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The New Times – Rwanda
A couple of years ago, Rwanda’s budget struggled to hit the trillion-franc mark, but even then, three-quarters of it came from donors, a very untenable situation, therefore something had to be done and done with a sense of purpose.
That is when the country embarked on the tough journey of weaning itself off aid. Many thought it was a utopian dream which was not bad in itself as long as the country worked hard to realise the dream.
The hard work has begun to pay off.
This year’s budget is close to three billion Rwandan francs and only around 15 per cent will come from donors. With most of the money going towards economic development and economic growth consistently hovering around eight per cent in the last decade, the target to do away with aid is just around the corner.
But first, we have to create wealth, which means that more jobs will have to be created. The Government has given itself a target of creating at least 200,000 off-farm jobs and this year it is no different with 213,198 new jobs set to be created.
Even though the 14.5 per cent unemployment rate is modest by African standards, it should not be allowed to soar beyond that point. Therefore, the Government needs to invest more in job creation by empowering its nationals to the point where it will not only be exporting commodities, but labour as well.
These are stuff dreams are made of, and luckily, this country is not afraid to dream big.
The Herald – Zimbabwe
The announcement by President Mnangagwa on Wednesday that Government had since identified land to relocate hundreds of people who were displaced by Cyclone Idai is timely. The relocation signals a new beginning for the survivors and help them cope with this devastating impact of climatic occurrence. It is important that traditional leaders from the affected areas, would be part of the relocation programme, which will be an ongoing exercise until normalcy returns to the affected areas and people.
As the President alluded to, traditional leaders are a critical constituent of the whole relocation exercise, since they are the custodians of traditional norms and values within their jurisdiction. Their input, through consultations and possibly conducting rituals will shape the relocation discourse, and that calls for regular engagement with the Government.
The President’s visit and engagement with the traditional leaders this week set the tone for any rituals that the leaders may need to conduct, and this should be done with speed, to enable the relocation process to start.
While cultural issues are important in our local customs, they should not be a hindrance to the success of the relocation exercise, to ensure that life returns to normalcy as quickly as possible in the affected areas.
It is within the same spirit that both the traditional leaders and the Government will need to rethink in both urban and rural planning to factor in emerging concerns of natural disasters. With the effects of climate change pervading borders and nations, across the globe, there could be more from where this came from.
In the wake of the devastating effects of Cyclone Idai one of the major considerations would be ensuring that people are settled on higher ground, among other contemplations.
Drawing lessons from low lying areas like Muzarabani, Middle Sabi, Tsholotsho and Malipati, which have been perennially hit by floods hugely impacting on infrastructure and livelihoods, flood plains are a huge challenge that should be avoided at all costs.
Relocation to higher ground will need to be matched with strong and durable infrastructure that should withstand some of the inevitable weather conditions such as heavy winds, downpours and even flooding.
It is gratifying to note there are several people across the board who have pledged material support for the affected communities. This can be used to build solid and strong structures in the affected areas.
Suffice to say, the relocation exercises are often met with challenges with attitudes of the affected communities being a major hindrance.
They are likely to be some pockets of resistance from people who might have cultural and personal attachment to the areas. The traditional leaders will need to gently remind people that painful as it might be, their safety is of paramount importance because burial sites will always be lost to history and the memory cast to the winds.
With some villagers coming from a season so much devoid of plenty, where they had been basking in the bliss of good farming seasons, they might want to stall the exercise, ignoring the fact that is for their own good.
There are of course families and communities that had been deriving their hope and inspiration from the good harvest they had been enjoying over the years and may not be too eager to relocate to safer grounds. Good planning and consultation is crucial to ensure that the affected families are resettled in areas where they will still be able to eke out a living.
As the American geographer Gilbert White wisely observed, “Floods are acts of God; flood losses are largely acts of man”. We might not control natural disasters, but we ought to be responsible to the damages inflicted on us, and that require good disaster management strategies.
The Guardian (Lagos)
By Godswill Aguiyi
In the last few years, the Nigerian agricultural sector has not received adequate funding to catalyze a transformative growth in the sector. Recently, the amount to the sector as a percentage of the total budget revolves around 2 percent and less.
Meanwhile, it has been widely noted that public spending in the agricultural sector is a recipe for growth and development of the sector and critical to achieving the objective of food security and job creation in the country. This article is centering on the 2019 budget for the Agricultural sector and making a case for increased investment for the sector.
