Gambia: Sixth Cabinet Retreat Opens

The Sixth Cabinet Retreat commenced Monday in Kanilai, bringing together the top echelon of the government machinery to look at the achievements registered in various sectors, and to chart out ways of addressing the existing gaps in meeting the set goals and targets.

The retreat, which is held every six months, has become a vital part of the government's development strategies that intend to provide interaction at policy level for technicians and the cabinet over key national development issues.

This convergence of ministers and their technocrats which was officially opened by the vice president and minister for Women's Affairs on behalf of the Gambian leader, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh, will continue for the next four days in the birth place of President Jammeh.

In her opening address, VP Njie-Saidy welcomed the ministers and their technocrats to another retreat while highlighting on the progress made towards attaining the PRSP II and the challenges ahead in achieving the government's new development blueprint [PAGE].According to her, the four-day convergence will enable them to plan and strategise together and come up with forward looking strategies towards attaining their development blueprint and its objectives.

VP Njie-Saidy used the opportunity to remind the Cabinet of the achievements made on PRSP II and the years ahead for achieving the PAGE and the seven years to attain Vision 2020. "We have made a lot of progress and yet there are challenges but with the oneness spirit and commitment among ourselves backed by the ever collaboration and cooperation between us I have no doubt in my mind that we will attain our vision," she said.

VP Njie-Saidy also thanked Allah for giving them a leadership that is focused and committed. "We should also thank God for the peace and stability being enjoyed in the country in spite of being surrounded by countries with long history of instability," she further remarked. This, she said, is because of the type of the leadership the country has, backed by her committed people and their government.

She also stressed that a lot has been done since the last retreat, noting that the Civil Service, which is the heart of the government is also making things happen by offering services to the private sector, civil society and communities at the lower level. "If it works everything will work as well," she assured.

The VP acknowledged that the Gambian leader, assisted by the secretary general and head of the Civil Service, has attained a lot through the public service reform programme. "Without that, we cannot attain our development objectives that we set for ourselves, which are encapsulated in our various policies and programmes which are the building blocks to the vision. So we should thank our Civil Service for helping us all the way through to make it happen and for also cooperating with ministers who are the political heads of their various ministries," she told the gathering.

She added: "We should tighten our belts. We all know globally what is happening. We know the socio-economic climate we are in; unemployment is high in all parts of the world. There are a lot of uncertainties and we should realise that The Gambia is not an island in itself even though we can give it our best and we should be cognizant of that. Domestic debt has come down; however we still have to work on our fiscal deficit."

"The retreat is a reflection of your commitment to the development agenda of the government, consistent with the view point of the Gambian leader who has always noted the need for collaboration and healthy competition within sectors, thus emphasising in the process, a high degree of openness," Dr Njogu Bah told the Cabinet in hisaddress.

The Presidential Affairs minister, secretary general and head of the Civil Service noted thatthe government under President Jammeh's leadership "must be credited" and "commended" for putting the country firmly on the pedestal of strategic planning process. He said the numerous development frameworks developed for short and medium terms as well as millennium development goals were designed to facilitate the achievement of the objectives of Vision 2020. "A lot has been successfully accomplished despite various challenges thanks to the vigilance and dedication of our dear captain, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh and resilience of ordinary patriotic Gambians," he remarked.

Minister Bah told the cabinet that a lot more remains unaccomplished which is requiring urgent attention. He further told them that reviewing their priorities, action plans and strategies in order to achieve the key deliverables within the specified time should be a sacred duty for all of them as they move towards the twilight of Vision 2020.

According to him, the Gambian leader will not rest nor shall they slow down until they reach the destination they shaped for themselves.

He continued: "This journey requires patriotism, discipline, commitment to duty and above all selflessness and sacrifice. It also calls for deliberate physical and determined actions by making difficult but necessary choices that move us towards that destination. We are fortunate to have a leader who deems the eradication of poverty and the ultimate attainment of improved quality of life for all people as sacrosanct and absolute. We need to think clearly and comprehensively abandon complacency and redirect our knowledge and organisational skills towards building a nation in which all people can lead a life of fulfillment.

"We must focus on sound governance that incorporates sectors, actors and all other stakeholders and this demands special attention to quality service delivery, user satisfaction and the need for continuous improvements."

While admitting that the road ahead may be bumpy and harsh, Minister Bah said that with devotion, loyalty, and cooperation they shall be able to overcome them. To this, he went on, management must rally around the common purpose and pull the rest of the staff along and there should be no time for laxity or camps. "As role models, it is critically important for ministers and their permanent secretaries to work together in a climate of trust and collegiality," he said, while urging for a meaningful interaction, frank and objective discussions as they deliberate on issues of national importance.

"I want to assure you of the support and commitment of His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh and the government to the attainment of all national development objectives." he concluded.

Recast of the previous retreat

Six months ago, similar cabinet conclave was held in Kanilai that highly discussed and considered the issues of clearance, decentalisation of purchase of air ticket for government officials travelling out of the country and the need to increase trekking allowance before reaching a decision about all the issues raised above addressed by means of executive directive for their immediate implementation. The last meeting also proceeded with sector by sector presentation, thus emanating issues and making recommendations for actions.

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