EAST AFRICA Singing from the same spreadsheet
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Despite growing fears about rising debt levels, the region’s finance ministers have unveiled a series of expansionary budgets.
The four major players in the East African Community completed the annual ritual of unveiling their national spending plans on 13 june. ‘Transforming lives through industrialization and job creation for shared prosperity’ was the theme for the budgets of Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
The headline growth forecasts paint an equally optimistic picture: East Africa is the fastest growing sub-region in Africa, with an estimated growth rate of 5.9% in 2018 up from 5.3% in 2017, largely on the back of strong performances by the agricultural sector in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. The African Development Bank reckons growth in the region will hit 6.1% in 2019 – compared to 4% across the continent – driven by manufacturing sector growth (AC Vol 60 No 3).
All four governments continued to follow a recent pattern of presenting expansionary budgets with ambitious revenue targets that, say most local economists, are almost certain be missed. The result is likely to be more borrowing and ever-rising concerns about debt distress. That has been the case for the previous five years, with Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania all going for a mix of infrastructure investment with protectionism to promote domestic industrialization (AC Vol 55 No 14 & Vol 57 No 13).
Nairobi’s budget is actually slightly smaller – down to $27.5bn from $30bn in the 2018/19 financial year, while Uganda has increased its spending by around 20%*. Rwanda also unveiled a hefty budget increase to $3.16bn in 2019/20Limited from $2.87bn.
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