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Somaliland's 2008 budget : A remarkable achievement for an unrecognized nation
By Ahmed Kheyre
Recently, the Somaliland House of Representatives approved the 2008 annual budget. A remarkable achievement for an unrecognized nation, this budget will see an increase of 27% from the 2007 budget. It would appear that the Somaliland Ministry of Finance is steadily increasing revenue whilst at the same increase spending on social, health and economic sectors.
Admittedly there are areas of improvement, including but not limited to the banking sector. But, the main thing is that Somaliland is managing to steadily increase its revenue and which is leading to a rise in the national domestic production. True to its democratic credentials, the budget went before the House of Representatives for scrutiny and eventual approval, how many nations in Africa or for that matter in the world can boast of such an adherence to good governance.
However, there are critics of the recent budget and their criticism is based on certain perceived "oversights". The budget is a financial plan for spending for the next annual fiscal year, and a nation can only spend what it has, that is why Somaliland is virtually debt free. The Somaliland government's economic strategy is somewhat hampered by the fact that country doesn't yet enjoy international recognition and therefore cannot use the normal channels for aid and loans, but this appears to be a blessing in disguise, it has kept the nation debt free.
The Somaliland government has been criticised by some for spending a large proportion of its budget on security; perhaps these critics have failed to appreciate the nature of Somaliland's existence and its location. These critics need to be reminded that Somaliland has enjoyed seventeen years of continuous peace and stability in a volatile region of Africa, and without proper allocation of funds for security, there will not be stability let alone a budget.
Somaliland faces many obstacles and challenges, but it is important to remember that barely seventeen years ago Somaliland had to rise from the rubble of destructions. The development that Somaliland enjoys today is the direct result of national initiatives which has been community led and assisted by sympathetic international nations and aid agencies. Previous Somaliland governments have laid the foundations for the remarkable stability of the nation, the rapid improvement of the infrastructure, the burgeoning economic and educational sectors, and all within a budget of less than $100,000,000 dollars!
Without prudent management of its meagre funds and the constant self-sacrifice made by the people of Somaliland there wouldn’t peace and stability, nor schools, hospitals, teachers, law and order, parliament, roads and so on.
As Somaliland's economy grows and revenue increases there will be a substantial reduction in security spending relative to other spending.
Somalilanders as a whole are grateful that there is a budget which enables the government to protect the nation’s sovereignty, and if the Somaliland military receives as some critics suggest a large portion of the nation’s budget, then perhaps these critics can explain to the people of Somaliland how the nation can protected from the mayhem in the region?
Somaliland has recently reached an agreement with the World Bank and donor nations on a five year programme of Reconstruction and Rehabilitation programme estimated at $550 million dollars which will help Somaliland to improve its infrastructure, economy and social facilities. However, for the time being, like many nations Somaliland is facing many problems such as an increase in oil prices, increase in food prices and inflation.
The government of Somaliland recently eased the taxes and restriction of food and fuel imports to allow the business sector to meet the demands of the public. The government has also taken steps to combat against hording and price fixing. It is worth mentioning that there were no food riots in Somaliland as compared to many other places across the region.
The government of Somaliland has also taken steps to explore its natural resources and has recently conducted an extensive seismic survey which has led to agreements for exploration with foreign based oil companies. There have also been new developments in water resources, including a new complex at Las Anod, and plans for additional complexes across the country.
In terms of agriculture and livestock sector which are predominantly in the private sector, it is the policy of the Somaliland government to assist, regulate and facilitate these sectors. Both the Somaliland ministries of agriculture and livestock have taken steps to develop these vital economics sectors by providing facilities and developmental assistance.
In terms of livestock and animal husbandry these new developments includes the recent inoculation programme across Somaliland and the new animal processing centre in Berbera.
Somaliland's ministry of agriculture has taken positive steps in assisting Somaliland's farmers with help of the international agencies in training, machinery and developmental tools.
The people and the government of Somaliland, along with the assistance of the international community are waging a successful campaign against HIV/Aids and other pandemics through local initiatives led by the youth of the country.
There has been a great improvement in Somaliland's health infrastructure through government initiatives in areas such as refurbishment of existing health facilities in Sanaag, Sool and other rural locations and through international aid and private enterprise, the creation of non-profit facilities such as Edna's Maternity Hospital and Manhal Speciality Hospital and clinics.
Somaliland has recently completed a child inoculation programme across the country, as well as, becoming a destination for patients from the Horn of Africa seeking medical attention in Hargeisa, Buroa and Borama.
The education sector of Somaliland has also seen a marked improvement. There are currently five accredited universities, a comprehensive primary, middle and secondary education which have lead to record enrolment. The re-opening of technical schools in Buroa, Borama and Berbera are on the horizon
Somaliland's communications facilities have also gradually improved. The recent upgrade of both Egal International Airport and the Port of Berbera will see an increase in revenue and traffic over the new few years. There have also been government, local and community driven initiatives to upgrade the road networks of Somaliland in places such as Berbera, Borama and Las Anod.
The economic sector in Somaliland is both dynamic and inventive. Aside for the normal business sectors such as production, wholesale and retail, there are remarkable new developments in telecommunications (for example Somaliland boast's the best and cheapest cellular network in Africa) and the proposed fibre optic cable installation will allow the industry to reach its potential and create employment across the country.
There also has been a marked improvement in Tourism and Culture. The development of the Las Geel caves and other ancient sites along with Somaliland potential as a destination for deep sea diving along the Red Sea coast will see a substantial change in the tourism sector.
Once again it is important to emphasis that Somaliland is a poor and under developed country with a miniscule annual budget and without international recognition as of yet, However, Somaliland critics must also exercise some responsibility and admit to the nations achievements.
Some of the developments mentioned in this article are merely the tip of the ice, everyday, across Somaliland jobs are being created from construction to fishing, from the service industry to transportation, children go to school, and people go about their daily lives in peace and security. For nation recovering from the destructions of a brutal civil war to free itself from a failed and unjust union, Somaliland has come a long way.
However, Somaliland has a long road ahead, but its future is bright due to the democratic path chosen by its citizens, and without security and stability its achievements wouldn't have been possible.