax as an easy option because they are required to pay tax even if they incur a loss. The UDP will introduce tax breaks for small businesses that have break-even or made losses in their initial start-up within a 4 year business cycle.
Currently small businesses pay tax on their turnover even if they make losses within a business calendar. Tax rates will be reduced whilst a UDP government secures other sources of revenue. As the population continue to increase, the demand for goods and services will also increase. Alternative revenue sources such as Funds for entrepreneurs who will be encouraged to bring private sector innovation in various industries, strengthening the public –private sector partnership.
A UDP government will setup a development funds such as agricultural development bank or an entrepreneurship fund where people across different sectors could tap into. Commercial banks would be encouraged to give equity or loan to start ups. The incentive to encourage entrepreneurship and with readily available funds, it is envisaged that unemployment will drastically reduce and hence, more revenue for the state.
- ii) Monetary Policy
The UDP government will reestablish the independence of the Central Bank. The monetary policy goals shall be aimed at reducing inflationary pressures in the economy, closing the savings-investment gap and complementing fiscal policy. The monetary policy will also aim at enhancing foreign exchange earnings and bringing the balance of trade to equilibrium. The capacity of the Central Bank to manage and direct the monetary policy of the economy shall be enhanced.
The regulation and supervision of the financial services sector shall be strengthened to ensure its efficient and prudent operation and maximize protection of depositors’ funds. A full liberal exchange rate policy will be maintained.
- iii) Public debt management
The current debt burden of The Gambia – both domestic and eternal, is no longer sustainable with its overbearing impact on the overall economic performance. As it is, due to rapidly increasing domestic borrowing by the government, the country’s public debt now stands at above 100 percent of GDP as at end 2014 according to the IMF. The eternal public debt as at the end of 2014, stood at about US$411.2 million. The domestic debt portfolio which is incurred through borrowing from short-term Treasury-bill market, and usually at very high interest costs, is also estimated at about GMD16.2 billion at end-2014.
A UDP government will put in place a pragmatic public debt management policy by first reducing government spending to raise the required amount of funding, support policies that will improve the competitiveness of the economy and maintain an efficient market for government securities.
Our government will developed a risk management framework to identify and manage the trade-offs between expected cost and risk in the government debt portfolio. Through this framework, government would be able to regularly conduct stress tests of the debt portfolio on the basis of the economic and financial performance.
We fully recognize the potentials of the private sector as an engine for growth. To ensure private sector led growth, the UDP government shall support and encourage private sector activities through the provision of an enabling environment for business and investments.
In view of its pivotal role in the socio-economic development of this nation, the growth and development of the private sector will be an integral component of our overall economic policy.
To ensure the growth and development of this sector as an engine of growth, the UDP administration will:
- Ø Ensure regular consultation with the private sector through its umbrella institutions on all issues of concern to put in place policies friendly to the private sector, in a bid to facilitate the achievement of private sector growth.
- Ø Always strive to take the views of the private sector as essential inputs in the overall economic policy formulation.
- Ø Put in place institutional structures and mechanisms for private sector capacity building to make the sector more proactive and efficient in the execution of its functions.
- Ø Encourage and support a healthy public-private partnership for speeding up the achievement of our micro-economic objectives.
Development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)
The culture of small business development is not new to The Gambia. Our priority will be to strengthen the institutional support for this sector. In this, we will work with the relevant agencies (reintroducing and strengthening of IBAS) and other organizations in the country. We shall update current sectoral surveys and a small business award scheme will be instituted to encourage competition.
We shall place a special emphasis on the promotion of investment by providing the necessary infrastructure, and policy initiatives with tax and other incentives. Investments in the service sector as well as other sectors that are labor intensive shall be encouraged to enhance employment and the empowerment of the youth. Current bureaucratic procedures encountered by investors in the processing of claims under the development act shall be streamlined and simplified to eliminate subjectivity and uncertainty. A one-stop-shop system will be established.
A special investment promotion body shall be established for the implementation of an aggressive investment policy aimed at encouraging domestic and foreign direct foreign investment (FDI), in the framework of encouraging the local enterprise initiative, and facilitating the transfer of technology and expertise.
Power supply remains a major constraint to our development effort. We need energy to power industries, hotels and houses. The current situation of erratic and costly power supply continues to stifle our efforts towards realizing the economic development goals. In this regard, the whole management of generation, supply and distribution network should be revisited to ensure an effective and efficient management of Gambia’s energy needs.
