The Pro-Poor Advocacy Group (Pro-PAG) last Saturday organised a one-day budget brief for National Assembly Members at the Tango Conference Hall in Bakau Newtown ahead of the 2009 budget speech slated for December 19th.
The session was meant to enable the Pro-Poor Advocacy Group to do a preliminary analysis of the budget by scrutinising it from a pro-poor perspective. This will also give the NAMS some invaluable insight to the issues arising from the new budget, its likely impact on the poor and vulnerable and the development challenges faced by The Gambia in its quest to achieved the PRSP, MDG and Vision 2020 goals.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, John C Njie, the acting director of Pro-PAG, said this special session will give the NAMS the opportunity to scrutinise the 2009 budget by having an indepth look at the budget lines to determine if the funding for important sectors of our economy are adequate or not and what implications these have on their constituents.
According to him, being part of a wider world that is facing daunting challenges such as a global economic meltdown, climate change and other adverse global challenges, it is indeed pertinent to seriously analyse our national budget and ask relevant questions that have a bearing on our nation’s future.
He commended the National Assembly members for their support and collaboration since the inception of the organisation adding that the partnership will grow from strength to strength. “I wish to commend the Department of State for Finance and Economic Affairs for their support and commitment to our work. This, I believe, demonstrates the Gambia government’s determination to work with genuine partners in achieving our desired goals,” the Pro-PAG boss added.
In his keynote address on behalf of the speaker of the National Assembly, Fatoumatta Jahumpa Ceesay, Honourable Abdoulie Bojang, the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, said the development challenges that The Gambia faces are daunting. He further noted that resources to implement projects and programmes are in short supply and most of the country’s development partners have been hard hit by the global financial crisis.
“Notwithstanding these, serious and sustained efforts are being made to reduce poverty and to promote a rounded national development. The National Assembly has a unique role and responsibility in the budget process as the executive’s budget has recently been tabled at the National Assembly,” he said.
He further highlighted that over the coming days, the budget will be discussed in the legislature and enacted into law. “The NAMS will like to know how our revenue agencies have performed, what constraints, if any they face? Also they will like to know how revenue collection could be enhanced for development that benefit the most vulnerable.
The government has a responsibility to account to the august assembly for the way public funds are collected , managed and spent,” he said. The deputy speaker further emphasised that the National Assembly will always play its role in influencing the policy and budget allocation processes for poverty reduction.
According to him, in view of the importance of the budget to the lives of the poor and in the development of open and participatory societies, the National Assembly will examine the 2009 budget from pro-poor, gender and child friendly perspectives.
“While a government budget directly or indirectly affects the life of all its citizens, frequently people with modest means are influenced the most. They tend to be harmed the most by high inflation. The current well-being of those with low incomes, and their future prospects, hinges on expenditure decisions in areas such as health education, infrastructures and agriculture among others,” he said.
The session included presentations by Omar Ousman Jobe, the policy and budget analyst, Pro-PAG, and others.