An interested look at the Rwandan government budget 2011/12

We hear all the time about the progress Rwanda has made since 1994. It would be shameful if its leaders haven’t made any since. This week I read an article written in Kinyarwanda on the website www.igihe.com which describes the deplorable situation of education in the country. The author, Mimi Rachel Mukandayisenga, reports that parents are complaining to be paying more fees today, when primary education is said officially to be free, than before when they were required to pay for their children to attend school.

The news about the situation in the education sector of Rwanda came out at the same time the government published its annual budget for the coming fiscal year 2011/12. I was interested in seeing how much money was being allocated to education and other sectors of public spending benefiting the majority of the population. Apparently somebody else was having similar thoughts about the new Rwandan budget. Jean Baptist Mberabahizi made in French and on his blog a quick analysis of the figures that the Rwandan Finance Minister, John Rwangombwa, presented to the Parliament and Senate.

Below I translated in English Mberabahizi’s text. Though I completely share his views on the matter, I would like to invite those who claim that Rwanda is developing exceedingly, to have another look at the figures. If sectors such as education, health, culture, industrialization, technology, infrastructures, agriculture, services, and many others which improve the quality of life of citizens, don’t seem to have an important fraction in the Rwandan budget, where is the development so talked about. Could it be another lie out of many we have been accustomed to?

Rwanda, a police state: numbers don’t lie
By Jean Baptist Mberabahizi

This Wednesday, June 8, 2011, John Rwangombwa, Finance Minister of RPF government presented the budget 2011/12 to the House of Representatives. He announced a budget of 1,116.4 billion FRW, a first, according to the New Times, the pro-RPF news agency. Yet a brief look at the breakdown of expenditures reveals the extent to which Rwanda is a police state that depends on foreign countries for its survival. As this exercise is done the same day in all member states of the East African Community, a brief look at the budgets of other countries in the community also casts an interesting light on the extent of significant disparities among member countries on governments’ budgets.

In fact, 30% of planned spending will go to areas of sovereignty and governance, namely “general public services (60%), maintaining security and order (26%) and the Defense (24%). It is clear that these figures are probably tampered with, because the total is 110% of the funding provided for this component, but they give a clear indication as to the priorities of the RPF regime.

According to the fiscal framework already presented to parliament in early May 2011, the projected revenues will come from tax revenue (48%) and donations in support of the budget (41%). It is therefore clear that despite the claims of Paul Kagame on the uselessness of official development assistance, the survival of his government depends on its foreign benefactors, mainly U.S. and UK. It is therefore understandable why these two countries have become almost second home for him, since he goes there nearly every month, sometimes more than three times. We understand the reasons for his frequent visits. It must continually plead his case and renew his allegiance to ensure the renewal of their support.

If one refers to the breakdown of expenditure of sovereignty and governance of the previous budget, the authoritarian nature of the regime becomes real. Indeed, the amount of resources allocated to the three branches of government is sufficient to show, if any were needed, the type of oppressive regime in place.

In the previous budget, 19.4 billion was allocated for the office of the president, 8.1 billion to the prime minister’s office, 7.32 billion to the Supreme Court, 6.09 billion to the Chamber of Representatives and only 2.05 billion to the Senate. These figures speak for themselves. The Chamber of Representatives and the Senate are insignificant in terms in terms of funding. With 80 senators and 26 deputies respectively, these two legislative chambers are so poor that we are not surprised to see how they are only sounding board of executive power, namely the presidency. The courts are not better off. They have fewer budgetary resources that the Premier Minister, Bernard Makuza, although his position is only a facade institution responsible for coordinating ministerial departments.

The budget allocated to the various intelligence services, which all depend on the presidency is far superior to that of the courts or the Chamber of Representatives. Indeed, the home intelligence service (1.92 billion), the Foreign Intelligence Service (1.84 billion), the immigration and emigration (3.7 billion) and coordination (2.37 billion) cumulate alone nearly 10 billion FRW, far more than the budgets of the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate combined. The Office of the Ombudsman is financially dependent on the budget of the presidency. We understand why the Ombudsman is unable to conduct any verification of the use of the billions allocated to his boss, President Paul Kagame.

This is not the whole picture. The Ministry of Defense had 45.01 billion, of which 30 billion was spent on salaries of civil servants, military ambassadors and soldiers’ wages. The Ministry of Interior had 23.94 billion of which 14.31 billion were for the police and 9.28 billion for prisons. The Office of the Prosecutor Martin Ngoga had been allocated 3.30 billion, far more than the budget of the senate. Tax money from the Rwandan population thus serves to pay for their own repressive system instead of paying for their representatives.

Similarly, the education of Rwandan elite is secondary. Since the National University of Rwanda, which has 8,000 students, received only 8 billion FRW for its operations during the same period, 1 million FRW / per student per year (slightly more than 1000 € / student). It is therefore not surprising that students are reduced to eating once a day and sleeping in the slums. Recently, a student killed himself after the announcement of the elimination of scholarships.

Finally, despite all the fuss that is made around information technology, the ministry in charge of this area received only a meager budget of 868 million RWF only during the fiscal year ends.

The budget introduced by the Kenyan Minister for Finance, Uhuru Kenyatta, amounted to 1.15 billion shillings, or 4 times the one shown by the new Ugandan Minister of Finance Maria Kiwanuka and seven times that of Rwanda, a budget funded 71% by tax revenues, the rest should probably be covered by borrowing. We knew that Kenya was the economic powerhouse of the region, but one wonders if the move to a single currency in 2012 is not wishful thinking, since the economies of the East African Community are still far away from each other.

In conclusion, a regime that treats its representatives and its judges this way, and which takes more care of its soldiers, its police and its prisons than its youth, though it depends on financial assistance from some donors, clearly shows its nature: a police state, fully supported by foreign powers.

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