We shall increase the generating capacity and thus the supply of electricity; improve the quality of service in distribution and management and to reduce the high cost of electricity to both industry and domestic consumers. This policy will improve the competitiveness of Gambian industries. Alternative energy sources such as Wind, Solar, and Biofuels will be evaluated and exploited to diversify our options and reduce our dependence on diesel engines, components and fossil fuels, which we imperatively have to import. The bridge barrage project will be revisited with a view to establish its feasibility for implementation. Thus The Gambia can gain the potential for becoming a net exporter of electricity.
The current policy of charging duty on generator fuel shall be reviewed with a view to exempting it from all direct taxes.
Human Resources Development and Employment
Our policy will be to invest in the human resources to train and retain the necessary skilled labor force required for our economic take-off. Employers will be obliged to invest a minimum amount in training their own work force to make a contribution to the national training effort. People will be trained to acquire skills relevant to every aspect of the economy-agriculture, manufacturing and trade and service industries.
We shall give women real and equal opportunities to work and all employees will be given equal rights and status under law.
One of the important handicaps to our development is the low productivity, especially in the agricultural sector where the overwhelming majority of the population is engaged. Raising the productivity of farmers would raise not only their living standards and thereby reducing poverty, but also create a healthy and well-off rural population who will provide an important domestic market.
In this regard, a UDP administration will develop a national agricultural policy to tackle the low productivity and address the constraints faced by our farmers. This will lead to programs and actions in the following areas.
- i) Increasing the yield of the land under cultivation. This will require improved technological packages and efficient extension services. Timely access to credit and other related inputs will be encouraged.
- ii) Increasing the land area under cultivation. This will entail bringing more land under cultivation. In this regard we shall pursue an active policy of more swamp lands rain-fed rice cultivation through the cultivation of dams and other protective structures against salinization and for water conservation. We shall support construction of causeways and footbridges to ease access and movement inputs to and produce from swamp rice fields.
iii) Improve Credit Service. Access to credit is an important determinant in increasing productivity. Today the credit needs of the farmers have not been addressed satisfactorily. We shall work with the commercial banks and other lending agencies to develop a differentiated and responsive credit system that addresses the various credit needs of the various categories of the farming community.
- iv) Provision of Agricultural Inputs. The UDP Government will work with the private sector as well as farmers’ unions to take bold and innovative steps to ensure that agricultural inputs are delivered on a timely basis and in adequate quantities to farmers at reasonable prices. Availability of good quality seeds will be given special attention through, among other things encouragement of Government and private seed production institutions. Village seed and serial banks will be established. The party will address issues relating to farmers at the grassroots level by providing back-up support services in the form of training and other incentives.
- v) Marketing Services. Increased productivity will require market outlets. A network of markets will need to be developed especially for the food crops and horticultural produce that will ensure fair prices for the producers. We shall encourage and support development of such markets at national, sub-regional and international levels. Appropriate technologies will be evaluated on processing and preservation of seasonally available agricultural products to increase incomes and availability during other times of the year.
- vi) Research and Development. We will develop effective programs to improve on the quality and yield of produce. The successful results of these researches shall be introduced nation-wide through efficient and strengthened extension services. Participatory, multidisciplinary and demand driven research strategies, through which sustainable crops and livestock management systems could be put in place, will be adopted.
vii) Institutional Reform and Adaptation. To support the objective of greater agricultural productivity the institutions in the agricultural sector will be reviewed and adapted to face the new challenges.
In this respect the National Agricultural Research Institute will be capacitated and strengthened in order to enable it to generate agricultural technologies that are environment-friendly and adapted to our socio-economic conditions.
viii) The Soil and Water Management Unit (SWMU) shall be upgraded and expanded with the objective of opening up more land for rain-fed rice and irrigation cultivation in supporting the policy of food security. Also, this unit will be enabled to expand its capacity for tackling the increasing upland soil erosion and degradation problems.
- ix) Agricultural Diversification. Agricultural diversification provides another opportunity to raise farm income. In addition to the traditional tree crops, we shall promote the introduction of improved varieties of fruit trees and vegetables. The planting of these trees will not only generate revenue but also improve the vegetation cover. The annual tree planting season will be reinstated.
- x) Encourage regional concentration of crop cultivation commensurate with their inherent potential and maximizing productivity
The UDP Government fully recognizes the potential of this sub-sector both in terms of food and foreign exchange earnings and shall implement appropriate policies for its sustainable development. We shall encourage diversification and efficient management of our fisheries resources with a view to optimizing utilization in order to improve the diets and incomes of the cross section of our society.
