11.02.2015

Interview: “Cameroon’s Human Development Index Is Still Very Low”

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Cameroon’s Human Development Index"Dr Ariel Ngnitedem (PhD), Economist Scholar, Public Finance Expert, talks on why State budgets often do not have any impact on the livelihoods of ordinary people.
How do we explain the fact that the State budget keeps increasing every year?
This is actually part of a bigger
issue, which is the contribution of the public sector to economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation. That is, the contribution of State policies to the betterment of the living conditions of the population and to the competitiveness of the economy. This sterms from the fact that it is through the design and implementation of development projects that the public sector can impact the livelihoods of the population and create an environment that is conducive for a greater competitiveness of the economy.
The cases of abandoned or poorly executed projects in the Public Investment Budget should be a thing of the past if the two reforms that have been implemented in the Public Service in the past few years. These are the public finance and the public contract reforms. Unfortunately, only few civil servants of the central services effectively master the mechanisms of the programme budget introduced by the public finance reform.
At the regional level, the appropriation of this highly-acclaimed public financial management tool is all but dismal. Very few are able to tell the difference between the former budgetary approach and this new one that has been in effect since the first day of January 2013. For the public contract reform, the problem is over centralisation that creates bottlenecks and causes delays in contract award and execution.
Do you have the impression that the constant increase of the State budget is having any positive impact on the livelihoods of Cameroonians?
No. I have the impression that the constant increase of the State budget is creating little or no positive impact on the livelihoods of Cameroonians. The Cameroon human development index is still very low. Many Cameroonians still lack basic necessities, including potable water, electricity, food, clothes, etc.
Many are still struggling to send their children to school and to pay for basic healthcare services. Unemployment and underemployment are still relatively high. The inflation is not yet curtailed and is likely to cross the 3 per cent rate required by the Sub-regional financial regulatory body, CEMAC, which makes the already low purchasing power dismal. All in all, the middle class is still relatively very small in size.
What safety measures can Cameroon take in the wake of current challenges such as the drop in oil prices, hosting two African Nations Cup competitions, overcoming insecurity and above all, creating wealth?
The safety measures that I would recommend include: curbing waste in the State budget, making sure that all development projects budgeted are mature and are selected with the participation of the beneficiaries. Also, there should be streamlining of the public contract design, allocation and execution process. Corruption and embezzlement of public funds should be effectively fought and good governance promoted in public entities.
The first thing to do is curtail the rampant waste in public finance management. This includes inappropriate fuel allowances and inadequate allocation of cars and trucks to civil servants and poor management of State property. The budgeting process for development projects is the backbone of the civil sector contribution to economic growth and thus to the amelioration of the living conditions of the population and the competitiveness of the economy.
The involvement of the beneficiaries and the maturity of the budgeted projects are critical to the effectiveness of this process. Making sure that the contacts are awarded to the most competent companies with adequate resources can go a long way to assuring their effective execution. All in all, promoting the principles of good governance is critical to an effective management of public entities in general and that of public finance in particular. These principles include accountability, transparency, participation and the rule of law.

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