Halifa Sallah and the PDOIS leadership at a press conference on Tuesday

Halifa Sallah, Secretary General of the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), has renewed his call for system change in The Gambia in order to address the country’s intractable problems such as poverty, aid dependency, and underdevelopment.

Mr. Sallah, who was setting out PDOIS’ plan for The Gambia, told journalists at a press conference on Tuesday that the system change should address many issues including building the productive base of the economy.

“We are importing what we can produce. Most of the things we are importing we can produce them,” he said.

Mr. Sallah said a PDOIS government will ensure that the productive base of the economy is build to ensure that “the country will not import what it could produce, instead the Government will enhance the capacity of the people so that The Gambia will produce those products.

He cited fruit juices as some of the items the country can produce rather than import.

“The fruits could be processed into the juices and thereby impact on the economy and create job opportunities for Gambians.

“We are (also) importing tomato paste when we can produce it. We are importing onion when we can produce it,” he said.

Mr. Sallah, who was a key figure in the political coalition that brought Adama Barrow to power, said that The Gambia is yet to see a change in the system, adding that PDOIS has not seen any political party that has articulated precisely what it has expressed.

“We are saying, the processing of our materials can ensure value addition and it can generate employment, foreign exchange and will ensure import substitution – what you are importing instead you will export it.

“That will enhance the value of your currency. This is how a State should function and this is what PDOIS intends to bring to The Gambia.”

He disclosed that The Gambia produces 67,000 tonnes of rice annually while the country needs 200,000 tonnes. He said that the current bill on rice is over 2 billion dalasis.

“We are capable of producing rice. It means that if we produce the rice that we are importing, we will be putting 2 billion annually in the hands of our producers. This is the fact but how do we enhance production, that is a question of system change.

“We will ensure that those family farmers are still given the capacity to produce what is necessary for us to consume so that the two billion will be in their hands. That is what PDOIS policy is all about.”

Sallah said in response to whether land should be given to a few to produce what the people need or The Gambia should engage in large scale agriculture or where there will be a system where the farmers will continue on the farms and still enhance production.

The Secretary General of PDOIS said that a State that generates 28 billion Dalasi in a year should be able to build its productive base.

“The State must ensure that those farmers will have the resources they need to promote their products in large scale.

“We are saying, therefore, that there must be State-owned enterprises. We are saying we need a cooperative bank where sovereign national wealth will be invested so that they will be able to give the fertilizers, the seeds, the farm implements that the family farms need in order to be able to produce what we need. So in that respect, our country will begin to eradicate poverty.”

Mr. Sallah said for over 50 years, The Gambia still issues licences to foreign companies to harness her resources and consequently making Gambians consumers instead of producers.

He cited the recent move by the Government of The Gambia when it issued license to the European Union to catch fish in The Gambia.

“This system cannot sustain the country. What is stopping us from processing our resources and selling it as our own,” he said.

Mr. Sallah said the government should establish a Fisheries Corporation that is publicly owned and will invest resources to buy fishing vessels.

He added that such a venture will ensure that the Gambian people feed themselves as well as process and export their own resources.

The veteran politician and parliamentarian said “it is a PDOIS policy that each village should have a consolidated fund to be able to carry out their activities.

“We will ensure that every village has labour saving devices to eradicate poverty.”

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