A UDP led government will particularly develop in-land fishing as a strategy of providing employment opportunities for rural people especially for youths and women. With the abundant fresh water from rivers across rural Gambia, the UDP led government will develop sustainable aquaculture farms providing the appropriate technology and the training needed to quickly help many rural families’ particularly young people grow out of poverty. With time and through the sustainable efforts put in place, the small fish farms put in place will be scaled up to cover many areas. The government will create a whole value chain where private sector operators will be encouraged to setup hatcheries in strategic administrative regions/places which are sold to fish farmers. Those who are not into fish farming can engage in the chain supply and selling of the fish and or fish foods. With the pace of ongoing rural electrification that the government will embark on, those engaged in large scale supply of fish will be less burdened by the problems associated with storage. In this way fish is made affordable in rural areas and employment generated.
Regarding ocean fishing, the UDP led government will strengthen policy against poaching and use of Fila-turneh nets….which are large scale fishing nets that can stretch tens if not 200 metres. With dwindling fish stock in our waters, the UDP led government will put in place critical conservation strategies that will protect and see the country’s fish stock increase.
Education as a basic right of an individual and a means of achieving personal fulfillment will be a major policy objective. Furthermore education is closely related to the economy, as it is a major partner in development. In view of this the development of our human resources through education and training is a necessary step in achieving economic growth and development.
The objectives of our education policy will be further geared towards improving opportunities for the upward social mobility for all, narrow the income inequality gap so that the positive effect of education would benefit all. For any Nation to achieve its development goals and to be sustainable it must be led by a well-fed, healthy and educated society. We will build the organizational capacity to come up with the right reforms to achieve the critical minimum effort required for success. As part of the process of our education sector, the UDP led government will identify and address the most salient of the constraints of training and educating our young, to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
The quality of education in the country still face the challenges of low levels of learning outcomes and achievements at all levels of the system. According to a Department of Education strategy published in August 2008 only 20 percent of grade-three students passed English and 18 percent Mathematics in 2008. Grade-five students fared little better where 30 percent of the students passed English and 13 percent Mathematics.
Quality remains a serious problem in Gambian schools. Quality is compromised by a number of factors including high teacher and student absenteeism, low content knowledge of trainee-teachers, and few career development opportunities for teachers. Some of these reasons have been documented even in the Department of Education’s 2008-11 strategy.
The UDP led government will adopt and implement an education policy that adequately responds and safeguards the interests of the parents, the pupils, and of course the teachers, who are the key implementers of the policies and programs. We will improve the number of contact hours between teachers and children that has been drastically cut by the government’s extreme lavishness with public holidays and school holidays. The parents and teachers will be involved in the formulation of the policy so that they will be abreast with the basics of the education policies, whose successful implementation they are key players in.
We will improve the pupil – teacher ratio and basic teaching materials such as chalks, textbooks, teaching aids to improve teaching and learning conditions in schools. Training and career development for teachers will be improved apart from the basic training they receive from the Teacher Training institutions. A conducive and enabling environment will be created to improve the working conditions of teachers as a strategy of motivating them to ensure efficiency and commitment to quality education delivery and learning achievements. In this regards, the UDP led government will provide adequate funding to the education sector to ensure retention of teachers especially at primary and secondary levels.
A UDP Government will encourage vocational and entrepreneurial training to be part of the school syllabus to equip our children the skills for self-employment. The Gambia at the current state of economic development needs more technically skilled under-graduates to face the demand and challenges of the twenty-first century.
The university education system will also be revamped in a way that ensures quality but also guarantees relevance. Our government will support the different faculties of the university to equip the students with the relevant education needed to advance the development goals of the country.
TECHNOLOGY AND TELECOMMUNICATION
As we approach the end of the second decade of the 21st Century and the beginning of the 3rd Gambian republic, the UDP government will embark on reforming our tertiary institutions to be centers of technological innovation. The information-age technology and the advent of data “superhighway” for multi-media communications led to the explosive growth of the Internet and applications based on Internet Protocol (IP). The high-speed broadband has now become a ubiquitous means of communications; the key feature of which has been the evolution of High speed Data services, IP Telephony (VoIP) and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) all based on Internet applications, are now standardized means of transporting Voice, data and Video (Commonly known as “Triple Play”).
