Many Rwandans, among other World Bank ranked fast-developing countries in 2009 have been recently celebrating the progress they made. Remember in this year, Rwanda boosted its ranking 78 places from 138 to 60, becoming runner-up for best reformer globally.
In his article, “Honour and pride as Rwanda wins big” published in the previous issue of The Sunday Times, Mr. George Uwagiwabo put it well how Rwanda struggled to earn the place we are enjoying today in attracting entrepreneurs.
From the head of State himself to the strategic planners in the presidency, the ministries and public institutions such as RIEPA, RDB, RPSF, RRA, and individuals, all joined the synergies for one target.
We, all Banyarwanda are very proud of the achievement in various angles of development. However, in light of various recent reports of the UN, Common Wealth, Hunger Free International, and Global Policy reports, it is beyond the ranking that the Annual Doing Index attributed us.
It is now an encouragement to do much more, together to achieve more. We can surely make it.
Our intention is to call all Rwandans, partners and well-wishers not to fold our hands. We still have the big Goliaths of food security, housing, human rights, demographic issues, education, and many others.
Below, we look at some of the points we can urgently improve on otherwise all can fill a handbook.
The wealth and income disparity do not thoroughly depict the economic progress.
According to Micheal Parkin of the University of Western Ontario, wealth is a stock of assets, and income is the flow of earnings that results from the stock of wealth.
In an ordinary language, you earn income as a rate of return from what you own. However, the fact that some traders and business people have higher income and wealth does not necessarily mean all the people are doing well. Among others, the tycoons are the tiny number from people who erect the skyscrapers.
It is worth mentioning here, two heartbreaking trends: only 20% of the world’s richest households share among them 83% of world wealth while the rest of the population (80%) struggle to share 17%.
One journalist recently lamented how some fellow citizens go for one-week political retreats; take a foreign leave in the USA, and Europe.
Disappointingly, he added, their wives go to South African for delivery, Asian and European Hospitals while the operations required could be done in home countries or neighboring countries.
He added, “I do not find it worth paying taxes in nations where the citizens have no say on what the collected tax will do”. ……. I really do not side with him because paying taxes is a citizen obligation.
In fact, our argument is that the income is not a good instrument to measure the country’s progress.
There are other factors to be taken into consideration such as security – not only border security – but also food security, basic rights, shelter, potable water and sanitation, and give them the equal opportunities before the law.
Poverty and human rights: Twin Goliaths
Let us commonly understand poverty as a relative concept. It is not what clothes people put on. Poverty is a situation in which a household’s income is too low to be able to buy the quantities of basic needs.
Irene Khan, the Secretary General of Amnesty International argues that poverty is first and foremost not a problem of economics but of human rights. As the numbers of people living in poverty swell to upwards of 2 billion, she argues that poverty is the world’s worst human rights crisis.
Here, we need to revisit what we have achieved granting our citizens the basic human rights while alleviating poverty in Africa.
The Rwandan government has made a head start by integrating human rights protection in various documents and core strategies of her institutions.
These are apparent in the EDPRS (Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy), the targets of the RNP (Rwanda National Police) and in many other entities.
The above are very encouraging but I suggest we look at our living quarters at village level. Some people make noise, which interferes with their colleague’s privacy.
We people have also to do something to change the trends. Reducing on the number of our children is a good start.
The discussions we held last month concluded, “It does not matter how much income you earn, even the millionaires are not supposed to have any number of children they want.”
They are able to raise them but soon after they are no longer alive, yet it brings a burden to the society. In addition, most probably, the income left may be mismanaged in a short-run.
What next: sustainable perspectives
It really took about 40 years for Singapore to reach the development stage it enjoys today since 1960s.
We cannot expect much more than possible from the government to raise all the 9.6 million people from the ground at once.
The government is of course held responsible for the basic health and economic needs of its people, but we should not expect it to do all for us.
The demographic control is one of the ways leading to sustainable development. Having at least two-to-three children ratio per family regardless of the income may help a lot.
Putting forward the interests of the public, (especially the poorest) is the benchmark for collective economic progress.
Otherwise, we may fall because we may develop many beggars, unemployed and unhappy citizens who will always pile up in the streets causing a threat to the internal security.
Responding to the welfare of the citizens is one way to fairly distribute the GNP, and so achieve the dreamed inclusive development.