The 2019 budget proposal of 8.8 trillionNaira was presented to the joint session of the National Assembly on December 19, 2018with the allocation of 137.9 billionNaira to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and 46 other MDAs under her. This amount allocated to the agricultural sector is approximately 1.6 percent of the total budget. It is against this background that I argue that the public spending in the agricultural sector is low and should be increased. It has been severally stated that the agricultural sector is the key driver of the Nigerian economy contributing between 22% to 26% to GDP and employing over 40% of the population and almost 90% in rural area. Most importantly, fresh demands have been placed on agriculture as part of the government's vision of diversifying the economy away from oil.
For a sector with such humongous responsibilities, there is the need for adequate resource allocation for the achievement of her objectives. Firstly, the entire budget process has become a yearly ritual that follows the same pattern with little consideration for the recommendations of stakeholders on improvement. For example, the presentation of the budget proposal was very late in the year when official activities were winding down and the general elections became the priority of members of the National Assembly. Since the elections has come and gone, members of the National Assembly should expedite action in passing the budget in view of the fact that some capital appropriations will affect farmers as the raining season is setting in. It must be noted that the late passage of the budget has its negative toll on the implementation of the capital projects. Going forward, it would be good if the Budget office of the federation can start the budget process of a succeeding year at the beginning of the preceding year. For example, the budget process for 2020 should begin now.
Looking at the allocation to the agricultural sector, the amount 137.9 billion Naira (1.6%) percent falls short of the CAADP benchmark. You would recall that in 2014 at Malabo, African Heads of State signed to commit at least 10 percent of their national budget to the agricultural sector. Unfortunately, Nigeria has been trailing with regards to fulfilling this commitment. For the past 5 years or more, the budget to the agricultural sector have not exceeded 2 percent. Empirical evidences have shown that the greater the resources committed, the greater the output. This implies that huge investment results to huge outputs. Nevertheless, recent emphasis is on the quality of investments rather than the quantity of investment as well as how the investment will affect the targeted beneficiaries.
In the 2019 Agriculture budget, the capital expenditure 80.3 billion equals to 58% of the budget while the recurrent expenditure 57.7 billion is 42%. In as much as this looks like a plus as capital is higher than recurrent, and based on the assumption that more capital spending translates to higher contribution to the economy in terms of jobs and product output, most of the capital line items are ongoing projects related surfacing of some kilometers of roads and the development of various crop value chain. However, some of the line items will need further explanation for citizens to understand. For example, the line item ERGP30105281, titled Green Alternative Implementation which is an ongoing project of 155,182,587 Naira will need further explanation and rationality for the amount. This is because the Green Alternative is the same as the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP), which is being implemented and every activity in the sector is geared towards achieving the APP, so what is the rationale for spending funds to implement the APP except if it has a different meaning.
Also, it was noted that some capital project appropriated for do not have stated locations to expedite transparency and effective monitoring and evaluation. It is important that Irrigation, dam and water projects in the budget must have location. For instance, about 8 billion Naira is budgeted for Rural roads and Water Sanitation (ERGP5105180), however, there was no further information regarding the locations and length of road that would be constructed with the fund.
Another important thing to note is that out of the 137.9 billion, about 64.1 billion (46%) is allocated for the main Ministry headquarters in Abuja while the over 40 agencies under her, including the 3 Universities of Agriculture shares 73.8 billion (54%). Although the ratio has improved compared to what it used to, many stakeholders still think that the implementing agencies still need more funds owing the fact that the Ministry headquarters roles is fundamentally regulatory and supervision. Meanwhile, it appears that the other MDAs have not learnt to create quality capital projects, a careful perusal of some of the line items of the MDAs under the Ministry of Agriculture shows high level of repetition of projects proposed in previous years. We expect that research institutions should have innovative proposals on developing new varieties and transferring current technologies to farmers. It would be important for the Civil Society searchlight to shine on them too.
Looking back over the years, budget performance has been very poor especially in the release of funds to carry out implementation, only about 20% of the capital budget is being release and almost 100% of recurrent expenditure is used. This means that the salaries and emoluments paid to staff does not match their outputs. It is like having a fully equipped factory that produces at 20% capacity, obviously running at a loss but the manager still finds a way to pay everyone their salaries. This is not a sustainable way to run a system, one day the system will definitely collapse.
