Resource sharing needs honesty from all sides – UM

President Farmaajo Chairing the National Security Council conference in Mogadishu. Feb 6. 2018. Photo: Villa Somalia

Mogadishu (UM) – Both the last Government and the current one led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo have had to deal with an assertive, confident and demanding Federal Member States confusingly led by other President’s who have control and influence over most of the Somali regions which are now divided into Federal member states along clan lines. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the Federal Government only controls the capital as Somaliland is also seeking independence from Somalia.

The most recent meeting of the National Security Council in Mogadishu which was chaired by the President and attended by the leaders of the Federal Member States agreed that there should be greater security cooperation and that by the end of March 2018 a comprehensive resource sharing agreement should be finalised in Baidoa. The Ministers of Fisheries of the Federal Member States agreed with the Federal Ministry of Fisheries to a Tuna licensing regime which will be beneficial for all sides. However, while this is a welcome move, the politics of undefined Federalism may make the implementation of wider resource sharing more difficult now. This is because like Tuna, the national resources of Somalia are not seasonal and would require long term thinking, strategies and a fair agreement built on resource sharing models which also allow for fiscal transfers to Federal Member States with less resources like Galmudug and Hiirshabelle. This will also clearly need political maturity and a sense of common interest and progress which has been eroded by divisive clan politics and general mistrust of the Federal Government.

Federalism is certainly a system which creates the perception that clan administrations will be the norm where as in the past the unitary system promoted a united Government with a strong central management structure. The problems of the unitary system is that because of its abuse of pubic office, it led to the formation of clan based regional federalism.

While the constitutional amendment process is ongoing, the key question of the day that will determine much of the relationship between the Federal member states and the federal Government is resource sharing. This is an area where there already are tensions which range from federal member states signing deals with foreign investors in the absence of the Federal Government to taxation and fiscal transfers and expenditure reporting.

Resource sharing must be agreed quickly for there to be a functioning Federal Somalia. Somalia is endowed with so much natural resources, yet its people are the poorest and most desperate in the world. This is not acceptable by any standards and especially to the Somali people who are tired of the pointless politicking.

The Somalia Federal Government and its Federal member states finally seem to be serious about resource sharing but there is still a question of honesty in the intentions of both sides. To overcome this, both sides must work together to map out the national resources, make transparent income and expenditure across the board and harmonise taxes to raise national domestic revenue. Crucially, to institutionalise equitable fiscal transfers and public services investment nationally, a formula for resource and burden sharing must be developed and agreed. It is not enough to just release a communique.

A good template for resource sharing is the National Security Architecture which demonstrates that the Federal Government and its member states can agree on a formula for burden sharing. However, while security is a common threat mostly financed from the centre, harmonised taxes, resource mapping and fiscal transfers are areas in which the federal member states have not been forthcoming. Hence, the growing but misguided argument regarding why Banadir Regional Administration is the only one been federally taxed and transferring funds to the federal member states.

For too long resource sharing has received lip-service from all sides in Somalia and there has not been an honest discussion of what it means and would look like. Everybody is committed but there is never any meaningful action. For the first time, and at this opportune moment, the Somali Government and its federal member states must act in the public interest rather than bowing to clan pressure. Somalia’s wealth belongs to every Somali. All stakeholders must remember this as they prepare for the end of March meeting in Baidoa.