Local authorities should fully own the socio-economic development of their respective districts instead of solely relying on central government funding through the national budget.
The call was made on Tuesday by an official from the Ministry of Local Government, following pleas by mayors of Western Province districts calling for higher budgetary allocations.
The concerns were raised during a meeting held at the Parliamentary Building that aimed at examining the budget framework for the next fiscal year which starts in July.
The meeting brought together members of the parliamentary committee on national budget and patrimony and mayors from the districts of Karongi, Ngororero, Nyabihu, Nyamasheke, Rubavu, Rutsiro, Rusizi, all in the Western Province.
District officials and provincial governor informed lawmakers that the districts of Rutsiro, Karongi, and Ngororero have lagged behind in development due to insufficient budgetary allocations.
Caritas Mukandasira, the Governor of Western Province, singled out Rutsiro district, which she said has remained poor despite being endowed with natural resources.
Gaspard Byukusenge, the mayor of Rutsiro, blamed the slow development of his district on insufficient budget allocation.
Byukusenge said during the 2013-14 budget, the district was allocated Rwf300 million, yet there is plenty that needs to be done, especially in regard to infrastructural development.
“We do not have a single tarmac road in the district, and several health centres are in a poor state. That’s why we are advocating for a higher budget in the next financial year to enable us engage in various infrastructural development projects,” Byukusenge said.
He said only six per cent of the population in the district has access to electricity, but was optimistic that it would increase to 14 per cent by the end of 2014/2015 fiscal year.
“About 72 per cent of the district population have access to clean water and we hope the entire district shall have access to clean water by the end of the next financial year,” Byukusenge said.
Rutsiro, which borders Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), boasts several economic activities, including mining, fishing as well as farming.
The district is endowed with wolfram (Shembe Mine), coltan, and gold, among other minerals. Coffee farming is another promising economic activity, according to the mayor.
“We should find ways of exploiting these opportunities. The province borders Burundi and DRC, and the soils are fertile enough to sustain its development. If all these opportunities are well funded, the Province can easily become the biggest contributor to the national revenue,” Mukandasira said.
Constance Mukayuhi Rwaka, the chairperson of the Standing Committee on National Budget and Patrimony, however, urged local government officials to make good use of resources at their disposal instead of relying on the national budget.
“As we call on government to increase your budget to fast-track infrastructural development, I advise you to consider other opportunities like cross-border trade for sustainable development,” she said.
Egide Rugamba, Director General in charge of planning, monitoring and evaluations at the Ministry of Local Government, said the Western Province is a potential economic powerhouse, according to recent studies.
He urged local government officials to champion their districts’ development.
“The state budget cannot fully cover the demands of every district. Districts should initiate projects and create a favourable environment for the private sector to thrive,” Rugamba said.
He said the ministry will undertake a local processing plant which will help improve the mining sector and enable Rutsiro district realise its development potential through mining.
According to the budget framework, that was presented to Parliament last month, the 2014/15 budget is projected at Rwf1.7 trillion.