Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Gov’t urged to consider bridging Banjul-Barra ferry crossing point

         As ferry services get horrible by the day

The poor, despicable and shameful condition of the Banjul-Barra ferry crossing point, one of the Gambia’s vital economic lifelines, is becoming a matter of great concern to the whole country including the people’s representatives at the National Assembly, who said the government should consider bridging the crossing point.

“The government should consider bridging the Banjul-Barra ferry crossing point,” said Fabakary Tombong Jatta, National Assembly member for Serrekunda East, who is also the majority leader at the National Assembly.

 “It’s not something that is impossible; it’s possible especially with the visionary leader like President Jammeh,” he said.

The current state of the ferries is getting from bad to worse as ferries that usually ply between Banjul and Barra for 30 to 45 minutes now sometimes spend two to three hours or more. 

Most of them have only one of the four engines operational and one of them was having a faulty steering, notwithstanding it was still plying the river. In a nutshell, the state of the ferries is extremely bad and dangerous, the parliamentarians noted.

“We are not happy with the current state of the ferries,” the speaker of the National Assembly, Abdoulie Bojang, said.  “I think bridging it is not a bad idea,” he added. 

The nation’s MPs made these comments on 27 June at the National Assembly in Banjul shortly after the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Abdou Kolley, had laid before them, for approval, the financing agreement between the Government of The Gambia and the African Development Bank for the financing of the trans-Gambia bridge project. 

In response to the concern of the parliamentarians, the Finance Minister said plans to bridge the Banjul-Barra “is in our discussions with the Ministry for Works and Construction”.

However, he said, the government has no immediate plans of directly financing such a huge project, as of now.  The government is looking forward to the private sector to invest in the bridge - the investor will finance the bridge, own and control it for some time and later hand it over to the government, he said.   

“In the absence of that the government will continue to look for grants,” Hon Kolley said.
Bambatenda-Yellintenda ferry crossing point to be bridged
The government has now finally secured a loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for the construction of the Bambatenda-Yellintenda ferry crossing point as part of the of the Multinational Trans-Gambia Bridge and Cross-Border Improvement Project.

The project, which cost $96.20 million equivalent to more than D2 billion, was signed by the government with the African Development Bank on 1 June 2012.

According to the Finance and Economic Affairs Minister, Hon. Kolley, the Trans-Gambia Bridge connects both North and South of The Gambia and Senegal as well as serves as an important transport linkage for the sub-region.

The finance minister told parliamentarians that the construction of the bridge will undoubtedly enhance regional trade through opening up of an important historical trading route in the Sahel as well as bring to fruition the dream of the West African Highway and in particular the realization of smooth movement of goods and persons between The Gambia and Senegal. 

He said:  “The conceived bridge could potentially reduce transport cost and time and custom administrative formalities at the borders and enhance the potential for trade thereby contributing to poverty reduction and socio-economic empowerment of communities on the corridors and the ECOWAS community as a whole.” 

The bridge will be wholly owned and managed by the Gambian authorities even though it is financed from the Regional Window of the African development Bank, he remarked.

The project, when completed, will help to create free traffic flow between the northern and southern parts of The Gambia and Senegal in order to promote free movement of persons, goods and services between the two countries and other countries of ECOWAS. 


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