Budget is a weighing machine of local priorities

With the limited resources local governments have, there is a great need of proper planning and calls for prioritisation of the funding by local authorities. All sources of funds are identified as they vary each year due to different reasons. A certain fraction is committed to recurrent expenditures, while another one is committed to capital expenditures of the local government.
 Richard RUTAYISIRE
Richard RUTAYISIRE

With the limited resources local governments have, there is a great need of proper planning and calls for prioritisation of the funding by local authorities. All sources of funds are identified as they vary each year due to different reasons. A certain fraction is committed to recurrent expenditures, while another one is committed to capital expenditures of the local government.

The authorities determine how much is allocated to the two different budgets basing on the selected priorities in each core sector of the local government. Financial circumstances of each local government, the will of the local authority and the citizens determine how resources are allocated. So far, there is no known criterion of pre-determining and assigning resources to sub-divisions or sectors. Therefore, each local government should define criteria jointly with citizens, and always some of the criteria considered on are population, local priorities (housing, streets, education, health, sewage), unmet basic needs (water, electricity or sanitation), the degree of citizen participation, impact of a project on the community as a whole and impact on disadvantaged or vulnerable groups.

Resource allocation is then done depending on the citizens priorities. For example, if sector X agrees to give supplementary points on water and lesser points to population, more resources will be allocated to water facilities regardless of the population density. Another sector, Y, may allocate more points to population issues and fund neighbourhoods that densely populated, thus attaining broader exposure and impact.

With donor-fatigue, local governments need to be strategic in selecting priority activities with citizens’ involvement. This citizens’ participation will anchor every ones’ patriotism in finding solutions to the budget deficit in order to balance the essential human needs and financing arm. Here, local priorities will balance with the available finances, and solutions or challenges to the budget deficit will be easily understood by the citizens. Unmet activities in Year I will be met in Year II and this will grow gradually as financial means are achieved.

If a certain percentage of the local budget had been supported by foreign aid and becomes unreliable, as has happened in Rwanda, citizen contribution and participation in fixing the country’s development challenges could be easily attained.

A radical rethink on aid dependency is needed while planning for our budgets. That local governments need finances for whether their priorities is a fact, regardless of the money is raised locally or from development partners. It is important to understand that citizens require some basic needs for their development. Over the past years, donor funding has not been increasing at rates we would have wanted, which should have made us develop home grown solutions like we did by avoiding some expensive and luxurious assets. Budget support has been traditionally considered as one means of achieving control over local activities by the financing agencies, especially the donors, where local priorities are not considered, yet when local communities are selecting their main activities, they depend on a number of factors such as percentage of the population with access to services, population density and sector priorities.

I am convinced that with the citizenry contribution and passion, local priorities will be financed to a reasonable level, low financing notwithstanding. So, let us rethink on what and how much has the Army Week contributed to the wellbeing of our communities. They have provided some medical services to thousands of people. How much has been contributed by the citizens in the construction of 9YBE class rooms? What if we quantified and gave monetary value to the bridges constructed by citizens themselves or our armed forces, how much would it be? Once citizens are involved in the budgeting process and they are aware of the available and required resources, they would effectively contribute to financing the gap and, thus, achieve their targets.

The author is the Rwandese Association of Local Government Authorities operations manager and a business and economic studies lecturer at ULK

 

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