26 January 2014

Gabon: Prime Minister to Name Government

Gabon's new prime minister, Daniel Ona Ondo, will name a new government this week after he was chosen by President Ali Bongo Ondimba following regional and municipal elections, according to Presidential Adviser on Communications Igor Simard.

According to official provisional results from the electoral body, President Bongo's ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) won more than 60 percent of the total vote during the December 14 elections.

Simard says Prime Minister Ona Ondo, who served as first deputy speaker of parliament brings a wide range of experience, including economic and education needed to transform the country's education system as well as improve the living conditions of citizens. Mr. Ona Ondo replaces former Prime Minister Raymond Ndong Sima.

Mr. Ona Ondo has held several minister positions including national education and culture portfolios in a previous government according to Simard.

"As you know education is a very big pillar of the agenda of the president so it is going to be very helpful when it comes to the time to change our education system," said Simard. "As the former deputy speaker of the national assembly [parliament] he knows how to [navigate] the legislative related matters to help with the passing of bills in parliament."

Simard says the new prime minister will help with implementing Mr. Ondimba's "emerging Gabon" initiative to improve the social-economic conditions in the country.

"From now till 2016, we will strengthen the social system with health, education and social housing and because [Mr. Ona Ondo] has a strong background in those areas, he is the right man for this," said Simard.

But some opposition groups say the government has failed to meet the aspirations as well as keep promises Mr. Ondimba made in the run up to the 2009 presidential election.

Simard disagreed.

"Of course it this is the role of the opposition to say that some aspects have not been fulfilled completely. But, we've got until 2016 to complete the mandate of the president and to fulfill all the promises," said Simard. "It has been four years, since the president implemented measures to change a lot of things, and the results show in the human index development, where Gabon is first in the Sub-Sahara zone."

Simard also cited the Mo Ibrahim foundation improvement index as an indication the country has made strides in education among sectors, since Mr. Ondimba won the 2009 presidential vote.

But observers say the government has yet to keep promises of better wages and improved living conditions or address the socio-economic challenges citizens face, after more than four years in power.

Simard says the administration is implementing measures to address the concerns of the people, including reducing the cost of living.

"If you want to decrease the cost of goods you have to produce more goods and material in your country and that is precisely what we are doing, said Simard. "We established new industries new business and we try to attract international investors just to produce goods and services. This is not something that can happen in just six or nine months. It takes time and we are already getting some results and we will continue in this manner."

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