First of all, I want to take the opportunity to congratulate each and every new (and reelected) Member of Parliament on their victory, much as the composition of the parliament is yet to be known.
As of yesterday afternoon, the Rwanda Patriotic Front coalition was leading with an overwhelming 76 percent of the total votes cast.
To the other parties that put up a good fight, I say, thank you for giving Rwandans a myriad of choices and showing the world that political pluralism and competition doesn’t mean mudslinging, manipulation and untruths.
To the independent candidates, to you I say, “bravo”. While none of you were able to surmount the 5 percent mark that you needed to win a seat, you all brought in a different ingredient to our political ‘soup’.
In fact, perhaps next time the 5 percent mark, which I find rather high, should be lowered for independent candidates. But that is a column for another day.
So why do I think that this, the Fourth Parliament, might be the most important one in our history as a nation?
On Friday 13th, the President officially launched the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS 2).
This framework, which aims to ensure that the economy grows by an average of 11.5 percent while the Gross Domestic Product increases by almost double, from $644 today to $1,240 by the year 2020.
As some observers (naysayers) have said, this kind of growth is not a joke. It isn’t simply a matter of tasking our business people, farmers, civil servants and political leaders to work extremely hard to reach each of these targets, although they will have to.
Parliament will have the huge responsibility to ensure the legal framework for this rapid transformation.
I had a love-hate relationship with the last Parliament.
On the plus side, this parliament attempted to protect women’s reproductive rights (ie the pro-abortion clause for victims of rape and incest), sexual rights (they refused to criminalise homosexuality despite the fact that, in my opinion, it would have been a popular move) and media rights (today as a member of the journalistic fraternity, I don’t have to worry about state regulation. If I do wrong, a ‘jury’ of my peers will regulate my actions).
All this is extremely commendable. Of course I’ve had gripes with my MP’s.
I had issues with how they handled the Labour Code, most especially on the issue of maternity and paternity leave and as I wrote previously.
But as of right now, all the disagreements (and agreements) that I’ve had are water under the bridge. Now isn’t the time to look back, it is the time to fix our eyes on the prize. But the prize will not, and cannot, be reached unless our law makers play a blinder.
Rwanda’s development strategy wholly depends on unleashing our entrepreneurial spirit and energy. However, I still believe that some of the laws that are currently in place makes this grand ‘push’ a lot harder than it needs to be.
Lets look at the labour law for example. In the United States, an employer can fire an employee almost at will. While this might seem cruel, it allows an employer who is, for example, struggling with the payroll, to cut costs quick.
Here in Rwanda, to do the same one will need to pay all sorts of severance benefits or risk getting sued for unlawful termination of employment.
MPs will have to start making laws that protect employers just as much, if not more, than employees, simply because the employers are the ones who will take our economy to the next level.
And while they are at it, perhaps they can take a look at the tax code again.
I hope that this incoming group of MP’s will be known as the ‘pro-business’ parliament. If they do, Vision2020 will be that much easier to accomplish.