Apathy by member countries to blame for EAC financial woes

Thursday November 29 2018

Members of EALA stand for the East African Community anthem.

Members of EALA stand for the East African Community anthem at the opening of the session in Kampala on January 23, 2018. PHOTO | EALA 

By THE CITIZEN
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Analysts say the financial crisis the East African Community (EAC) is facing is partly due to lack of commitment on the part of some partner states.

They say the liquidity challenges have worsened in recent years because of failure of some countries to remit their contributions in time.

“We are good at signing treaties and protocols, but poor at putting our words into deeds,” an activist, Mr Salim Said Salim, said by telephone from Zanzibar.

The East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), a key EAC organ, announced on Monday that it had cancelled its sitting in Zanzibar due to the shortage of funds.

Eala clerk Kennedy Madette said the postponement was due to delayed budget funds from partner states.

But Mr Salim said had all the partner states been committed the financial constraints would have been avoided.

He also suggested that due to a shortage of resources, Eala should consider reducing the number of its sittings and their duration.

Between $300,000 and $400,000 is required for one sitting lasting two to three weeks. The money is for allowances and other costs.

Six annual sittings

Under the existing setup, Eala holds a total of six sittings annually to debate bills tabled and reports by various committees. At least two sittings are held in Arusha.

Reuben Shija said cost reduction should include Eala holding all its sittings in Arusha, its current seat and that of the EAC.

However, Eala Tanzania Chapter chairman Abdullah Makame said the cancellation of the meeting was a setback to the integration process.

He said members were supposed to endorse the EAC monetary union and other supplementary budgets.

“There were requests from some EAC ministers for funds to implement various projects, which were supposed to be discussed,” he said.

Dr Makame added that Eala members hope the heads of state summit scheduled for Friday will discuss the matter.

Sittings

Ever since its operationalisation in 2001, the regional parliament has been holding its sittings in the capitals of EAC partner states on a rotational basis as well as in Arusha.

A business consultant, Mr Simon Mapolu, said the cash crisis Eala and by extension the EAC were facing was frustrating those committed to regional integration.

“The EAC has been expanding rapidly. Our policy makers should have ensured that such expansion took into consideration the bloc’s financial capacity,” he told The Citizen.

He wondered why no action was taken against partner states that delayed remitting funds to the EAC, noting that some states owed arrears for years.

EAC partner states are Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan.

South Sudan, the newest member, had not remitted anything for the 2018/19 fiscal year by Monday, while none of the other five members had settled their contributions by 100 per cent.

Each country is supposed to remit $8.3 million to EAC coffers this fiscal year.

A prominent hotelier, Mr Walter Maeda, said chronic financial difficulties had slowed down the integration process. “This is very bad,” he said upon learning of the postponement of the Zanzibar sitting, noting that dwindling donations from donors was equally worrying.

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