|Mambury Njie, Minister of Finance|
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Gambia ratifies over $60m loan
As usual, the National Assembly has given their consent to two loans amounting to US$62.05 million (almost two billion dalasi) that the Government of The Gambia signed with the Islamic Development Bank in February this year.
Huge amount of Gambia’s budget is paid on interest on loans, which continues to increase yearly. Many a time 20 – 25% of the country’s annual budget goes to settlement of interest on domestic debts, which use to be less than its international debts.
The National Assembly Members were on Tuesday called to an extra-ordinary meeting to ratify two loan agreements and a grant. The loan agreements are a 20 megawatts Brikama II Power Project amounting to US$25.16 million and the national component of the Ecowas Wide Area Network (ECOWAN) Programme, which is the regional backbone infrastructure and e-governance platform, amounting to US$36.89 million, between the Government of The Gambia and the Islamic Development Bank.
The grant, which is for the financing of the first phase of the West African Regional Communication Infrastructure Programme amounting to US$35 million, was given to the Gambia government by the International Development Association (IDA), which is the World Bank’s fund for extremely poor countries.
Tabling the motions before parliamentarians, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Mamburay Njie, said the 20 megawatt Brikama II Power Project seeks to alleviate the acute electricity supply shortage in the Greater Banjul Area through the installation and commissioning of a 20MW power plant by 2014.
“The project will increase the total installed electricity generation capacity by 30% as part of the 30MW electricity expansion drive by the Government of The Gambia,” he said.
On ECOWAN Programme in The Gambia, the finance minister told the lawmakers that the main objective of the project “is to develop and implement” the national component of the ECOWAN regional backbone infrastructure and e-governance platform in The Gambia.
The project would develop WIMAX last mile infrastructure, and the national fiber optic links from Banjul to Basse through the North Bank and from Banjul to Fatoto through the South Bank.
Hon. Njie said the proposed project is a “priority project for the country” as it would build the missing fiber network on the North Bank and replace existing obsolete network on the South Bank in the country.
“The proposed project would contribute to national competiveness, public and private sector productivity and efficiency, and job creation through ITC-led Small Medium Enterprise (SME) growth,” he said.
The executing agency for the project is Gamtel in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure.
On the grant, the finance minister told parliamentarians that the World Bank had provided US$35 million for the funding of The Gambia’s participation on the Africa Cable to Europe (ACE).
The World Bank’s grant to The Gambia was premised on the country’s commitment to liberalize the international gateway on an open access basis and permitting the participation of the private sector in the cable landing station through establishment of Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) Company.
The SPV would be a company formed to carry out the cable work and manage it with a cost-based tariff regime, regulated rate of return on investment and ultimate control, which rests under government’s supervision.
The National Member for Basse, Hon. Sellu Bah, seconded the motion that his colleagues, the parliamentarians, should ratify the agreements. “Mr Speaker, I rise to second the motion that the National Assembly ratifies all these three motions as presented by the Minister,” he said, adding: “All these three motions are very dear to the country.”
The lawmakers concluded the sitting that day by ratifying all the agreements tabled before them.