International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Is Rapid Development in Rwanda a Good Thing?

On the Gacaca Courts clip we watched today, the police chief said that, due to the genocide, Rwanda missed out on some development and advancement that was experienced by other states. She said that, because of this, Rwanda has to speed things up. It has to move faster. I think this is an interesting concept when it comes to Rwanda. From my understanding, much of the development that has gone on has been underwritten by aid or conflict, and its execution has not been very equal.

In a paper published through the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, a claim was made that:

“Only 17% of medical personnel work in rural areas while the remaining 83% work in urban locations (HRRF et al, 2009). This figure is especially poignant when, according to the World Bank (2012), 81.1% percent of Rwanda’s total population resides in these underserved rural areas. Therefore, a little less than 19% of the population has access to 83% of health care personnel. According to Sahn and Stifel (2004), this “urban bias” leads to higher rates of infant mortality and malnutrition of adults and children and decreased access to contraception, lifesaving medications, and neonatal care.”

This alleged disparity in access to healthcare is biased, as the majority of the rural population is Hutu.

Additionally, the Rwandan military and government have been accused of profiting from the conflict in Eastern Congo. For example, many have heard of the mineral coltan, which has been one of Rwanda’s moneymakers. Critics of Rwandan government claim that Rwanda has been stealing coltan and selling it on the international market.

To me, these two forms of income do not seem sustainable. Should Rwanda be developing with a reliance on stolen goods and foreign aid? Will this be good for their reconstruction in the long run? With recent aid withdraws, Rwanda is already seeing a large portion of their money supply being removed from their expected “income.” What are the repercussions of developing in these relatively illegitimate ways?

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One response to “Is Rapid Development in Rwanda a Good Thing?

  1. saskiadej November 16, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I think this post brings up a lot of interesting points. There is a lot of debate about the effectiveness of foreign aid (such as the argument that it props up autocrats, creates reliance on aid, etc). Many political economists argue that aid is given for political and economic reasons. As a result, aid is more often given to autocrats, as they have something to trade (policy concessions) in exchange for aid. As mentioned above, Rwanda is a large recipient of aid, and has recently begun to see the withdrawal of support due to its alleged funding of the M23 in DRC; on Monday, Belgium was the most recent country to announce that it would be suspending aid (http://www.euronews.com/newswires/1723982-belgium-suspends-new-military-aid-to-rwanda-over-congo-rebels/). The UK is also currently debating whether or not to give more financial aid to Rwanda (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20309859), and the UK Development Secretary has stated that the Rwandan government must demonstrate that it is acting in accordance with the principles of the aid partnership, including “respect for human rights and a commitment to good governance and poverty reduction.”

    Last month, the Rwandan foreign minister warned donor countries against cutting aid (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/18/us-congo-democractic-rwanda-idUSBRE89H1FM20121018). The country’s finance minister also recently stated that the Rwanda’ economic growth will likely be affected if the recent aid cuts continue into the next year (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/02/us-rwanda-economy-idUSBRE8A10SL20121102). He also claimed, however, that the country is aiming to finance its budget entirely by local resources within five years. Meanwhile, President Kagame has recently criticized African countries’ reliance on food aid, citing Rwanda’s success in favoring local production (http://www.osundefender.org/?p=60896).

    Roughly 40 percent of Rwanda’s budget currently comes from aid. If the aid cuts do persist into the next year, and the Rwandan government continues to refuse to make concessions, how will it make up this difference in its budget? Despite the Rwandan government’s successes in moving to local production, it seems unlikely that the country will be able to fully end its reliance on foreign aid within such a short time frame. Furthermore, as mentioned above, the rise of inequality in Rwanda is also troubling. Whether or not aid is reinstated, it seems unlikely that fighting inequality will be a focus of the regime; any policy concessions will likely focus on aid to the M23, and economic concerns seem to be concentrated on enhancing economic growth. Could further rising inequality exacerbate tensions and create divisions in the post-genocide society, despite Kagame’s “Unity and Reconciliation” agenda?

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