Will the ‘Big Boys’ ever let Rwanda develop?

The biggest headline this year will not be ‘Leon Mugesera lands in Kigali’! ‘Victoire Ingabire set free’, ‘RPA innocent of Habyarimana killing’ or ‘Rwandan athlete wins gold in London Summer Olympics’! We already have the biggest, and most important, headline so far; it was in this newspaper yesterday. ‘Poverty down by 12%-survey’.

The survey in yesterday’s paper is mentioned is the third Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey; this document is a joint effort by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and the National Institute of Statistics Rwanda. According to it, poverty has dropped by 11.8 percent since 2006, a reduction rate six times faster than what the country achieved between 2000 and 2006. In real terms, it means that about a million Rwandans can no longer be termed as ‘poor’, according to the United Nations anyway.

The survey, which represents the international benchmarks for measuring poverty, will be launched by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN) at a ceremony to be attended by President Paul Kagame and development partners.

While the Mugesera return was a big victory for Rwanda’s standing in the eyes of the international community, the Trevidic report a slap in the face to revisionists everywhere and a Rwandan victory on the London track will be great news indeed, in the larger scheme of things they aren’t a big deal. To the villager in the Eastern Province, a gold medal won’t count for much if he is overwhelmed with hunger pangs.  But yesterdays headline changes all that.

People get hungry because they are poor. But when poverty gets pushed back so much, there is huge change in each and every person’s life. Not only will a villager’s life become less harsh, their improvement makes my life easier. Poverty is a weight that bogs us all down, so when this weight is lifted, even a little bit, one can’t help but sing “alleluia”.

I’m not really surprised about the improvement, I mean look around and see all the development, I must admit that I’m pleased to finally have some statistics at my fingertips.

Early yesterday, I saw a tweet on Twitter that boggled my mind. According to International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook 2011, Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is set to increase from $584.92 from 2011 to $621.36 this year, making it second only to Kenya in this region in terms of GDP. We are seriously on the move and nothing can hold us back. Or so one thinks.

It annoys me to no end that we aren’t really in control of our own destinies. We might fight poverty with all our might, but all it needs to bring the house down on our heads is international stupidity. A great case in point is the unnecessary saber rattling that Israel and the United States are engaged in presently in regards to Iran.

Yesterday, the United States increased sanctions on Iran after Barack Obama signed an executive order on Sunday  implementing parts of a new sanctions regime passed by the US Congress late last year, allowing US institutions to freeze all property and interests of the Iranian government. This decision comes in the wake of Iran’s threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial oil and natural gas shipping lane from the Gulf.  Throw in the fact that Israel has also suggested it may attack Iran’s nuclear sites soon, after insisting that the government in Tehran is close to being able to build a nuclear weapon, and we have a major problem.

I won’t go into the debate on whether Tehran will or will not build a bomb (I don’t think it will, but if it does I can understand why. Iranians don’t live in the nicest global neighborhood). What I want to highlight is just how vulnerable we are to other people’s whims and fancies. I can only pray that cool heads prevail because if they don’t, the global monetary crisis that ravaged our economy will seem like a minor hiccup.

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