“Strong Measures Will Be Taken To Ensure That Our Children Do Not Fall Victim To Substandard Education”

Below is the entire address of the President of the Republic, Paul Biya, to the nation on December 31, 2023

“Fellow Cameroonians, 

My Dear Compatriots,

Over the past year which is drawing to an end, our country has been faced with numerous challenges.
Some of them result from an increasingly difficult international context. Others are due to purely domestic issues, most of which are long-standing.
I would like to start by assuring you that in spite of this difficult situation, we continued to cope, together, like the united and close-knit Nation that we have always been, our eyes riveted on a single objective, the only one that matters, namely progress.
As in the past, the said international context weighed heavily on our internal situation.
The lingering war in Eastern Europe continued to disrupt the supply channels of the global consumer products market.
Foodstuff and energy resource prices thus continued to rise as the conditions for accessing external financing tightened.
The resurgence, last October, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict worsened the rifts within the international community and is now monopolizing its attention.
As expected, such a situation adversely impacted our country. It led to a general price hike in consumer products and, consequently, the cost of living. It also resulted in various types of shortages, including a shortage of petroleum products.

My Dear Compatriots,

The difficulties that I have just mentioned in no way dampened my resolve to work for the well-being of our people, who, without any doubt, massively trusted and continue to trust me.
Despite the unfavourable context, the Government, under my authority, continued its action with greater determination.
The laudable efforts made following the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure economic recovery yielded appreciable outcomes. The resilience of our economy was confirmed.
Proof of this, is our growth rate which continued to progress and was estimated at 3.9% in 2023, thanks notably to the performance of the non-oil sector.
The consumption support measures implemented by Government helped to contain and stabilize inflation at about 6.7%.
The implementation of various projects was continued or launched to meet the aspirations of the people and improve their wellbeing.
I would like to dwell for a moment on the most sensitive sectors.
The Project to Supply Drinking Water to the City of Yaounde and its Environs from the River Sanaga is virtually completed. Its imminent commissioning   will help to substantially reduce the drinking water deficit in the city of Yaounde.
Studies on the Project to Supply Drinking Water to the City of Douala and its Environs are well advanced. In the long term, the city will be supplied an additional 400 thousand cubic metres of water daily.
Moreover, the Government has embarked on upgrading drinking water production stations in several secondary towns, namely Dschang, Yabassi, Garoua-Boulai, etc.
The requisite efforts will continue to be deployed to rehabilitate and extend the distribution networks of this precious resource in our towns and villages to make it more accessible to households.
Major strides were also made in the electricity sector to reduce our country’s energy deficit.
About 44 thousand solar panels have been installed in the three northern regions, covering 40% of electricity needs in the said regions.
The 420-megawatt Nachtigal Dam will be commissioned in the coming days.
The Lom Pangar Dam-toe plant will also be operational in 2024. It will help to increase energy supply in the town of Bertoua and its environs.
Several other hydropower facility projects are also planned or being launched. These include the Kikot, Minkouma, Grand Eweng and Bini à Warak dams.
In the long term, the installed capacity of all these facilities will secure our country’s electric energy self-sufficiency. Additionally, it will make us reach the enviable status of electricity-exporting country.

My Dear Compatriots,

I am aware of the extent to which the frequent water and electricity cuts are impacting your daily life and disrupting your activities.
I can assure you that the Government is sparing no effort to improve the situation in these core sectors.
I have instructed my Office to ensure celerity in administrative procedures and in sourcing for related financing by the relevant ministries.
The same instructions have been given with respect to the need to improve the situation of our road infrastructure.
As you must be aware, this problem is at the core of my concerns. The related challenges are multiple, the most acute of them being the inadequacy of financial resources.  
However, I am pleased to note that we are also making relentless progress in this sector.
I am therefore satisfied that, during this year ending, over 700 kilometres of roads were asphalted or rehabilitated nationwide. Several related highway engineering structures were also built in the process.
Construction works on the Lékié loop, as well as the Kumba-Ekondo Titi and Babadjou-Bamenda roads are ongoing   and will be continued at a satisfactory pace.
Regarding the Ebolowa-Kribi road, negotiations with donors, which for long were stalled by environmental issues, are finally being concluded. All the requisite measures will be taken to ensure that the construction of this road, so eagerly awaited by the populations concerned, effectively starts in 2024.
I recently issued instructions for the rehabilitation of the Ngaoundere-Garoua road. Negotiations are also ongoing with our financial partners for the completion of construction works on the Mora-Dabanga-Kousseri road and the rehabilitation of the Edea-Kribi and Douala-Bafoussam roads.
The repair of urban road networks is continuing in the towns of Maroua and Ngaoundere. The related programme will extend to other regional headquarters.
Motorway projects will not be left out during the coming year with, particularly, the launching of the construction of the urban section of the Yaounde-Nsimalen motorway and that of Phase 2 of the Yaounde-Douala motorway.
Additionally, faced with the worsening situation, I have instructed the Government to urgently find a lasting solution to the problem of household garbage collection in our cities, in collaboration with Councils and City Councils.

Fellow Cameroonians,
My Dear Compatriots,

Over the past weeks, you were faced with a shortage of petroleum products, suffering many inconveniences as a result. To address this situation, I have instructed the Government to take urgent measures to ensure constant supply of the market.
However, the challenges in the sector are broader and more complex.
You must be aware that to maintain pump prices of fuel at their current levels, which are far below those in neighbouring countries, the State has to make huge financial sacrifices to subsidize petroleum product imports.
The burden of these subsidies weighs heavily on our budget and significantly reduces the much-needed resources to address other problems facing our people.
Last year, the Government increased slightly the pump prices of fuel.
As a result, the subsidy on petroleum products decreased from over 1 000 billion CFA francs in 2022 to around 640 billion CFA francs in 2023.
However, this subsidy continues to weigh heavily on public coffers.
Though we will most certainly have no choice but to reduce it further, we will ensure that the requisite adjustments do not significantly impact the purchasing power of households.
Ultimately, the rehabilitation of SONARA, which must be expedited as I have instructed, should help to improve the situation in this sector.

My Dear Compatriots,

Despite the Government’s goodwill, it is clear that the implementation of various projects to meet our people’s aspirations faces a major impediment, namely inadequacy of the required financial resources.
This is why I have repeatedly ordered the Government to streamline public spending and find new ways and means of boosting public resources.
Regarding the reduction of public spending, I have strongly reiterated my previous instructions to the Government to reduce recurrent expenditure.
Actions implemented to combat corruption and misappropriation of public funds are essential for protecting public resources. They will be intensified in the coming year.
The Three-Year Integrated Import Substitution Plan for 2024-2026, which I have instructed the Government to implement, is also part of my effort to enable our country to save on its precious resources.
This plan should help to reduce the negative impact of imports on our trade balance by strengthening our food sovereignty. Its deficit is estimated at just over 1 500 billion CFA francs per year.
To increase public resources, there is a need to explore new avenues, given the constraints of broadening the tax base and the slump in oil revenue.
In this regard, solid minerals, especially old, appear to be an excellent niche for financial resources.
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