Rwanda’s smooth-bumpy cruise through 2019

Kigali Convention Centre. Photo: Illume Creative Studio

Friday afternoon at exactly 3:24pm, I got a text notification from Rwanda Revenue Authority thanking my little firm for declaring and paying taxes on time; in my heart, I felt warm with self-impression at the fact that as a small taxpayer, I had done my bit to support the government to do its work.

Earlier this year, RRA reported that it had collected the previous term, Rwf1421.7bn which was nearly Rwf30bn above the targeted Rwf1392.1bn.

Compared to other economies on the continent, this is still a small budget given the ambitious development goals.

But thanks to its zero tolerance to corruption, strict accountability and transparent approach to governance, the Rwandan government somehow manages to deliver, to the Rwandan public, champagne on a beer budget. It is something bigger economies with bigger budgets miserably fail at, often delivering beer at the cost of a champagne bottle.

As a result, in Rwanda, you have taxpayers that have full confidence in their government, to put their taxes to good use. In other countries, mistrust reigns and most taxpayers choose to evade paying taxes an attitude reinforced by the belief that the money will be embezzled anyway, by corrupt officials.

It wouldn’t be entirely fallacious to assume that like myself, every taxpayer in Rwanda, small or big, is generally satisfied with how the government has, as the case with past years, used our taxes in 2019; even for critics, there are open indicators all around for them to see.

Kigali, where most taxpayers work and reside has been well maintained throughout the year with smooth and clean streets that continue to inspire a lot of positive commentaries, especially from first-time visitors, citing it as Africa’s cleanest, most organised and beautiful city.

Despite our electricity generation limitations, street lights have worked full-time throughout the year, keeping the city well illuminated and reducing dark spots which tend to foster crime in most cities; as a result, Kigali’s record of being Africa’s safest city was not threatened at all.

A couple of new streets have been added, a monument has been unveiled, a state of the art sports facility was opened, the skyline welcomed new high-rise buildings and dozens of international events were successfully hosted; the economy remained resilient and robust throughout the year.

The Rwanda Franc might have ceded some ground to the American dollar but it still remains a sound and reliable currency in the market, compared to others elsewhere, thanks to the Central Bank which has successfully battled inflation movements across the year, in spite of challenges in food production. 

It is easy to take for granted what taxpayers have in Kigali and Rwanda, generally, until you visit some of the other countries’ cities on this continent, immediately, you feel like the luckiest taxpayer in the world. 

Within the region, it was a mixed bag for Rwanda. The best highlight for me, has been the warming relations between Kigali and Kinshasa since January 2019, when Félix Antoine TshisekediTshilombo assumed the Presidency in DR Congo.

President Tshisekedi appears to be genuinely committed towards a stable Great Lakes Region and his willingness to place DRC at the vanguard of that effort has been visible in his dealings with Rwanda.

On the East African Community front, Rwanda has maintained good relations with neighbours with the exception of the ongoing challenges with Uganda where incidents of arbitrary arrest and torture of Rwandans as well as harboring forces with a negative agenda against Rwanda, have bruised ties.

On the international front, brand Rwanda continued to shine, thanks to strategic marketing initiatives by the Rwanda Development Board which has just followed-up the market shaking deal with Arsenal with yet another sporting giant, France’s PSG, helping raise global awareness on the country’s tourism and investment potential.

Rwanda’s public civil servants should go into the end of year’s festivities feeling happy, knowing that they have delivered well for the Rwandan public, in 2019. But more work awaits them come 2020 which will mark the end of one development era (Vision 2020) and the beginning of another, Vision 2050.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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