Editorial: Streamline pro-poor initiatives urgently

The National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) released the fifth Integrated Household Living Condition Survey (EICV5) in December last year, which indicated a slight drop in poverty levels– from 38.2 from 39.1 in 2014 – representing a decline of 0.9 per cent.

The latest EICV also showed a marginal 0.3 per cent in extreme poverty levels, from 16.3 per cent down to 16 per cent over the last four years.

To fully appreciate the slow progress made in anti-poverty efforts over the last four years or so, one needs to look at the previous two household living conditions surveys.

The EICV4 showed that poverty levels had reduced by 5.8 per cent from 44.9 per cent in 2011 to 39.1 per cent in 2014, which consequently saw some 660,000 people graduate from poverty. Extreme poverty also dropped from 24.1 per cent to 16.3 per cent in the same period.

Even greater progress was made between 2006 and 2011 during which the country registered a 12 per cent poverty drop from 56.7 per cent to 44.9 per cent, resulting in as many as a million Rwandans graduating from poverty.

Thanks mainly to the significant gains made between 2006 and 2014, poverty reduced by 18.5 per cent between 2006 and 2017, with extreme poverty dropping by 19.8 per cent in the second period.

Like they say numbers don’t like.

There is a reason why the country made significant gains as far as fighting poverty is concerned between 2006 and 2014 and why there has been negligible gains since.

It will be recalled that during last year’s  National Umushyikirano Council it emerged that the country’s  social safety net had been tampered with and that pro-poor services were no longer effective because funds had been diverted to Savings and Credit Cooperatives (Saccos) instead.

There is a correlation between the effectiveness of social safety net programmes and EICV findings.

Ironically, there are more pro-people government schemes today than there were ten years ago.

It is imperative that officials in charge –from central to local government –urgently streamline the various pro-people initiatives, including VUP-Umurenge, Girinka, Ubudehe, among others, to reverse the recent trend and help accelerate national development.

It is good news that the economy remains strong (it is projected to grow by over 7 per cent in 2018) but this growth needs to be reflected across all sectors and segments of population to ensure that everyone benefits.