Internet – Access to Technology
- Ø Upon assuming the responsibility to steer the affairs of this great nation, the UDP government will immediately convene an international conference with our partners and local stakeholders to carve out a plan to inject energy and resources into the already crumbling infrastructure that had endured a serious battering to the brink of a complete collapse. This conference will focus on sectors of our infrastructure that are currently rendered useless or near failure such as, telecommunication (Gamtel), energy- NAWEC (solar, windmill, electricity), education, tourism, agriculture, health, etc.
- Ø It is apparent that the Jammeh government has over two decades successfully mismanaged, or disoriented the most important resources of any nation, and that is its human capacity. Once upon a time, the Gambia could brag of the best and the brightest civil service in the whole of Africa; however, in Jammeh’s Gambia, experience, education and loyalty to the nation have become taboos, while sycophancy, nepotism, inefficiency, and egocentrism are rewarded. A UDP government will reward people with experience, education, skillfulness and the technical know-how to make things happen and will appeal to all Gambians in the Diaspora to participate in the rebuilding of the homeland.
- Ø A UDP government will integrate the teaching of technology education in the elementary/primary school curriculum so that all students will become proficient in the use of technology by the time they reach high school.
- Ø A UDP government will use technology as a tool to educate the people. We will ensure that every school in the country from elementary to the university level is a place where people can have access to up-to-date technology. By doing so, we will work with Gamtel and other Broadband service provides to make Internet access available to all communities from Kartong to Koina. We will make real the idea that the world is a global village. Our people have the potential to be technology savvy and the UDP, as a party will make them realize this fact.
- Ø A UDP government will ensure that each and every high school in the country has a high-tech library with computers and Internet access so that their learning will not be restricted to reading hard copy books, instead, they will benefit from unlimited educational resources that are available out there to their counterparts around the globe.
- Ø A UDP government will transform the University of The Gambia as a center for Research and Development (R&D). By doing so, the UDP government will encourage both professors and students to cultivate a learning curiosity in technological innovation for the betterment of the country. As a result of this new R&D initiative, The Gambia government will rely on its potential instead of outsourcing such important functions to foreign corporations.
The Internet Broadband and IP-based technologies have many comparative advantages over the traditional circuit-switched systems which make it possible as an integrated ecosystem that is reliable, secure, accessible, and cost-effective; where all of one’s communication needs can easily be fulfilled with the highest standards of service.
- Ø Since Gamtel has the infrastructure in place and with the ACE’s submarine fiber optic cable, it now has abundant bandwidth that is not being fully utilized. UDP Administration will meet Gamtel’s quest for “Triple Play” by introducing and expanding Broadband services by using Optical Fiber cable and Wireless Broadband transmissions throughout the entire country. It is UDP’s objective to make communications in The Gambia the best, it once was and make Gamtel & Gamcel the success stories once again.
- Ø A UDP administration will ensure that with a Liberalized market, there is fair competition amongst all service providers and to ensure reliable, efficient and high-quality services are rendered to call customers regarding network availability, accessibility, retainability, reliability and affordability. By Regulation, PURA (The Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority) will be empowered in the monitoring and assurance of these parameters.
- Ø A UDP government will not try to suffocate Voice Over IP (VoIP) calls via Viber, IMO, Skype, WhatsApp, Talkray, etc., such as the APRC government has been doing without success.
- Ø Instead, A UDP government will try to improve the services of Gamtel and Gamcel to increase their customer base, thereby reduce the incoming and outgoing fees for all calls. For example, an international from U.S to The Gambia through Skype cost 92.5 cents per minute on landline and 67.6 cents per minute on a mobile phone, while it costs only 4 cents per minute to call Nigeria.
The Gambia’s ranking on the UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) value two years ago for 2014 was 0.441— which put the country in the low human development category—positioning it at 175 out of 188 countries and territories. Between 1990 and 2014, Gambia’s HDI value increased from 0.330 to 0.441, an increase of 33.5 percent or an average annual increase of about 1.21 percent. Yet despite this positive development trend, a National Household Survey (NHS) estimated that 61.2% of the population is classified as “poor”. This high poverty rate implies a high level of disease vulnerability on the population and has serious implications for public health services delivery.
Life expectancy at birth for both men and women increased by 5 years over a twelve-year period of 2000-2012; the WHO region average increased by 7 years in the same period. In 2012, healthy life expectancy in both sexes was 8 years lower than overall life expectancy at birth. This lost healthy life expectancy represents 8 equivalent years of full health lost through years lived with morbidity and disability.
