Citizens should be more engaged in the planning of the country’s third Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS 3) if it is to deliver Rwanda to more prosperity in the next five years after 2018.
The call was made yesterday by experts gathered at a high level policy dialogue held in Kigali and organised under the auspices of the Economic Policy Research Network (EPRN) in collaboration with the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR-Rwanda).
The participants at the meeting, which looked at citizen participation and inclusiveness in the country’s development process, argued that development is faster and meaningful when it doesn’t leave anyone behind.
They called upon the government to ensure that citizens are consulted more in the planning of the new blueprint whose development is expected to kick off in the next few months.
With the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) having shown citizen participation as one of the areas that scored less in the board’s Rwanda Governance Scorecard and Citizen Report Card surveys, the experts at the symposium urged for more involvement of the population in planning EDPRS 3.
“We believe that if it is not inclusive then it can’t transform our economy,” said Dr Félicien Usengumukiza, the head of research and monitoring at the RGB.
Usengumukiza said that citizens often fail to pitch their ideas in the elaboration of development programmes out of ignorance because some of them don’t know their rights.
He said that once the people understand that it is their right to contribute ideas and the officials understand that they have the obligation to always consult citizens, more participation of citizens will be achieved in planning processes.
“Local officials don’t seem to give citizens enough chances to participate but we believe that as more citizens learn about their rights the scores will go up. Sensitising citizens about their rights is the key to achieving their participation in development programmes,” he said.
The official said that the Rwanda Governance Scorecard report, published by RGB in 2016, indicated that 62 per cent of citizens felt that they had participated in development programmes and policies to which they are beneficiaries.
The score for participation was 59 per cent in the same year when it came to the board’s Citizen Report Card that documents how satisfied citizens are with the programmes.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs (MINALOC), Odette Uwamariya, said that the government has made steps to improve citizens’ participation in the planning of governance and development programmes.
She said that while citizens have obviously been participating in the planning, it was clear that they need to be more involved in the planning of budget and action plans in their communities and the government has encouraged them to do so since the planning of the next national budget started.
Uwamariya told Saturday Times in an interview that citizens in every village of the country were given a chance to specify what their needs are so they could be considered in the country’s national budget that will be approved by Parliament next month.
“We have no doubt that our citizens are involved in what is being done for them, whether it’s in governance, economy, or any other sectors, there is no question about that. But the challenge is their involvement in budgeting and planning, which we have already started doing without waiting for EDPRS 3,” she said.
Experts at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN) are currently elaborating the country’s 3rd Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS 3).
It will replace the current development blueprint (EDPRS 2) that is under implementation from June 2013 to June 2018.
In response to the experts’ concerns at the dialogue, officials at the ministry said that a Mass Communication campaign strategy to ensure that EDPRS 3 elaboration caters for inclusiveness has been planned.
Alain Ngendahimana, a planning and research analyst at MINECOFIN, said that the strategy will include holding consultations with ordinary citizens in the country as well as key stakeholders such as different policy makers like MPs, public servants, political parties, and members of the judiciary.
Multiple and widespread communication channels will also be used, with messages about EDPRS 3 planning being shared in the mainstream media such as television, radio, and newspapers as well as social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Ngendahimana said that Rwandans in the Diaspora, development partners and friends of Rwanda will also be engaged in the planning of EDPRS 3, whose elaboration will be completed and final document submitted to the government in November 2017.