By and large, I think the budget document has tremendously transformed in terms of quality with less frivolous items and repetitions. What will matter for us now for the National Assembly to expedite action and pass the budget on time so that implementation can commence. Stakeholders will also want to see and improved budget performance in 2019.
The New Times – Rwanda
By: Pan Butamire
I remember laughing my grey head off when my son presented a test paper score of 6 out of 20, on the theory part of an overall test for a driving license. I was miffed but amused, too.
An Anglophone university undergraduate, to boot, and the test was in English?
The fellow insistently pleaded with me to take a look at the paper and when I reluctantly finally did, see two samples of what I beheld.
Question 1: “Every the road user must be park his vehicle according to the following:
- a) Where there is enough visibility without any obstacle that can course any obstacle to be his vehicle
- b) Where there is to be enough passage, etc.
Question 33: What is the maximum length of the trailer including the compounding device when the first trailer is pulled by an animals?” etc.
I insisted that the test was simple and all he needed was his common sense to make a wise guess at the correct answer. But, tell me, wiseacre that you be, wouldn’t you have flunked?
I haven’t looked at versions in Kinyarwanda, French and Kiswahili that, with English, are the official languages in this country. However, I am made to understand that the tests aren’t any more decipherable in these, either.
Correct me if I err, but I think these tests are set by the police. And if there is any department that’s disciplined and has the most competent individuals in these languages, it’s the Rwanda National Police.
It may not have many who are bilingual, trilingual or ‘quadri-lingual’, alright. But for individual languages, it has la crème de la crème.
In any case, in the improbable event that it wouldn’t have, there are many to outsource from other departments. This country is teeming with youths who can switch languages faster than you can change your mind. And their eloquence, in speech and in writing, is equal to the world’s best.
That’s not to say, don’t get me wrong, that the reverse may not be the more dominant among others, as the above quotes are witness. Still, there is no reason at all to allow for this laxity
Not even on the smallest kiosks, where I’ve seen some electronic bill-boards proclaiming to offer “pedicule” and “manicule” (manicure/pedicure) services! As for “Hair Saloon”, often by the Francophone (!), I dare you to find two that are marked correctly as “Hair Salon”.
Just imagine reading something like “….. Arrival at the site and seat taking. You are prayed by the organising committee to confirmed your attendance….” on a programme for an official function. Instead of anger, you feel relief instead that, God forbid, they didn’t write “sit taking” (with an “h” somewhere)!
You’d think some Rwandans revel in embarrassing their compatriots.
A people who have lived in literally every country of this globe and speak the languages sometimes better than the natives, why should they allow for this gross carelessness, irresponsibility, indiscipline, nay, utter shame, in tests, messages, speeches, anywhere? Why?
For a society that lived for centuries before colonialism as a centrally organized, civilized entity exactly because every individual observed discipline to the littlest detail, why so?
Gacaca community courts that shook the fundamentals of western classic court systems with their effectiveness were a revival from that era. Umuganda, Ubudehe, Itorero, Umushyikirano and other Kinyarwanda-tagged programmes that have won global recognition and acclaim are all retouches of traditional practices that were personal and communal initiatives.
Cleanliness and order in this country are not fads of this day.
Everything worked to near-perfection thanks to attention to the minutest detail.
Of course, lest we forget, it was not until today’s government gave the clarion call that Rwandans reawakened from the slovenly existence that colonialism and the two immediate post-independence regimes had sunk them into.
But, once reawakened, they swiftly re-applied themselves to their past positive conduct and practices and that was it. The rest was to put a few retouches of modernity on the conduct and practices and – bingo! – they were as modern as G5.
The more reason then that they should answer government’s call.
Having a government system that’s in sync with the populace, Rwandans should not dare disappoint. Away with shameful language, action, service, demeanour, the dirty lot!
They should deal with these minor details and give the government space to do the heavy lifting. Healthcare, education, infrastructure, foreign relations, economy, on and on.
And, perhaps most crucially, the enablers of all the above: security of person and property together with defence of this homeland. That no silly sot kills a Rwandan, ever again.
