In its budget 2016- 2017, the Rwandan government decided to implement protectionist measures on the textile industry by raising drastically taxes on clothing and footwear imported as second hand. The tax on clothing has increased 1150% i.e. from USD 0.2 to USD 2.5 per kg, while tax on shoes has increased by 900%, i.e. from USD 0.5 to 5 USD. Moreover, according to the Rwandan authorities, these measures constitute a step towards a total ban, within three years, the importation of these goods; yet they are considered essential, so far most accessible to middle class Rwandans.
The Platform P5 of political parties and organizations Amahoro PC, FDU - Inkingi, PDP - Imanzi, PS - Imberakuri and Rwanda National Congress (RNC) strongly condemns these measures because they are not only harmful to the welfare of poor Rwandans, but also have been taken at one of the worst economic situations in the country.
Indeed, contrary to what is said while introducing the Rwandan government budget 2016 - 2017 under the title "Fostering growth while increasing exports and boosting Rwandan made goods and services", the measures adopted to protect the textile and shoe industries will not succeed in increasing economic growth, or in promoting exports. On the contrary, it will result in reduced welfare of Rwandans mainly those living below the poverty line for several reasons:
- First, the drastic increase in the price of these products will significantly reduce their access to a very large part of the Rwandan population, and will weigh heavily on the household budget, already very small, which was allocated to other basic needs.
- Secondly, the fact that the textile industry needs to be protected by such high tax reflects its low competitiveness. The quasi – monopolist position that the government gives to this industry on the narrow Rwandan market will certainly not generate sufficient economies of scale enabling it to lower its costs and expand into foreign markets.
- Finally, there is no guarantee that the revenue lost by those who were selling clothing and second-hand shoes will be compensated with those of the possible new jobs in the textile and footwear industries..
The period during which the measures are taken is also problematic. As the media reportsconstantly there is a serious famine which has come to be called “Nzaramba i.e. long lasting”, now raging in Rwanda and particularly in the eastern part of the country, the bread basket of the country. More than 100 000 families are affected and many of them have begun to migrate to neighbouring countries, in particular Uganda. Moreover, the inflation rate has reached a record level of more than 6%, due mainly to rising prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages by more than 9%. Vegetables, which alone constitute 10% of the food items for an average household in Rwanda, have seen their prices increase by over 20% compared to June 2015.
However, the present economic policies of the Rwandan government that clearly hurt a large part of the Rwandan population doesn’t surprise us at all. They are in perfect harmony with many other measures of the Kagame regime that demonstrate his regime’s insensitivity to the problems of the poor in Rwanda. The imposition of the policy of monocropping in different parts of the country without preliminary consultation of the farmers and by destroying the crops of those who resist the orders demonstrates how far the Rwandan authorities don’t care about the plight of the poor. These policies are inherent in undemocratic system of government, because they are not democratically elected and therefore do not feel accountable to the citizens. In this context, the poorest in the country are at best ignored and at worst exploited and persecuted.
The persecution of the poor by the regime of Paul Kagame is perfectly illustrated by the illegal detention and the inhuman and degrading treatment that they are subjected to throughout the country. As mentioned by Human Rights Watch human in its press release of 21 July 2016, the homeless, hawkers, street children and others poor are collected and taken to “transit centres” where they are illegally detained in inhumane conditions in addition to being beaten. Following these abuses, some people die in custody or die shortly after release. All this in the sole objective of window dressing Kigali, to be seen as Africa's most orderly and cleanest capital and the Singapore of Africa, although its slums continue to hide open sewers.
The Platform P5 denounces in the strongest terms all Rwandan government policies and practices that negatively affect the welfare of the Rwandan population. It also reiterates its call to the Rwandan people to stand up and fight for their rights.
Finally, the Platform P5 invites the international community and all peace-loving people as well as those who champion human freedom to support the Rwandan people in their quest for a better future.
July 26, 2016
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