The Director of Cabinet in the Office of the President, together with the head of Policy and Strategy Unit from the same office appeared on Contact FM last Sunday afternoon. The topic of discussion at the weekly live talk show dubbed Cross Fire was what transpired at the Government Retreat which took place between Monday and Thursday last week.
Retreats, the chief of the President’s Office staff explained, are not supposed to be open to the media for coverage. To him that would betray the whole spirit under which they are ideally supposed to be held.
From his frank explanation, the candid atmosphere created in part by the leadership’s knowledge that the meetings are totally private, would be negatively affected by the presence of journalists.
Still the two senior government officials were able to have enough measured information to share with the public, out of their own discretion and through the probing questions from the talk show host and panellists.
One of the questions put to the President’s men was that when shall government move away from the planning stage to immerse itself into full time implementation? The answer was that planning and re-planning (reforming) is a continuous process; that review does not necessarily mean a particular policy did not work in its initial frame; that in most cases it means discussing issues at a higher level after basic success, a sign that progress has been registered.
However, they contended that there are instances at these retreats when serious questioning happens as to why something did not work out; why someone did not deliver.
The chief’s major remark was that at this point in time, Rwandans needed to realise how hard they have been working, how far they have come, and work even harder to consolidate their gains. He urged them to capitalise on the potential and good image, acknowledged locally and internationally, gradually built over the last fourteen years, to engage a higher gear in the economic development drive.
But if we really as Rwandans need to be fired up and able to heed the call from the President’s lieutenants, we should simply consider the following:
Rwanda’s economy, at the average annual growth of 6%, is among the most stable and rapidly growing in the region. Growth of the information technology and coffee industries has never been more promising. Immunization rates against killer diseases are at their best ever. Malaria and HIV prevalence (the latter at 3% down 9% only six years ago) have nose-dived. And illiteracy is literally on a steep decline.
When you crown this by remembering that the main reason Rwanda is still celebrating President Bush’s visit is the deal he signed to promote the United States of American-Rwandan investment, you shall believe that poverty is truly being dealt a blow. Then you will be able to share the President’s view that it is only a matter of how fast we want to develop and not whether we can make it.