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|The Role of Somaliland Diaspora|
Abdillahi Hussein Daud, Minneapolis, MN, USA
I entertain no doubt about the commitment of overseas Somalilanders to an independent, prosperous and internationally recognized Somaliland. The reason for this is because not only they want their relatives and loved ones back home to have a good life but also Somaliland to be a place where people in Diaspora could come back one day at least for retirement. However, there is a disagreement within the Diaspora as to what could be the best contribution that can have maximum positive impact on the lives of the people and on the efforts aimed at gaining an international recognition for Somaliland. For instance, some of them want to limit their activities on social services while others want to take a political position when a national interest is at the stake. The introduction of multi-party system in the country compounded the already existing disagreements since some individuals aligned themselves with certain political parties. Joining or supporting one party or the other is not in itself a problem. However, blindly supporting one party and losing sight of the big picture is detrimental to our collective voice as coherent and effective Diaspora pressure group.
Where should we stand?
It is a human nature to prefer one party to another. Nevertheless, overseas Somalilanders should be capable of seeing the faults within the party they support while appreciating greatness within the rival parties. I hate to see someone whose views always reflect those of a certain political party. If members of the Diaspora group see each other as representatives of different political parties, they will not be able to work together as coherent group. In short, one can support one party or the other but we should not forget our collective responsibility as overseas Somalilanders. Each of us should positively contribute to our overall objective of helping develop our country politically, socially and economically.
What should we be doing?
Since most of us are living in Developed World, our primary responsibility should be to observe the way people conduct their business in our adopted countries. For example, what do you experience when you visit your local city hall? Don't you normally feel respected? Don't you see how efficient and fast you get served? Don't you feel that workers you encounter are true public servants, notwithstanding the computers and other technology they use? Don't you get that the phrase " how may I help you" has a real substance in those public offices? Compare that visit to your last visit to Hargeisa, Burao or Borama local government offices. Did workers in our local government offices behave as public servants? Did we really feel respected? Are we in a position to observe the difference and present a recommendation to our people? In my opinion, this should be our most important contribution. Let us tell our people the logic behind the peace and prosperity in countries we live. We should prepare a policy-oriented blueprints aimed at reforming in both public and private sectors of our country. Each of us should research and present a recommendation in oneís specialty in the form of articles and papers. Below is a brief discussion of an area that deserves our immediate attention.
The government imposes taxes on individuals and businesses that are more than enough to finance all public services. However, there is fundamental problem with both the way taxes are collected and the way funds are appropriated. Let us look at these two aspects of public finance separately:
A business executive in Hargeisa told me a story which should give you a picture of how thing are going in Somaliland. He told me that his company imported expensive commercial equipment costing approximately $450,000 from Dubai. According to his estimation, the tax on this item was roughly $50,000. Nonetheless, the customís in-charge officer in one of our airports demanded only $1,200, said the businessman. After a negotiation, the custom agent pocketed $800 for himself and the equipment cleared the airport.
In this single transaction at a single airports costed the government almost $50,000. How many other transactions like this are taking place everyday in every corner of Somaliland? Make your own estimation.
We need a complete overhaul of our taxation system. More tax rates do not guarantee more revenue. When taxes are high, people resort to tax evasion and corruption. Also, the parliament should pass anti-corruption laws in order to punish self-serving public officials.
I believe that the parliament and not the government should be given the responsibility to appropriate funds. The government can present its budget proposal to the parliament but the parliament and its appropriation committee should have the final say.
Today the government contends that it earmarks most of public funds for maintenance of peace and law and order. The government makes us believe that it has no funds for schools, hospitals, and road repairs. Yet wives of government officials are frequently and lavishly shopping at luxuries markets of Dubai. This is a criminal misconduct and abuse of public trust.
The legislative branch should have its own office of budgetary as well as its investigative arm - something like U.S. General Accounting Office. This office should have a mandate to investigate any department of the government at the request of parliamentarians.