PRESIDENT Paul Kagame has said that Rwanda registered remarkable progress in the year 2012 and the country's economy would have performed better had it not been for the Global economic downturn and the consequences of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The President made the remarks while delivering the annual State of the Nation Address at the parliamentary buildings, yesterday.
"As we end the year, our economy is predicted to grow by 7.7% mainly as a result of good yields in the service and industry sectors, which increased by 13.5% and 6% respectively in the first three quarters of the year. This is encouraging," Kagame said.
He added that the economy would have grown even faster had it not been for the consequences of the conflict in the DRC that has been falsely blamed on Rwanda.
"We are not the cause of or contributing factor to this conflict, even those who claim this know it. Those who accuse us are actually the cause of the conflict," The President observed.
"As you know there is a report based on falsehoods which some of our longtime partners have used as the basis to suspend development aid, in a manner that violates agreed principles of international development partnerships."
President Kagame, however, emphasised that the decision to suspend aid should not discourage the Rwandan people to move forward but instead inspire them to work hard and reduce dependence on aid.
"Suspension of development assistance may slow down the progress we are making but it should not stop us from doing our best to improve our wellbeing and to lift our citizens out of poverty as we have already done for one million Rwandans in the last five years."
"There is no doubt that if we continue to work with full commitment, and with the right mindset, to take our country forward and grow our economy, the aid suspension may prove to be a valuable lesson for Rwanda," he said.
The State of the Nation address was broadcast live on public television and radio. Among the audience at Parliament were senior government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of International Organisations and representatives of the private sector and civil society organisations.
Among the highlights of 2012, the President noted, was the oustanding increase of Rwandans who access finacial services following the expansion of banks, entry of new finiancial institions as well as introduction of cooperatives and SACCOs at the grassroots level.
Rwandans accessing financial services increased from 48% in 2008 to 72% this year. In total, banks and other financial institutions have given a total of 440 billion Rwandan francs worth of loans, which marks a major increase from 339 billion last year.
"If we maintain and further improve our savings culture and make use of financial services, there is no doubt our economy will grow even more," Kagame said.
Investment in Rwanda increased this year. In the first three quarters of 2012, investments reached a total of $570 million, compared to $483 million last year.
"It is encouraging to note that investments are being made in projects that have a direct and positive impact on our economy. These include investments in electricity distribution, international hotels, and Rwandair which connects Rwanda to the rest of the world," the President said.
He added: "The incentives we have put in place to motivate businesses have contributed in a major way to this growth in investment. This partly explains why Rwanda was ranked first in 'Doing Business' in the East African Community and third in Africa."
The mining and tourism sectors played a key role in the growth of the economy. This year, revenue from mineral resources totaled close to $128 million and is expected to rise.
The tourism industry also continued to advance and is now the biggest foreign currency earner.
By October this year, tourism generated $232 million compared to $204 million last year.
"It is critical that we strive to provide excellent service and customer care so that visitors to Rwanda leave as good ambassadors who will return and also encourage others to visit," the President said.
Rwanda's security and stability attracts visitors keen to see what is being done here and enjoy the country's various attractions.
The President urged the Rwandan people, especially the youth, to take advantage of available technology as this will add value to work and lead to increased revenues. He further called for collective effort in promotion of vocational and technical skills.
"We have a duty to encourage Rwandan youth to acquire vocational training because Rwanda's economy will continue to depend on practical knowledge. But in order to motivate young people, leaders here today as well as parents everywhere must understand the value of vocational training," Kagame said.
In the health sector, diseases like malaria that had afflicted Rwandans for a long time, as well as child and maternal mortality continue to reduce significantly.
Statistics show that deaths of children under the age of five has fallen from 152 of every 1000 in 2005 to 54. Maternal mortality has dropped from 750 of every 100,000 in 2005 to 134, while the number of deaths caused by malaria reduced greatly, from 54% in 2005 to 6%.
In the justice sector, laws continue to be reviewed based on international best practices.
"It is in recognition of this development that some international courts are sending back suspects living in their countries who may have committed crimes in Rwanda," the President observed.
"I would like to reiterate that Rwanda is on the right path; what we need to do now is stay focused on our vision, implement the plans we have made, and never get discouraged in the struggle to take our country and our people forward even in the face of adversity," President Kagame said.
Speaking to The New Times, Carrie Turk, the World Bank Country Manager said: "The Rwandan economy remains strong and the President listed a wide range of very impressive achievements Rwanda has gained over the past year. It is an impressive chain of record. Some of the numbers presented by the Head of State extremely stand out. The country can be a model for other countries in the region."
Jean Thierry Karemera a member of parliament who also seats on the Public Accounts Committee noted that there is optimist 2013 ill even be a better year.
"This is quite impressive but we are optimistic our economy will grow even further in 2013 due to various mechanisms our country has put in place to sustain it like in agriculture and other sectors," Karemera said.