The newly-created portfolio of the State Minister for Socio-Economic Development at the Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC) will help speed up implementation of the government’s local development initiatives, officials at the ministry have said.
The Ministry of State for Socio-Economic Development was created this month with President Paul Kagame appointing former MINALOC Permanent Secretary Vincent Munyeshyaka to oversee the ministry.
The appointment relieved Dr Alvera Mukabaramba, former Minister of State for Community Development and Social Affairs, of the duties to oversee community development and instead allowed her to focus on social protection.
She was appointed the Minister of State in charge of Social Affairs and Social Protection, leaving Munyeshyaka to focus on community development.
“Mukabaramba is taking care of welfare with a focus on a category of people; the vulnerable people such as vulnerable elders, people with disabilities, indigents, as well as vulnerable Genocide survivors among others. For me I am looking at people’s development regardless of their category,” Munyeshyaka said in an interview explaining the difference in roles and responsibilities of the two dockets.
Some officials suggested that, previously, Mukabaramba was overstretched while coordinating both development and social protection programmes.
Social protection encompasses the government’s efforts to help vulnerable Genocide survivors, monitoring programmes like VUP Umurenge, Girinka, helping people living with disabilities, managing returnees such as former refugees, helping ex-combatants, and taking care of vulnerable elders and indigent members of society, among others.
While community development or socio-economic development is more about development initiatives in communities such as building feeder roads in different districts, building local markets, or connecting communities to electricity and water.
“Following up on all of these programmes under social protection and community development departments was an overwhelming task,” Mukabaramba admitted.
The new Minister of State for socio-economic development said that portfolio was created in line with empowering MINALOC so it can fulfil all its obligations to improve the country’s governance by offering efficient services.
“This department will focus on people’s development. There are many programmes that have been set up by the government to help the people develop and my job is to ensure that end beneficiaries benefit,” Munyeshyaka said.
He also emphasised that he will be looking at how to help districts benefit from tapping into their specific economic potentials to create wealth.
“Every district has its special potential for development; some have minerals, others have forests, among other things. So, I will work to ensure that districts seize their economic potentials to develop their people,” he said.
The Minister for Local Government, Francis Kaboneka, agrees that it’s time for a better focus on developing districts’ economic potentials and that part of doing just that is having someone who is specifically in charge of that area.
“We have been having social affairs and community development as one docket and it has been huge. So, now we are going to divide it into two parts; social affairs independently and community development independently,” he said.
“We have been trying to develop local economic development working with local authorities and we have a lot of potentials in different districts but these potentials are not exploited. We need someone to specifically focus on that aspect.”
Asked whether the Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning can’t handle the issues of local economic development, Minister Kaboneka insisted that local issues deserve a special focus.
He explained that the Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning, Dr Uzziel Ndagijimana, at the moment, focuses more on national development at large, while the State Minister for Socio-Economic Development at MINALOC will be focusing on local development in districts even if the two state ministers will still be working together to achieve their goals.