The leading causes of death in children are malaria and infectious diseases. Cardiovascular diseases (including hypertension), diabetes, cancers and trauma are the common diseases/conditions are major killers among adults. Inaccessible and inadequate maternal health care services are responsible for increased maternal morbidity and mortality. The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in the Gambia has declined from 1 050 deaths per 100 000 live births to 730 per 100 000 live births but this is still unacceptably high.
Infant mortality rate (IMR) has increased from 84 to 93 per 1000 live births.
The Gambia is faced with a high disease burden with emerging and re-emerging diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cholera, and other communicable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and meningitis.
One of the major obstacles facing the health sector is the shortage of health personnel at all levels of the health care delivery system. The doctor population ratio of 1: 6132, the nurse population ratio of 1:1554 and the trained midwife population ratio of 1:3325 are below the 1:1000 standard ratios for developing countries. There is a high attrition rate (between 30-50 %) and slow production of new health workers resulting in the shortage of health personnel at all levels of health delivery. As a consequence, there is a high reliance on foreign health professionals. Out of the 99 medical doctors (clinicians) in the public health sector, almost 80% are expatriates, mainly from Cuba, Nigeria and Egypt.
The Gambia faces daunting challenges in disease control. The gaps in the health system that demand the most attention are to do with service delivery at the district level, through the strengthening of primary health care; improving the referral system; sustaining adequate Human Resources for Health (HRH) and reinforcing the regulatory framework with appropriate reforms in public health.
Under a UDP leadership, the key issues area to be addressed would be:
- Ø To implement an appropriate and effective health financing policy by revamping and strengthening the cost recovery programme – A Drug Revolving Fund for the rationalized procurement of drugs and other medical supplies;
- Ø To improve the health care delivery system in the country by the rational staffing of the Health Centres. Newly qualified doctors from the University would play a pivotal role in this effort;
- Ø To decentralize the health management responsibilities, especially the administrative functions to the Regional Health Teams (RHTs) will be fully implemented to facilitate health delivery in areas outside the Greater Banjul Area.
- Ø To integrate traditional medicine into the mainstream health care delivery system as a priority in collaboration with research institutions like the Medical Research Council (MRC);
- Ø To reduce morbidity and mortality due to communicable and non-communicable diseases and conditions, and strengthen health-promotion capacity at all levels; this would entail strengthening primary health care from village level to referral hospitals;
- Ø To improve maternal health and reduce neonatal and childhood morbidity and mortality;
- Ø To guarantee a six -months maternity leave with pay for working mothers;
- Ø To improve the general standards of health of the population and address health consequences of emergencies by improving the preventative aspects of public health including environmental sanitation.
- Ø To effectively improve skilled staff retention and circulation by providing incentives particularly for staff serving in the rural areas, including better housing and amenities.
- Ø To increase the size as well as improve the quality of our health service delivery team/personnel through continuous recruitment and training.
Health should not be a privilege; it is a basic Human Right. A UDP government will make sure that under its watch no Gambian dies because they could not afford the money for health. The UDP’s commitment is caring for our country’s most precious resource: The Gambian People.
So far as the place and contribution of women are concerned, it has been the policy and practice of United Democratic Party to put women in the fore front or our activities and decision making.
Since the inception of the party, women have been fully represented at Executive level and as officials of various women’s and youth wing. At national level, we believe that women should be fully involved in political decision making at both the local and national levels. There must be representation of women in local councils and national parliament which is at very abysmal.
The UDP believes that the starting point of addressing the women’s issue is to attack their poverty status. Women make up a substantial majority of the Gambia’s poor. The prevalence of female headed households, the lower earning capacity of our women and their limited control over their spouse’s income all contribute to this disturbing phenomenon. In addition the Gambian women have less access to education, formal sector employment programmes. These facts combine to ensure that poor women financial resources are meager and must be improved relative to men’s. To address these, the UDP strives to;
- Ø Bridge the large earning differential between men and women by instituting equal pay for similar task and break down barriers of entry of women to higher paid jobs. By opening access to some in urban areas to obtain formal employment in private companies or public agencies instead of restricting them only to low informal productivity jobs. In the rural areas our women will be given adequate resources necessary to generate stable incomes.