That from Sweden to South Africa, the Congo (D.R.) to the Comoros (Union of), USA to Uganda; that from everywhere no vile villain entertains the thought of ever again causing a scratch to blemish the skin – yes, the skin! – of a Rwandan.
That to whomsoever the thought so much as occurs is picked up like the filthy flea they are and brought to book, in this land.
That, for good and forever, this be a society of systemic cleanliness, order, health and wealth in total serenity as it was put on this globe to become. After the heavy lifting.
The Herald (Harare)
By Sibusiso Ndlamini
Reforming is a process of improving or changing for the better, especially as a result of correction of legal or political abuses or malpractices.
Economic and political reforms are normally done over a period of time.
It is imperative to note that for bolder reforms to be implemented, they must be done on appropriate discussion platforms with consensus from all stakeholders.
Zimbabwe has been castigated by its detractors over the issue of reforms.
Some Western communities such as the United States and European Union went to the extent of imposing economic sanctions on the country, imprudently claiming that it should reform.
Since the coming in of the Second Republic under the leadership of President Mnangagwa, positive economic, political and social reforms are being witnessed in Zimbabwe, and these are expected to help improve the economic growth of the nation.
It is a fact that the new administration has the country at heart, hence working tirelessly to restore the economic confidence that most investors have in the country.
The first economic reform that was brought by the New Dispensation is freeing the economic space. When President Mnangagwa declared that "Zimbabwe is Open for Business", a number of local and international investors showed their interest of investing in the country.
It is a fact that trade liberalisation encourages economic activity and hence raises production and employment. However, some school of thought argue that, although the expectation may be justified in the long run, it seems somewhat unrealistic to expect immediate benefits since trade liberalisation always implies increased foreign competition, which in turn may lead to the closure of less competitive firms and, therefore, job losses and income reduction in the initial phase following the trade liberalisation.
In line with the Zimbabwe Is Open For Business policy, it is worth noting that the number of foreign and local exhibitors that showcased their businesses at this year's Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) increased significantly, a step which depicts that the country's economy is moving in the right direction.
This year, 532 direct local exhibitors were booked compared to 491 from the previous year.
From those 532 exhibitors, 16 were first-time exhibitors displaying their different products ranging from education services, agriculture equipment to food manufacturing.
That evidence alone tells it all that the Zimbabwean economy is improving for the betterment of its citizens.
As a result of the economic reforms which Government is currently implementing, the nation's economy is certainly poised for growth.
Thus, many companies will be expected to re-open and create employment opportunities for the locals. In 1978, China introduced its economic reforms so as to boost its economy.
Just like Zimbabwe, China's major components of reform included, agriculture, state-owned enterprises, the open door policy, the price system and development of non-state sectors.
The economic reform components that were implemented in China, are similar to the reforms being implemented by the Government to improve the country's economic sector.
Already, some parastatals were successfully privatised and these include, People's Own Savings Bank (POSB), NetOne and TelOne.
Under the open-door policy, which is similar to the Zimbabwe is open for business, China's foreign trade and foreign investment were encouraged.
China's economy was essentially a closed economy before the economic reform.
In 1978, the total volume of its foreign trade, or the sum of the values of its exports and imports, amounted to seven percent of its national income.
On the political side, Zimbabwe has also been reforming since the New Dispensation.
The political space was liberated, such that during the July 2018 harmonised elections, 23 political parties fielded presidential candidates.
In addition, all the political parties freely campaigned in previously no-go areas such as the rural areas.
Also, as a way of reforming, President Mnangagwa called upon opposition political party leaders to a national dialogue.
Such a move reveals that political reforms are indeed being implemented, as political parties can now freely associate and discuss matters of national interest.
Recently, the President set up inter-ministerial political reform committee to lead on political, electoral and legislative reforms in line with recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry into the August 1, 2018 post-election violence.
As it stands, the Government has already started implementing the recommendations of the commission, which among other things include paying school fees of children of the deceased.
The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission was also assigned by President Mnangagwa to look into the Gukurahundi issue.
The Government will facilitate the exhumation and reburial of victims of Gukurahundi while medical assistance will be availed for those injured during that time.
There are also a number of laws that are being amended or replaced to ease way of doing business.
Already there is a new Bill, Maintenance of Peace and Order, which is set to replace the Public Order and Security Act (POSA). In the new Bill, the Zimbabwe Republic Police will no longer be a police force, but a police service.
