KIGALI - In a bid to meet its goals and targets, the government is set to increase spending over the next seven years by scaling up the national budget mainly through domestic funding and donor support.
Addressing the press a day after unveiling the government roadmap, Prime Minister Bernard Makuza said that the country’s budget has been increasing tremendously since 2003 as the government continues to pursue the economic transformation of the country.
“If you look back in 2003, the national budget was about Rwf234bn, but today, districts alone spend that much. This year’s budget is about Rwf986bn which shows that the budget has increased by four times,” Makuza said.
“With a number of productive sectors going up, particularly in the private sector, we are projecting an increase in revenues as well as increased domestic financing of the national budget. Donor funding is equally important. When donors recognise what we are doing, they develop the confidence and continue supporting us”.
The PM who was flanked by several ministers, including the ministers of finance, infrastructure, justice and education, said that despite the fact that government spending will be going up, Rwandans will not be burdened by taxes to meet the high spending.
Makuza added that the country will continue to borrow from the World Bank and other International Banks to finance projects, adding that international institutions have confidence in the country because it pays back the money and that it is trusted on accountability.
“We cannot tax our people by force. The government will still maintain a certain group of people with a certain level of incomes. In the past, people would be forced to pay taxes even when they would be carrying their food crops to the market, but that is no longer acceptable.
“However, paying taxes should be everyone’s commitment, from business owners to services providers and workers. No one should evade taxes because this is one way for us to liberate ourselves from aid, each one of us should contribute,” he said.
On Wednesday, Makuza unveiled a 7-year programme where major focus will be put on fast tracking socio-economic development to transform the country into a middle income nation by 2017.
Major emphasis will be put on energy and infrastructure development, access to credit, promoting agriculture development, consolidating national unity, good education and creating the capabilities to increase rapid production and development particularly in the private sector.
Makuza who touched on many issues, took time to attack the critics of the country, particularly those in self-imposed exile who claim that there is no development in the country, advising them to come and see the changes that have taken place in the last 7 years.
“The examples are there, places that were neglected and not accessible in the past, look at Bugesera, places like Bweyeye, Nkombo, Nyagatare and many others, development is visible but these people sit in Brussels or other cities and make a lot of noise.
“Today, I heard reports on the radio that people are dying of hunger. Today Rwanda is at a level where all families are food secure. The same districts they talk about like Nyamagabe are the food baskets of the country today. I think these people still think in the past,” Makuza said.
The Premier noted the government will put much effort in ensuring that all households have sustainable incomes and access to credit facilities for those who want to start small scale businesses.
He also noted that there have been issues of access to credit due to the financial crisis in the past but the government, through the Central Bank, is applying measures to resolve the issue, through microfinance’s and cooperatives.
On the issue of scrapping university bursaries, the Premier said that the issue had been misunderstood because the government scrapped Rwf25,000 for the student’s welfare, but it still pays all the other necessary requirements, from tuition to scholastic materials which amount to over Rwf1m per student annually.
In what seems as a relief to needy students, the Premier said that the ministries of Education and Local Government at some point will be asked to screen students to confirm whether they are indeed needy and they can be given welfare money.
Makuza defended the decision to scrap the money saying that most students diverted the money into unnecessary things and that the money should instead be diverted into the 9-Year Basic Education (9-YBE) programme which is the top priority.
The PM also noted the government is committed to continue developing the media industry in terms of investments and capacity building, noting however that it is important that the media also plays its role by being “positive and law-abiding”.
Makuza cleared the air surrounding the information ministry, noting that the ministry charged with the media is very much functional and that time will come when a minister will be appointed to head it.
“We have a caretaker minister, the ministry is still running normally, we have a Director General and staff, time will come when a Minister will be appointed to take it over,” Makuza said, adding that the government is committed to creating a vibrant media.