By Saikou Suwareh Jabai
The Vice President of the Republic of The Gambia, Dr. Aja Isatou Njie- Saidy, has said that The Gambia has a ‘high’ trade deficit which, according to her, is due to the high imports compared to exports.
She noted that this situation is a serious concern to the government. Although the total exports (a culmination of domestic and re-export trade) registered moderate growth since 2008, the vice president revealed that the total imports remained significantly higher and grows much faster than exports.
“The largest share of national imports is on the basic commodities such as rice, edible oil, detergents and dairy products all of which are made by local industries. However, the scale and quality of products varies with those imported. It is shocking, however, to note that rice and edible oil imports account for about 18 percent and 20 percent of imports respectively and this is extremely high and quite alarming,” she revealed.
The vice president noted that the production of edible oil, soaps and detergents from groundnuts, adequate and sustainable rice production that meets the growing needs of the population and development of alternative sources of energy would have significant impacts on the country’s dependence on imported products.
Madam Njie-Saidy, who doubles as the Minister for Women Affairs, was addressing a gathering among which her fellow cabinet ministers, permanent secretaries and directors were present during the Second National Conference and Exhibition on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), last Thursday, at the Paradise Suites Hotel.
She said: “It is now increasingly appreciated that the limited economic momentum of most of our systems has largely been due to the absence of scientific, technological and innovative dimensions so vital for inducing and sustaining strategic techno-economic evolution. Hence, it is now a challenge to the policy community to recognize this shortcoming and work collaboratively to streamline the development of science, technology and innovation (STI) in all social and economic policies and programmes.”
The vice president said the high import rates signifies a weak industrial base that is not able to meet the basic needs of a growing modern economy, adding that the efforts of industrial and STI policymakers is to focus inter alia on developing policy instruments that enable the narrowing of the gap between domestic imports and exports through effective and efficient promotion of innovation, industrialization, entrepreneurship, continuous and rigorous investment promotion and an aggressive export-driven strategy.