Two weeks ago, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) budget committee rejected the Secretariat’s budget estimates, citing wrong prioritisation. The committee thought a lot of money was being set aside for spending on travel by officials, conferences and seminars.
Whereas it definitely is not lost onto the legislators that moving around the world for interaction and consultations, or meetings for information exchange are necessary, it nonetheless found the figures proposed quite ambitious, if not downright luxurious.
In the face of insurmountable infrastructural challenges the region is deeply immersed in, the Assembly’ position is made all the more sensible.
It calls for the bulk of whatever resources available being committed to improving this area.
The East African Community faces multiple challenges of building reliable infrastructure like railways, roads, inland waterways and airline services, communications networks as well as easing border crossing bottlenecks and administrative procedures.
For instance, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam are linked to the hinterland by single track railways built at the dawn of the past century.
These need a total overhaul, and also need to be extended to Rwanda and Burundi.
There is an EAC Railways master plan already in place, but it needs fast tracking for it to be ready for presentation at the next summit.
The EAC Road Network Project has not been moving well either and needs pushing.
But there seems to be positive developments in the air transport sub-sector, the harmonisation of safety and security regulations and the establishment of regional institutions to oversee the implementation of the provisions of the international convention on air transport.
Perhaps it is only befitting that against this backdrop EALA did the right thing sending the Secretariat’s finance staff back to the drawing board.
The scenario above makes the hiring of more support staff an imperative.
It also requires that technocrats spend more time in their offices and around the region, rather than in the air and in five-star hotels abroad on not-so-useful tours.