Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gambia: More Than 50 Percent Lives In Abject Poverty

-‘Growth Cannot Be Sustainable In Presence Of Hunger’

More than 50 percent of the Gambian population lives in abject poverty, battling with three square meals a day. A good number of Gambian are living from hand to mouth, despite numerous drives, with millions of Dollars, Pound Sterling, Euros and The Gambia Dalasis, still poverty remains high in the country.

In a small country like The Gambia, since Colonial, Independence, and up to now, poverty have been a good friend of the Gambian people despite government interventions and programs, said Mr. Abdou Touray, former permanent secretary Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs now a Private Economic Consultant in Banjul.
He adds: “ The people of The Gambia has been living with poverty over 50 years ago, when more 50 percent of the population were poor and over 50 years on the struggle to reduce poverty, still more than 50 percent of the population lives in abject poverty,” stated Mr. Touray.
He says that the growth of the economy has recovered 50 percent, but was quick to say that growth alone cannot overcome development.
Without growth, he vividly said, the economy is affected by the failure to reduce poverty, since growth cannot be sustainable in the presence of hunger.
 Mr. Touray was moderating the launching of the Policy Dialogues forum organised by The Association of Non- Governmental Organisation (TANGO) late August, 2011.
Taking an account from the early1960s, Toutay said that government focuses on building nation, establishing institutions that will take over from the colonial masters, to pave development.
In 1960s, he continued, government was chiefly focuses all its programs on nation building and institutions.
After that, the government introduced other programs to ensure sustainable growth and economic development.
The sustainable and economic development, which to a large extend will reduce poverty.
However, despite the government programs from days of independence down to launching of the Strategy for Poverty Alleviation1993, Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP I), PRSP II, and now Poverty for Accelerated Growth and Employment better known as PAGE, poverty still remains.
With the shifting from PRSP II to PAGE, still more than 50 percent of Gambians are still battling and lives in abject poverty, Touray repeated.
He told his audience that the first development programme was designed in the 1970s, development planning started in the 1980s and by the mid 1980s, the country expanded to import and exports with was almost explosive.
According to Touray, the Economy Recovery Programme then followed to cut down expenses to remedy the situation of poverty, because government cannot do it alone but need the helping of others.
This, he added led us (The Gambia) to the 1990s and the first study on poverty, which was in 1992, and at that time over 50 percent of the population was still poor.
The government embarked on poverty reduction program in 1993 and in 1994, saying that it was in 1994 that the first Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP I) was formed.
The PRSP II implementation, Touray noted will be over come December 2012, and will be followed by the PAGE.
With all these, the Economic Expert said he held despite some progresses been made, there still failures in other areas programs.
“ Still more than 50 percent of the total population lives in abject poverty,” he siad.
Mr. Touray said that The Gambia is still under the rank of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) adding that some countries have moved from the LDCs citing Ghana and Cape Verde.
The two, he said who moved from the list of LDC makes a good progress while still The Gambia remains in the list.
The question, Touray asked his audience when would The Gambia move from the LDCs listing?
He says “If PAGE is to lead us to vision 2020, we have to think beyond stability, without sustainable environment, development is not sustainable,” Touray stated.
Again, “ when we are talking about poverty reduction, I doubt why should municipal police drive vendors in the streets of Banjul.”
Street vendors selling to earn their daily living, he suggested that it is good for the government to leave selling in the streets.
According to him, the revenue gained from the street vendors will boost the government revenue especially the municipal.

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