13 January 2014

Cameroon: Rationalise Use of Royalties

Financial subscription to the Standing Volume of forest extraction for 2014 is substantial as indicated by the Inter-ministerial Commission in charge of issuing forest production licences.

Royalties from the Standing Volume alone is expected to hit FCFA 5.3 billion stepping up total revenue from the forestry sector to FCFA 20 billion compared to average FCFA 14 billion in the past years.

This performance gives credence to the sudden increase in the number of subscribers per forest concession which according to the press statement by the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife has jumped from 2,000 to 80,000 in some cases. Considering that forestry is known to be one of the most hit sectors by corruption wherein several companies trapped in the act have had to pay colossal sums to the State, it is but normal that the new dispensation raises an iota of hope both for government and the local population.

Now that the news has been broken to the ears of the population, what proceeds will be reserved for the local people. This is the question on many minds. The past years have witnessed growing concern about how royalties from loggers are managed. Local councils through whom the money is channelled have not been having it easy from the population they govern; reason, outright mismanagement.

Minds are still fresh on the arrests and imprisonments of some mayors for misusing funds from forest extraction. In effect, the population is simply demanding the basic needs as privileges. These include, roads, electricity, and telecommunication infrastructure, and social amenities such as water supply, schools, hospitals and village halls.

From the look of things, everything is well defined stating inter lia the share of the cake that has to go to the local population. The share of the cake is what the people of the forest are anxiously waiting for now that it is clear more money will be coming in. The ball is now in the court of the councils. That said, it is important to note that the forestry sector contributes about 4.9 per cent to the country's GDP and covers a surface area of 22.5 million hectares representing 46 per cent of the national territory.

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