Aid cuts: Hold your horses people, the sky isn’t falling

Germany suspends Rwanda aid (DW, 28 July), UK blocks £16m aid to Rwanda (The Guardian, 27 July), Dutch cut aid to Rwanda over DRC support (Big News Network, 27 July), US cuts military aid to Rwanda over Congo concerns (Associated Press, 21 July), DRC Official Applauds US Aid Cut to Rwanda (VOA, 23 July), Rebel row sees Rwanda aid cut (Scotland Herald, 29, July), Aid to despot must stop (The Telegraph, 30 July).

These are the headlines when you type ‘Rwanda’ into Google. It’s all very exciting isn’t it? If you are to believe these headlines, what is going on in the Blogosphere and on Twitter, you can’t help but feel that everything is going to the dogs. To you I answer, “Chicken Little”.

The story of Chicken Little is a folktale about a chick that thought the “sky was falling”, after an acorn fell off a tree and hit it on the head. Panicked, Chicken Little rounded up the rest of the village fowl and embarked on a journey to tell the king. Sadly for all the barnyard animals, a fox appeared, tricked them and then had them for dinner. What is the moral of the story? It’s simple; ‘do not believe everything you are told’.

Because I couldn’t understand the whole picture, what with all the noise and hysteria, I did what every smart person would do, I went to the experts. In this case, I walked over to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and asked, “What is really going on, and what does it all mean”? Well, this is what I was told.

First of all, only one country cut ANY form of aid. The United States. The 200,000 dollars of military aid that has been cut would have gone to further professionalize our armed forces. While this is unfortunate, especially because this decision to cut aid was premised on a falsehood, it is not exactly a case of the ‘sky is falling’. The fact of the matter is that the United States government sends about $223 million to Rwanda through an initiative called ‘Programmes, Projects and Basket Funds’. While this money doesn’t go straight to our national coffers, it does reach the grassroots level, helping us win the war on poverty and disease.

What about our European friends, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany? They ‘suspended’ direct budgetary support to the tune of $16 million, 4 million and $26 million respectively. Now, losing $46 million dollars is unfortunate, but worthy of concern, but let’s scratch underneath the surface and look at the cold hard facts. The United Kingdom, while cutting budgetary support has not cut out sector support. In fact, more than $80 million has been allocated so far to various sectors such as health and agriculture. The same goes for the Netherlands.

 

Another interesting aspect of the whole aid suspension brouhaha is the fact that although it has been suspended, the fact of the matter is that the budget support monies where to be handed over to the Ministry of Finance between July and September this year. What this means is that there is plenty of time for these three nations to reverse their decisions. After all, what they are waiting for is, as a Dutch statement reads, to “receive (d) reassurances from Kigali”. Well, after the Governments strong rebuttal to the Group of Experts report, and the continued diplomatic offensive, I will stick my neck out and say, the inflows will continue, without hiccup, by September.

And let’s say that that doesn’t happen. Here are other statistics that I will let you mull over: 46% of our national budget (which totals about $2 billion) is supported by our development partners. That means that they give us approximately $964 million. So, out of close to a billion dollars, we might have to wait a little before we get forty-six million. Not exactly ‘panic station’ numbers.

Funny thing is, when this manufactured ‘crisis’ ends, a lot of people will end up with eggs on their faces. And trust me, it won’t be us. The Congolese government in Kinshasa will STILL be mired in conflict with its own people, and the Rwanda naysayers will STILL look like a bunch of disgruntled children.

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