- Ø The UDP believes that a review of legislation and the social customs that prohibits women from owning landed properties or signing financial contracts without a husband’s signature. The ineligibility of women for institutionally provided resources such as credit and training will also be reviewed.
- Ø The UDP also feels that review government employment or income enhancing programs to be made more accessible to women thus reducing existing income disparities between men and women. Programmes to alleviate poverty increase training programmes urban areas to increase earning potential and formal sector employment for women’s produce such as vegetable plots are being encouraged through the Women’s Wing.
- Ø The UDP aim at more integration of women in development programmes, which must be drawn into the economic mainstream. This entails increasing the rate of female participation in educational and training programmes, formal sector employment and agricultural extension programmes. It is also of primary importance that precautions be taken to ensure that women have equal access to government resources provided through schooling, services, employment and social security programmes. In order to improve the economic status of women, we shall also provide incentives for the informal sector which employs the majority of the female labour force.
- Ø The aim has been to address the consequences of the decline in women’s relative or absolute economic status which has both ethical and longer economic implication. We are of the view that any process of growth that fails to improve the welfare of the people experiencing the greatest hardship, broadly recognised to be women and children, results not only in the disempowerment of women, but also fails to accomplish one of the principal goals of development. In the long run, the current low status of women is likely to translate into a slower rate of economic growth. It is for this reason that the UDP will do everything in its power to ameliorate the status of women.
Apart from the positions reserved ex-officio for women on National Executive – National Chairperson Women’s Wing, Secretary Women’s Wing, President Female Youth Wing and Secretary Female Youth Wing, the post of Secretary for Legal and Human Rights Matters is held by a woman. This position, which is fourth in the hierarchy of officials, is held by a professional lady. Out of a total membership of twenty five on National Executive, ten are females.
The Gambia has a robust and fast growing youth population. In fact current statistics show that almost half of the country’s population is youths. Notwithstanding their numerical size, the situation of young youths under the current government is one of destitution and desperation.
The APRC government’s notion of youth development is one placed on short terms benefits where young people are offered nothing beyond festivals, intangible benefits that hardly add value to their life and seasonal jobs on the President’s numerous farms and cattle ranches.
Due to hopelessness, along the length and breadth of this great country of ours, entire communities have been depleted of their youths, leaving behind mostly the elderly and women to scrounge a living from an agricultural economy that has also collapsed because of government neglect and mismanagement.
This has exacerbated poverty, brought about food insecurity and undermined the overall economy with its attendant adverse effects on health and education.
Today, we are losing a whole generation of our young people to the desert and high seas as they give up on the proposition that they can live free and dignified lives in their homeland. The combination of a lack of opportunities to live even a modest subsistence life in the village and the excesses of a predatory government that has become their serial abuser, has made life for young people anywhere else preferable even at the risk of death.
The APRC government still continues to ignore a myriad of factors that could help tie the fortunes around in favor of young people’s empowerment.
A UDP led government will put in place policies and pragmatic strategies that would help young people their full potential and catapult them to the ladder of success and political participation by first improving the democratic space, provide and support skills development, eliminate favoritism, end negative stereotypes of youths, encourage mentorship, open up opportunities that job placement for young people, improve the alternatives for education and personal development.
From Bartil Harding’s 1965 pioneering trip of 300 Swedes to 25,000 tourist arrivals in 1976, (originating from a few more European countries), the number of visitors continue to rise steadily until 1994/95 when the declining trend set in.
As a matter of reality, government should not only see tourism as a source for foreign exchange earnings but an industry that also offers limitless opportunities for employment. In The Gambia the management of this volatile industry (in theory) falls within the purview of The Gambia Tourism Board, while all the practical realities point to the contrary as outsider stakeholders are directing the affairs of this important industry.
Under a UDP administration, the tourism industry will be harnessed with the following specific goals and objectives;
- Ø Increase the industry’s contribution to the GDP from 12% to between 20%-25% in 5 years;
- Ø Create employment opportunities (both direct and indirect) to 150,000 within 5 years;
- Ø Increase the share of the local stakeholders from under 10% to 25% of the total revenue generated by the industry within 10 years, and exponentially thereafter;
- Ø Limit the All-inclusive Policies and expand the out-of-pocket spending of the average tourist so as to support the local operators and the allied industries such as local crafts, tie-dye, ground operators, etc…
Achieving these goals and objectives will require the implementation of the following strategies, viz:
- i) Diversifying and strengthening our products, i.e.;
- Strengthening our traditional products such as sun-beach/winter tourism and cultural products;
- Develop our floral and avi-fauna potentials to enhance the ecological/scientific tourism component, such as bird watching;
- Develop our river cruising, sports fishing and catamaran tourism potential;
- Encourage the development of tourism infrastructures in the countryside such as tourist camps and/or “waikikis” in order to extend visitation up country.
