The Senate has called for further increase, diversification and value addition to Rwanda’s export products to help the country to reduce imbalance between imports and exports.
Senators said that Rwanda should go well beyond its three traditional export commodities namely coffee, tea and minerals, to embrace other commodities such as vegetables, fruits, meat, ICT services in order to widen its exports base and wither through effects of international price fluctuations.
The Senate plenary was deliberating on the country’s Budget Framework Paper (BFP) and the medium term budget estimates for 2017/18 -2019/20.
BPF is a document outlining government economic policies over the medium term that helps lay the foundations of the next fiscal year.
As per the Monetary Policy and Financial Stability statement released by the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) in February 2017; Rwanda’s trade deficit improved by 5.9 percent in 2016, to $1649.7 million from $1752.5 million in 2015.
Despite the observed improvement in the trade balance in 2016, BNR said, the import bill continued to outstrip export receipts, exerting pressures on the Rwandan franc exchange rate as the Franc depreciated against the dollar by 9.7 percent in 2016 compared to a depreciation of 7.6 percent in 2015.
Senators said that given that the prices of Rwanda’s export products at international market face fluctuations which Rwanda has no control over, there is a need for product diversification and ensuring value addition through processing.
For instance, figures from National Agriculture Exports Development Board (NAEB) show that the average price of coffee reduced from $3.30 in 2015 to $3.05 in 2016, which badly affected coffee export revenues.
Yet, NAEB states that horticulture is seen as critical for exports growth and diversification, whereby Rwanda aims to increase horticulture exports more than tenfold, from $11 million in 2013 to $120 million (about Rwf99 billion) by 2018.
Senator Tito Rutaremara said that “it has been realised that the period we have reached now, we are going to need more imports’, citing major national level projects like construction of the $400 million-Bugesera International Airport.
He called for measures to increase locally made products.
“We should not only rely on the three traditional export commodities,” Senator Rutaremara said referring to coffee, tea and minerals.
“We should have say six crops,” he said, calling for more investments in horticulture and meat production projects such as the Gako Beef project for cow fattening and intensive beef production in Bugesera District, which he said Rwanda can develop to get more earnings from meat exports.
The senate also called for more efforts in providing skills to Rwandans especially those needed in industries and other job-creation sectors for the youth.
Senator Chysologue Karangwa said that “what Rwanda is putting more efforts in, is developing industries based on the locally produced materials. “Empowering the youth with skills to be able to work in such industries is very important as it will ensure that investors in manufacturing get local skilled labour force,” he said.
The Upper House also called on government to put priority on availing basic infrastructures in industrial parks in districts to facilitate investors to set up their factories, hence enabling the country to increase made in Rwanda products.
Senator Celestin Sebuhoro, the Vice-Chairperson of the senatorial Committee on Economic Development and Finance, said that 66 percent of the country’s budget will be financed through domestic revenues while once loans are added, it will reach 83 percent, which he said shows a progress in the country’s self-reliance.
Proposed budget for fiscal year 2017/18 is Rwf2,094 billion, Rwf140.7 billion higher than Rwf1,954.2 in the 2016/17 revised budget, according to Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
The Budget Framework Paper for 2017/18 – 2019/20 underscores government’s commitment to address Balance of trade by increasing exports to foster economic growth.
The senate also called for strategies to make use of developed marshlands and valleys in a bid to combat climate change which results in growing food prices and inflation because of food shortages.
While presenting the Budget Framework Paper to parliament last month, finance minister Amb. Claver Gatete said that key targets and interventions in 2017/2018 fiscal year will include growing traditional exports to 19%, promoting non-traditional exports, growth of the service sector by 33% as well as cross cutting interventions such as promotion of made in Rwanda, developing cross border and trade logistics infrastructure, and development of industrial parks among others.