As part of its responsibilities, the Parliament of Rwanda in 2022 deliberated on bills about different issues including income tax, public finance management, contraception of teenage pregnancies, donation and use of human organs, as well as security. These bills, according to the entities that initiated them, intend to address the identified problems with a view to improve legislation and lives. The following are five bills that got people talking. Law establishing taxes on income The new law establishing taxes on income is one of the laws that have brought a significant change in the taxation legislation, and workers' income. Under its provision on the increase of the tax-free income threshold , employees earning up to Rwf60,000 a month or Rwf720,000 per year, are not subjected to paying tax. This non-taxable income cap is double the previous Rwf30,000 (or Rwf360,000 per year) that was set in 2005. It was passed by the Chamber of Deputies on September 15, 2022, and published in the official gazette of October 28, 2022. According to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN), it is expected that this law will reduce the tax burden on low-income formal workers, ease doing business, and at the same time, help the country to collect revenue to fuel its economic growth. Information from MINECOFIN indicates that this development will benefit at least 165,500 formal workers, or 30 per cent of around 541,241 formal workers in Rwanda as of June 2022. However, labour unions and workers said that though this a laudable development in terms of supporting low-income earners, they appealed for a further increase of the non-taxable income cap to at least Rwf100,000. They based their argument on the fact that an employee needs at least Rwf150,000 monthly pay for him/her to be able to meet basic needs like food, transportation, among others. Going forward, they pledged they will continue to make advocacy so that the tax-free income be raised in response to the rise in the cost of living. Meanwhile, notwithstanding the above two provisions on employment income, income of a casual labourer is subject to tax on the special rate of 15 per cent. However, in calculating casual labourer’s tax, an income not exceeding Rwf60,000 per month is tax-free. Bill on contraception for children In October this year, the Plenary Sitting of the Chamber of Deputies rejected the relevance of the bill that sought to provide for access to contraceptive services for children (girls) aged from 15, putting forward reasons including cultural considerations and faith. Rwandan legislation considers a child any person who is under 18 years old. Currently, contraceptives are not allowed for children in Rwanda. This private members’ bill amending law No 21/2016 of 20/05/2016 on Human Reproductive Health, was tabled before the Chamber of Deputies by a group of five MPs. MPs who initiated the bill said that they based on the increasing number of teenage pregnancies, with data from the Ministry of Gender and Family promotion indicating that impregnated teens increased by 16.7 per cent from 19,701 in 2020 to 23,000 in 2021. Faith-based organisations also opposed the move, arguing that children should not be allowed to use contraceptive methods, rather be protected from defilement, and punishment to the offenders. However, the Health Development Initiative (HDI) said that it was “unfortunate that the human reproductive health bill was not approved, underscoring the need for contraceptives for teens for their protection such as from teenage pregnancies.” Bill governing Rwanda National police The draft law governing Rwanda National Police (RNP), which is in the Senate for consideration, aims to, among other provisions, give this security organ the legal authority and powers to carry out basic acts of investigation (into criminal offenses), and to deter desertion among police officers through tougher penalties. It went to the Senate after the Chamber of Deputies passed it on October 6, 2022. According to the bill, such powers that RNP wants include conducting search, seizure, collection of evidence and submitting a report to the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) within 24 hours, so that it carries out a detailed investigation into the matter in question. “There is a lot of evidence that was getting lost, or there was a lack of incriminating facts because police had no preliminary investigation powers,” Alfred Gasana, the Minister of Interior, said while explaining the relevance of the bill to Senators last week. It also seeks to give the RNP full powers to carry out an investigation of road traffic offences. On security duty abandonment, if the law is enacted, deserting police officers could face tougher penalties of between six to seven years depending on the gravity of the offense. So far, police officers who desert are given a ‘lenient’ punishment as it has been treated as an administrative fault. Some senators expressed concerns over the punishment of police officers over desertion. For Senators Laetitia Nyinawamwiza, and Pelagie Uwera, punishing police officers might result in discouraging people from joining police. Senator Lambert Dushimimana said that Rwanda’s constitution provides that everyone has the right to free choice of employment, suggesting that “the focus should be put on efforts to retain police officers instead of punishing them once they desert.” Responding to Senators’ worries, Gasana said that “it is good to join an entirety when you know its values and discipline and decide to be part of it when you are committed to do so,” warning that leaving police duty illegally poses a threat to the country’s security and this should be discouraged. Draft law regulating the use of human organs, tissues and cells In support of Rwanda's plan to offer kidney and liver transplants, among other medical services, the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday, October 19, adopted the relevance of the draft law regulating the use of human organs, tissues and cells. This bill seeks to determine their utilisation for therapeutic, educational or scientific purposes, with a view to save lives, according to the Ministry of Health. During the debate on this bill in Parliament, some MPs expressed concern that some critically ill patients might be ignored by some doctors who might connive with rich people needing transplants of organs such as kidneys. However, the Ministry of Health said that such a concern was somehow addressed in the draft law. The bill provides that human body organ donation is done after the consent of the donor, and that organ sale is prohibited. Also, it provides that harvesting from a deceased person for therapeutic purposes is performed after confirmation of his or her brain death – the permanent, irreversible, and complete loss of brain function – by three medical doctors, who were not involved in the treatment of the deceased person or recipient of the organ, tissue, cell or products of the human body. Those medical doctors affirm the death and establish a death certificate which they all sign. Organic law on public finance management The new organic law on public finance management seeks to address the gaps identified through the analysis of the organic law on State Finances and property enacted in September 2013, so as to achieve proper public resource management for improved results, through better budgeting and auditing, according to the Government. It was published in the official gazette on December 12, 2022. Under this law, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning is expected to submit a fiscal risk statement to Parliament. This considers the risks such disasters and pandemics such as the current Covid-19, which the country might be exposed to and may lead to changes in its economic forecasts. The Ministry said that this move will provide a picture of the risk factors in question, and an opportunity to devise a strategy to tackle them. Also, with this law, parliamentarians and environmentalists concurred that response to national crises such as disasters and pandemics is set to get stronger, following a decision to increase the budget allocated to emergencies. This would be the case because the law provides that the emergency budget share can increase from the current cap of 3 per cent of the recurrent State budget to 5 per cent of the total State budget.