President weighs in on back-way debacle

President Adama Barrow has used his New Year’s address to urge Gambian youths to stay and make it here with the available opportunities.

In this direct reference to the back-way syndrome which has seen youths flee the country for greener pastures sometimes resulting in deaths at seas, Barrow said irregular migration appears to be on the rise putting the lives of more young people at risk.

The year 2023 ended with over one hundred young Gambians reported to have died or went missing in the sea in their attempts to reach Europe. Migration activists blamed this recent surge on dire economic conditions, high unemployment and lack of hope and criticised government for not doing enough in providing jobs and opportunities for the young people.

The government has hinted introducing a new law that would prosecute and provide long jail terms for persons or groups who organise boats to smuggle Gambians to Europe through the back-way.

Reaffirming this position, President Barrow said local communities, especially residents along the coastline, must play a more active part in preventing irregular migration.

“Family units, friends, and everyone else should be vigilant enough to intercept all potentially dangerous journeys that involve Gambian citizens, either as traffickers, passengers, boat crew, or otherwise. Young people have a very significant role to play in their families, communities, and in national development, hence we cannot watch them perish with impunity,” the president said.

He added that there are opportunities such young persons can exploit to guarantee them success at home. “Education and training for skills acquisition are the surest means for the youth to have guaranteed pathways to success and happiness.

”This justifies our renewed focus on education and prioritisation of TVET, as reflected in the 2024 national budget,” he said.

 The president further revealed that the past years have registered remarkable successes, particularly in priority areas of infrastructure development, energy and water provision, education, health, agriculture, and justice delivery.

“Overall, the country is stable, and there is peace countrywide, besides the lamentable last September fatal shooting incident that involved three security personnel and a few other cases of murder and suicide, the crime rate in the country has dropped,” he said.

Barrow said to deliver on promises, his administration’s focus on development is now firmly anchored to the National Development Plan – YIRIWA (2023 – 2027) and the Medium-Term Economic Fiscal Framework (2023-2026) for macro-fiscal stability.

He said though inflation has risen to 18%, The Gambia is faring much better than many other countries. “However, we admit its far-reaching impact on the cost of living in the country, especially on the poor.”  He said part of the solution to this challenge lies in stepping up local production to reduce imports and, thus, avoid the cost burden associated with importation.

“My government will continue to subsidise essential imported commodities, even though this reduces our spending ability on development projects. Thus, to compensate for this, we must fall back on taxation; that is, taxation purely for inclusive development,” he said.

Barrow said he is eagerly looking forward to three major events in the new year; namely, the OIC Summit, the Janjangbureh Bicentenary Festival and holding a referendum on the new Constitution for the Third Republic. “The Government solicits your support as these events unfold,” he said.

Source: The Standard

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