By Mustapha K Darboe
As Gambia celebrates a year of the toppling of former dictator Yahya Jammeh, critics and analysts say his replacement Adama Barrrow has so far proved incapable to stimulate economic growth that has been stagnant for years.
Gambia, a small West African nation of 1.9 million people, is struggling with a rising public debt at 120 percent to gross domestic product and youth unemployment that stands at 38 percent.
A former minister and diplomat under Jammeh who later fell out with him, Sidi Sanneh, said Barrow had failed to deliver on his economic promises.
"Barrow has been delivering on his freedom and democracy promises. However, on the economic front, he's yet to deliver.
However, Sanneh, an active blogger and former minister, told Anadolu Agency: “It takes time to turn the economic ship around,"
Sanneh said Barrow needs a policy shift and good investment in public enterprises most of whom are bankrupt due to "fiscal indiscipline of the past regime".
"The reforms are lagging in certain areas, including the civil service and in the laws...," Essa Njie, lecturer at the political science department of Gambia University, told Anadolu Agency.
Njie said even though a recent report by the IMF shows that the country's economy is doing well, an ordinary man on the street does not feel any change.
Meanwhile, not everyone believes Barrow has delivered on his promises of transparency.
Modou Cham, national mobiliser for the country’s biggest opposition party, Gambia Democratic Congress, said the new ruler is "secretive" and is not communicating with electorates.
- Call for more transparency
"They need to tell the people what they are doing and be more transparent. That is one step towards eradicating corruption," Cham said.
Communication Minister Demba Jawo told Anadolu Agency the slow start of the economy is a result of the "broken system" they inherited.
"We have inherited a virtually empty coffers from a government that is known for fiscal indiscipline," Jawo said.
In his New Year message due to be broadcasted on state television on Sunday, the Gambian leader blamed the former ruler for the bad state of the economy.
"However, it is clear that we did not begin this task with the best of the conditions. We started from a position undermined by decades of mismanagement and undemocratic consolidation of power, that weaken our institutions; our coffers not only emptied, but we are loaded with huge debt," his speech, seen by Anadolu Agency, stated.
"The country has debts of more than $1 billion dollars which is a staggering 120 percent of debt to GDP, this is equivalent to each household owing about $4,500 dollars.
"In addition, state assets have been neglected. Electricity is a case in point."
Barrow said the growth for 2018 is projected at 3.8 percent compared with a growth of 2.2 percent in 2016.
He said agriculture, country's biggest employer, and service sectors are all expected to register "positive growth" compared to the year ending.
"Inflation has reversed its rising trend declining from 8.8 percent in January to 7.4 percent in October 2017, reflecting the gradual decline in food prices and stabilization of the Dalasi," he said.