Under the New Dispensation, a number of political and economic reforms are progressively being implemented and these will certainly have a positive impact towards the nation's engagement with the international world and achieving the vision of making the country a middle income economy by 2030.
The Herald (Harare)
By: Mthuli Ncube
As Minister of Finance, I often feel frustrated that we don’t live in a perfect world with perfect conditions. So many factors are out of our control; from natural disasters, to global events; from oil prices to the outbreak of disease. We are also in a democracy with lots of decision-makers. We operate in bureaucracies which take time for the wheels to turn.
Yet we have a challenge on our hands which needs dealing with, and quickly. We are mending an economy which we inherited in dire straits. Even when all the right policies are being implemented; even when all the political will for economic reform is present; even when Zimbabwe is opening up to the world; rebuilding our devastated economy will take time.
The most important thing is that the train of sensible economics is firmly back on the tracks. We no longer spend more than we earn; the first rule of any economic entity, be it a person or a country. Balancing the budget is imperative. This is perhaps our greatest achievement to date. It is neither painless nor smooth; but reforming and rebuilding never is.
The last six months have seen us launch deep and broad policy reforms under the banner of our Transitional Stabilisation Programme (October 2018-December 2020).
The Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), essentially, targets a number of areas for reform, that are key to providing a foundation for strong, shared and sustainable growth and development. These include: Macro-fiscal stabilisation; building a conducive investment environment and launching quick-wins to stimulate and sustain a renewed private sector-led growth economy; reintegrating the country into the global economy; and the promotion of sound and good governance as an essential ingredient for socio-economic cohesion and development.
The short-term effect is unfortunately an austerity felt by all. The long-term effect, with a mixture of discipline and patience, will be more money your pockets, more jobs, and an economy back on its feet. While politicians live from day to day, economics is a long-term game; one must look at the bigger picture.
The implementation of the TSP reforms, with its long-term focus, has indeed begun in earnest. Notwithstanding setbacks from downside risks related to drought conditions and Cyclone Idai, foreign currency shortages, restricted access to international financial markets, and other exogenous factors, there are indeed noticeable scores from the reforms.
Evident successes are in fiscal consolidation and discipline, the removal of various pricing distortions, monetary sector and currency reforms, infrastructure rehabilitation, and “Doing Business Environment reforms” which will attract investment.
As a result, growth, which could have declined by much higher margins, was saved and is now estimated at 4 percent for 2018, only slightly behind our ambitious target of 4,5 percent.
The anticipated growth was driven mainly by agriculture, mining and services on the back of improved confidence and new investment in both private and public sectors during the first half of the year.
With the macro-fiscal stabilisation measures at the heart of the TSP, which were again further buttressed through the 2019 National Budget austerity measures, performance of public finances has started improving with budget deficits being contained from October 2018.
By December 2018, an incredible budget surplus was recorded according to the preliminary budget outturn. We are spending less and raising more, Economics 101.
Revenue collections during the fourth quarter of 2018 stood at US$1,69 billion, already surpassing the set target of US$1,18 billion by a massive 43 percent. This fourth quarter performance also represents a phenomenal 60 percent increase from the collections of US$1,06 billion recorded during the same period in 2017. While this is still part of a wider “hole” filling process; it is progress.
Similarly, fourth quarter revenues surpassed third quarter revenues of US$1,3 billion by 31 percent, reflecting high inflation impact, as well as the introduction of the Intermediated Money Transfer Tax (IMTT) in November. These revenues have already been put to good use as part of our rescue and rehabilitation efforts for Cyclone Idai.
While it would have been preferable to put these funds to long-term strategic reforms, Government has an immediate responsibility to protect its citizens, and when the natural disaster struck, we had to step in with tactical measures.
We must keep focus. We have much more work to do. Expenditure needs to be reined in. Privatisation kick-started. And crucial foreign funding injected into our economy. We must also continue to do all in our power to remove the crippling sanctions which continue to hold back our development.
We are in a process of rebuilding; and the reforms are well and truly underway. While too many Zimbabweans still suffer, and while many are still frustrated; with patience and discipline, we will get to the economic promised land. Zimbabwe is slowly finding its feet. The journey is long, and it will not be smooth, but we are heading firmly in the right direction.