Agriculture sector has its budget for next financial year trimmed, according to the 2017/18 to 2019/20 Budget Framework Paper, presented to Parliament last month.
Budget Estimates show that the Government has allocated Rwf91.2 billion to the sector for the financial year that begins next month, down from Rwf118.3 billion in the closing financial year.
Understandably, legislators have asked the Government to rethink the decision, saying the sector’s significance to the economy should be considered.
However, the Government has said the decrease in Budget Allocation for agriculture was because some of the capital-intensive projects that were being funded last year have since been completed.
The budget cut for agriculture sector is indeed unusual but not alarming. Unusual because agriculture is the backbone of the economy, employing some 80 per cent of the labour force, the majority of them women.
The sector’s contribution to GDP cannot be overemphasised. When rains fell too short last year, the prolonged droughts affected food production so much that economic growth was hit as a result. This should have occasioned the need to increase funding to the sector to allow for contingency planning and other means to cope with any changes to weather patterns during the season.
The economy is projected to grow by 6.2 per cent in the 2017/18 financial year. The projection is largely premised on the fact that rains have been favourable, meaning agriculture sector will thrive.
The legislators’ pleas might not register at the Ministry of Finance and Economy Planning given the short time left to put away the Budget, but there should be other means at hand for the sector to cope.
Stakeholders in the agriculture sector should move fast to cope without the financial muscle from the central government. One such would be effective policies to avoid wastage such as when equipments are procured but remain redundant.
Stakeholders should also discuss ways to maximise the resources available. They should advocate for favourable policies such as tax waivers on inputs as well as support sectors such as infrastructure and markets.