- ii) Promotion and Marketing, i.e.;
- Open tourism bureaus in continental Europe so as to market specific products in upscale niche markets in countries like Switzerland, Italy and Germany;
- Embark on a direct marketing campaigns in the United States so as to maximize our benefits from the opportunity that the advent of “Roots” opened for us as the true gateway for cultural tourist (“pilgrim”) coming this to market.
The UDP will also have mechanisms in place to mitigate the negative impacts of tourism such as pedophilia and on the environment.
In order to engender a vibrant and sustainable economic development, industry and businesses need good roads and reliable communication facilities. The deplorable road networks and archaic communication technology of The Gambia today are a great disincentive in advancing the country’s drive to position it as a vibrant service economy.
The road networks have remained all the time largely seasonal; the national radio hardly covers the entire country satisfactorily. At a time when countries all over Africa are benefiting from the opportunities offered by cutting edge telecommunications technology, The Gambia unfortunately, is experiencing severe problems not only in connectivity but also internet penetration.
The UDP led government will also satisfactorily improve the urban transportation network to reduce congestion in the cities and to improve the time business operators and vegetable farmers spend to reach the markets.
The UDP Government will open the country by developing a road reconstruction program, which will provide permanent all-season roads for business and communities. Initially, priority will be given to improving the rural road network, which has endemically suffered from getting less than its fair share of the country’s paved road network.
Radio and Telecommunications services will be upgraded and given greater autonomy in programming and operations. Private investment in this sector shall be accorded the enabling policy environment it deserves.
The Banjul International Airport and the Seaport shall be developed to maintain the Gateway concept for The Gambia. Government, International Donors and private sectors partners will be encouraged to participate in order to realize this greater dream. Particular efforts will be put in place to make The Gambia an air transportation hub in the region where through various forms of incentives including tax breaks.
For the first thirty years after Independence in 1965, the Gambia had a respected place on the international scene. It played an important role in conflict resolution in the Middle East during the Iran – Iraq conflict and peace keeping in Liberia and Sudan. It was recognized for its excellent respect for human rights. It was in recognition of this record that the erstwhile continental organization the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the precursor of the African Union, voted to establish the headquarters of the African Centre for Human Rights Studies and the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in Gambia. However, since the coup d’état which in 1994 overthrew the democratically elected government of the day, the country has been the object throughout the world of criticism and condemnation for its abysmal human rights record and absence of the rule of law.
The Gambia’s reputation at the level of the sub region particularly the West African Economic Community ECOWAS – has not been smooth sailing. This explains why the Gambian Head of State has never been able after twenty years in power to get elected as Chairman of this sixteen member regional integration grouping.
Relations with the neighboring sister Republic of Senegal, with which the Gambia is inextricably linked by ethnicity, history and religion and culture, have also been at most times troublesome and erratic, to the detriment of the welfare and well-being of the two sisterly countries.
A UDP government will rectify this recalcitrant image that the country has been known for in the past two decades and to this effect, will predicate our external relations on the following principles;
i). Mutual recognition of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other nation-states;
ii). Non-aligned, and, non-interference with the internal affairs of other states;
iii). Basing our bi-lateral and multi-lateral relationships and partnerships for the mutual benefits of all partners;
The above tenets will lead The Gambia to:
- Ø Play a more positive role in regional, continental and international groupings, such as, ECOWAS, wherein we shall unequivocally respect and be bound by treaties and protocols we assent to.
- Ø Re apply and restore full membership of the Commonwealth of Nations from which the President unconstitutionally withdrew the country from in 2015.
- Ø Forge closer ties with Senegal and in this regard, a UDP government will enter into discussions with Senegal with a view to working out a more practical and lasting form of cooperation between our two countries that would be mutually beneficial
- Ø Work sincerely and in a proactive manner with Senegal to find a lasting solution to the protracted conflict in the southern Senegal region of Casamance, which has a devastating effect on the sustainable development of our two countries.
- Ø Rationalize its international and diplomatic representation based on wider interest of the Gambian people by reducing the unnecessary and costly diplomatic missions that have proliferated under the present regime