Friday, January 15, 2010

Is Agriculture Really Given the Priority by Jammeh’s Regime?

As the sector is allocated D140.40 million “Act now” before it’s too late

NEWS BANJUL, THE GAMBIA (MB) - The call of President Yahya AJJ Jammeh for The Gambian people to “Return to the Land” is not new, since records shows it was being made by politicians and others during the first Republic and other Presidents in Africa.
Former President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana also engages in farming during his tenure in office, going through records for presidents who made such announcements is not anything peculiar either, since records show, examples like President Rawlings who was an ardent farmer.
However, in spite of all the talk about the need for a “return to the land”; and for national food security, an analysis of information available from the 2010 Budget Speech suggests that the government is not putting its money where its mouth is!
The 2010 Budget Speech highlights the “Sectoral Allocation for 2010 Budget – Development Resources and Development Budget (GLF)” and Sectoral Allocation for 2010 Budget – Department Resources and Development Budget (All Funs).
Agriculture is allocated D140.40 million (2.74 percent) far lower than spending on Defence, Interior and Foreign Affairs, for example.
Still, compare this to the fact that Education (Basic, Secondary Higher Education) received D1075.70 million (21 percent of allocation and the highest) and Health D389.60 million (97.61 percent).
“Education continued to receive the largest share of the 2009 national budget, and appreciable increase over 14.4 percent in 2008” (2010 Budget Speech).
This is the situation; despite the Finance Minister also declared that “Agriculture continues to be one of the most important sectors as it employs 70-80 percent of the population and generates over 60 percent of household incomes”.
In fact the Finance Minister was quite pleased to state; “It is heartening to report that The Gambia is on track to achieve both the Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) related targets, as incorporated in our Poverty Reduction Strategic Paper and Vision 2020”.
Is this situation an indication of the true priorities of the Gambia government?
“The African Union (AU) has urged governments to devote 10 percent of their spending to agriculture, but only four or five countries have actually met that target”. Obviously The Gambia at 2.72 percent is not one of them.

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