By Kebba Jeffang
The European Union has on Thursday, February 09, signed a financial aid worth 75 million Euros (3600 dalasis)with the Gambia government as an immediate support package meant to address markets and socio-economic development of the country among others.
The signing ceremony that came after a closed door meeting with the President and the EU delegation was attended by the President of the Republic, Adama Barrow, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica, Ousaionou Darboe, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad and other ministers.
Mr. Adama Barrow, President of the republic described the arrival of the high level EU delegation as a special significance to the country.
“It’s the first of its kind from our largest development partner in many years. We view your visit as a strong vote of confidence in our new Gambia. It also marks the opening of a new and refreshing page in our friendly relations and development cooperation. Our longstanding partnership of more than four decades will once again thrive on the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” he said.
President Barrow thanked the EU for its transformative support and cooperation with The Gambia while saluting their principled stance through various statements by defending the will of the Gambian people as expressed in the December 2016 elections.
According to him, as a new government, they have inherited an economy that is virtually bankrupt and in need of immediate rescue noting that this sad reality was brought about through a mismanagement of our finances.
“What is truly scaring is that our reserves are down to about two months of import and our debt burden reaching sustainable levels due to wasteful spending,” he said.
“Youth unemployment has increased over 40 per cent and most public enterprises are debt-ridden and underperforming including the energy sector. Our economy, public institutions including the judiciary and security services need urgent structural reform in order for us to realise our commitment to the birth of a new Gambia. That dark chapter in our engagement with the EU is now closed. Genuine dialogue is the new way forward,” he said.
“My view of our economic situation that the Gambia critically needs at the moment is urgent emergency budget support in order to rescue our economy from collapse. Your support in this regard will therefore help immediate boost of our economy. The Gambia is a country with huge needs and the EU’s continuous support in terms of infrastructural development, job creation, and security sector reform, legislative and institutional reform is needed so that our people can live in dignity,” said President Barrow.
The EU Commissioner, Mimica, said his visit to Banjul is a testimony to what the EU is committed to do and this is to engaging the Gambia to open a new chapter in the relationship. He commended the Gambia and her people for resolving the political standoff peacefully that marked the beginning of a new Gambia. He said the EU is very committed to engage President Adama Barrow’s government as a privileged partner of development.
“In addition to the 75 million Euros package of immediate support signed today, we are already preparing a medium term package of 150 million Euros which will focus on building the capacities of the state and on job creation,” he said.
Mr. Mimica said his visit is a clear signal of the EU’s readiness to provide immediate financial and technical support to democratic process in the Gambia and its dividends for the population in terms of good governance, respect for human rights and the rule of law. He said the EU will also set up its support to the sustainable and inclusive development of the country in close consultation with the new authorities.
He remarked, “The package of measures, amounting to 75 million Euros comprises a project of 10.5 million Euros to reinforce access of the most vulnerable populations, including female-headed households, to markets and socio-economic facilities. This will be done through a feeder road rehabilitation programme. A project of 20.5 million Euros will aim to create growth and employment opportunities, in particular for youth, as well as better access to food. A project of 11.5 million Euros will seek to improve food security, eg through supporting the provisions of food, cash, and treatment of acute malnutrition as well as prevention of all forms of under-nutrition. Under the EU emergency trust fund for Africa, the Gambia will benefit from a contribution of 11 million Euros aimed at increasing job opportunities for youth.
He further informed that the intervention amounting to 21.5 million Euros in the areas of climate change, food security, support to civil society organization, democracy and human rights, among others are also part of this first package.