By Rohey Jadama
Yesterday, 7 May, 2015, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA) in collaboration with UNDP convened a Development Forum on the theme “Deepening Inclusive Growth in The Gambia” at Kiraba Hotel.
The discussants focused their attention on the quality of economic growth, in addition to its level and sustainability to deal with poverty, unemployment and inequality.
The Vice president of the Gambia, Madam Isatou Njie- Saidy, in her presentation said that Growth must be inclusive. Growth initiatives must involve all citizens including rural farmers as well as urban dwellers. Growth must include men as well as women, boys, as well as girls.
VP Njie- Saidy added, “There is reduction in poverty but… we should not be complacent about the figure of 48% or whatever. There are still people who are poor and we have to do something about it. That is why we are here today. I hope we have a very productive consultative process at the end of the day so we can come up with a plan of action that we will be monitoring and also ensuring we address the issue of poverty as a whole.
“Therefore, PAGE, a medium term plan for government 2012-2016 is guiding the country’s development initiative towards its long term vision-vision 2020. The strategy focuses on accelerating growth while generating employment at the same time for the population, facilitating poverty reduction and human capital development among others.
“The national economy depends on agriculture, there is no doubt about that which, is mostly at small-holder level, with the rural population and particularly women being the most involved” said the VP Njie- Saidy.
Therefore, she continued , the provision of interventions directed at the rural population in particular, small holder farmers and women have a direct and immediate impact on the growth of the country and the wellbeing of the population. Thus the importance of course, of gender sensitive policies, programmes and approaches, budgets, so as to have the desired impact that we all want.
According to Veep Njie-Saidy, in spite of external shocks, The Gambia government has registered “impressive achievements in many sectors but more importantly, achievements that are geared toward the reduction of poverty and improving food security.”
“We know poverty has been declining but more so in the urban areas than in the rural. Lessons from this experience has been highlighted therefore, the need for participation as well as ownership of the grass-roots in particular in the rural areas especially women and the under-served and underprivileged in development.
Speaking Earlier, the UNDP Resident coordinator Madam Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, said that inclusive and sustainable growth is critical for eradicating poverty, reducing inequalities and promoting environmentally-friendly development.
“Inequality in all forms has a negative impact on the well being of the people and the prospects of society as a whole. Income inequality impedes long-term growth prospects and dampens the poverty reducing impact of growth and it is associated with a host of poorer social outcomes, ranging from low health status and educational achievement to high crime rate”, said the UNDP Resident coordinator.
Madam Lekoetje added that despite the achievements registered by the government there still remains critical challenges. She highlighted that 48.4% of Gambians are below the income poverty line of $1.25 per day , about 200,000 people of Gambians are vulnerable to food security and only 44.5 % of the population have access to electricity and around 39.8% of the population have access to the improved sanitation facilities.
She outlined that the relatively high growth rates over the last decades have not been fully inclusive and that the poorest and most vulnerable peoples continue to face significant development challenges.