By Andrew Nsoseka
Cameroon’s Minister Delegate in charge of Planning, at the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Paul Tasong, Friday, March 15, launched phase II of vision 2035, which will herald the country’s economic Emergence Plan.
Minister Tasong said the performance indicators of the first phase of the emergence goals are not impressive.
Phase II of the project which will run from 2020 to 2027will focus on consolidating growth, broadening wealth distribution, intensifying agricultural mechanisation and industrial processing, and improving governance.
The second phase of the programme, launched in Buea follows the first phase of the Emergence Plan, which was more concerned with the implementation of the Growth and Employment Strategy Paper, GESP.
The first phase of vision 2035 preoccupations was to accelerate growth, create formal jobs, fight poverty and improve governance.
Minister Tasong blamed the war against Boko Haram in the Northern Regions of the country, the Anglophone Crisis, decline in commodity prices in the world market as contributing factors that have negatively affected the implementation of the first phase of the economic emergence programme.
“In as much as a lot has been done, the key performance indicators are lagging behind. The objective was to create wealth, create decent jobs, reduce poverty and inequality…so far we have some gaps when it comes to each of these indicators. But that said, planning is organising and dreaming. When you unfold the dream, a couple of head-wings may show up and render the path of your dream difficult to tread,” he said.
According to the Minister, a lot has happened in the past 10 years, which has held the nation back on its path towards emergence.
“I will cite two things which I believe you have heard over and over again. We have an economy which is particularly financed by export commodities and the prices of these commodities have faced some very strong exogenous shocks to the extent of economic growth, we are kind of falling short of our initial expectations.”
“On the second hand, I believe we are all aware of the impact of the shortage of peace or delicate security situation in the country on public finances. You know most of the projects are geared towards public financing and when public finances find themselves faced with difficulties in terms of tax revenue and on the other side, faced with unforeseen expenditure; we can only get into some difficulties.”
“We have, throughout the greater majority of these 10 years, had to deal with the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northern Regions of the country, as well as incursions in the Eastern border with the Central African Republic, and of recent, we have had to look for ways to contain the difficult security situation in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of the country. All of these have their impacts, not only on the economy, but particularly on public finance and consequently, it becomes difficult for the Government to attain the objectives it initially designed,” Minister Tasong explained.
The Minister explained certain basic practices which he said, have rather made things worse for the economy and Cameroonians to suffer more.
He said people are clamouring for import duties to be lifted from commodities like rice. “When the calls were respected, local rice producers and the economy were the losers, because the Government in effect subsidised production of rice from Thailand farmers, making their rice cheaper than the locally produced rice in Ndop and other areas.”
Minister Tasong explained that every year, the country spends an average of 400 billion on importation of rice and the home industries producing better quality rice and employing Cameroonians, can’t compete well since its cost of production is much more, warranting its prices to be more than that of cheap rice from Thailand subsidised by import free policies adopted by Cameroon.
“No matter what we do, if you and I are not feeling and living improved lives, we are wasting our time.”
The Minister said, elaborating that development goals will also need to be tailored in such a way that the educational system in place reflects what the country vie to achieve.
He said curricular that train students to suit the needs of the state is needed. “Pupils and students need to be well trained with the right knowledge, so that they know and have the right knowledge needed for development, so that they can get decent jobs, and decent wages to lead better and improved lives.”
Recalling what happened in Cameroon prior to the launch of the vision 2035, Tasong told participants that from 1985-2000, there was no development plan in Cameroon.
He noted that after gaining independence, the country used development plans which were debated and voted into law by parliament. “Nowadays, that plan is no longer used anymore. We are trying to be flexible by not submitting to Parliament. This way, we can evaluate and adjust…there is also the use of sector development strategy, so that development is done from bottom to top.”
On the issue of peace, Minister Tasong said “we consider peace as a commodity, an asset…we are not blind to the absence of peace in our Regions. We are not deaf,” he said, urging participants to make their contributions for a return to peace, so that meaningful development can be pursued and achieved.