April 13, 2020

COVID-19: Banks Agree to Reschedule Loan Repayments for Members of Parliament

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Inside the plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies. The Senate is located on the other side of the vast parliamentary building

Commercial banks have agreed to suspend loan repayments for all Members of Parliament as part of support for government’s measures to deal with spread of the dealy COVID-19 virus.

For the month of April, it was announced two weeks ago that the President with his cabinet and all senior government officials, had forfeited their salary. The money, going into hundreds of millions, would be put into fund to feed vulnerable people unable to work across Rwanda.

The 80 Deputies and 26 Senators, all fall in this category of senior officials whose April salary was given up. All the lawmakers will contribute all their salary, except the money for the car loan.

Lawmakers get a Rwf 648,514 as lumpsum for monthly loan repayment for their cars. This money will not be taken by government, and will remain on their accounts.

However, to support the MPs, so they have money to also be able survive, the commercial banks have agreed to suspend loan repayments for the lawmakers. It means MPs with house mortgages and other personal loans, the banks will not effect deductions from their accounts.

This arrangement for the MPs was communicated to them April 9 by leader of each chamber of the House; the Speaker Donatile Mukabalisa for Chamber of Deputies, and Senate President Dr Augustin Iyamuremye, to the Senators.

However, according to the same communication obtained by The Chronicles, the lawmakers will have to personally go to their banks and present themselves there for the scheme to reach them.

Government ordered a total lockdown of the entire country on March 15 for two weeks, which was extended to April 19. Only people engaged in essential services like health, security and media, are allowed to move. Apart from pharmacies, shops selling food and food markets, everything else is closed.

The lockdown has left tens of thousands of people, who earned their living from daily wages, unable to get food. At the same time, government has been struggling to implement a program giving food to some communities in urban areas. But the program is embroiled in controversy with allegations the food went to those who have it, or too little was provided, and in several cases officials have been arrested after they kept the food instead of distributing it.

The Private Sector Federation, from its appeal to private companies, has handed to government, tons of food and sanitary materials. The appeal is still ongoing. There have also been private individual offers of help in communities.

Despite all these interventions though, the needs remain enormous, that the many desperate people now being taken advantage of. The Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB) said Sunday that it had arrested an individual who runs a YouTube channel on allegation he gave Rwf 20,000 ($21) to a group of people in a Kigali neighborhood so they could go on camera showering him praise for delivering food, which had not.

Amid such desperation, news that members of Parliament have secured relief for themselves, is going to cause anger. The entire COVID-19 response is being solely handled by the executive. Parliament was closed like everything else. Apart from messages on social media by individual MPs, Parliament as an institution has not done anything to show its relevance in the country with regard to Coronavirus.

Last week, The Chronicles reported on Friday that all MPs with their spouses were tested for the virus, putting them among about 9,000 Rwandans who have been tested, in a population of over 12m.

Meanwhile, as of Monday evening, 17 people have recovered in the past 24 hours, making it 42 total. Only a single infection case was identified today, bringing total to 127.

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