The election in Somaliland is now over and I believe it is the time to offer a free advice even though I agree with Jama A Hussein who said recently “Everyone in Somaliland including a tomato seller in a flea market knows what is wrong in Somaliland” If I were you, Mr. President, I would have taken the following free pieces of advice:
- Create a high performing government. You don’t have to know everything but you need to use people who know at least something. Surround yourself with expert advisers in all of the six pillars of your manifesto. For each pillar, hire a well-educated adviser who works for you as a liaison between you and your ministries or agencies. If there are not enough experts from Somaliland, hire foreigners. Make fighting corruption, tribalism, nepotism, and favoritism your top priority and hold your ministries accountable for violating good governance.
- Make recognition your biggest priority: International recognition for Somaliland is long overdue Mr. President. I heard you blaming the world for not recognizing us. The world doesn’t grant blessings for free. We have to aggressively sell our case. Since we have failed to sell to the neighboring countries, we need to change the course and look for a new market within the faraway countries that have nothing to lose and worry no blame if they recognize us. I advise you to pinpoint one country at a time and invest heavily in lobbying, bribing if their politicians are poor and corrupt or the leader is falling off a cliff and needs money to clinch to power. The recent Yahya Jammeh might have agreed to recognize Somaliland had we thrown few millions of dollars for the good cause. Getting recognition from one country doesn’t guarantee a seat to the UN but it will break the ice for sure. Specifically, I advise you to target one country in Africa and Sweden from Europe. Why Sweden? If they can recognize Palestine and anger Israel they won’t care about Mogadishu and its allies. As for Sweden, we will have to invest big in lobbying their politicians. I advise you to dedicate 20% of the budget for recognition. At least in the year 2018. As for Somalia, secretly get involved in their governments and stop the hands-off policy of the past.
- Empower the Central Bank. Control inflation by all means necessary and allow traditional banks to operate in the country. The few so-called Islamic Banks in Somaliland charge 20% over two years of time. Here in the US, we call such a practice Rip-off and exploitation. For banks to give loans, the government has to come up a way to ensure loans provided that these loans are given to invest in exporting Somaliland products, agriculture, and manufacturing.
- Develop a progressive Taxation system: Somaliland cannot and will never develop without a fair tax system. Don’t go far, just look at your closest neighbor Ethiopia and study their tax rates. Ethiopia levies a corporate tax at the rate of 30%. Depending on salaries and wages, Ethiopia collects a payroll tax that varies from 0- 35. In contrast, Somaliland collects 0% of corporate taxes and less than 1% a month for payroll tax! You won’t develop a nation on 5% taxes levied on tariffs only. Reforming taxes and reaching the average of 15% tax rate of the African nations will at least enable you to triple the current budget.
- Impose taxes on remittances and create sales taxes. I have asked most of my friends and acquaintances if they are willing to add 2% of the government on top of the 6% charged by World Remit and other remittance companies. Believe or not, I have yet to encounter someone who answered, “NO” Besides the tax on the sender, you can add another 3% VAT tax from the receiver. 5% of all remittances will make a difference if utilized wisely. In 2016 the remittance to Somalia and Somaliland was $1.4 billion. If we assume 25% of that amount has been sent to Somaliland, 5% would have generated more than $12.5 Million in revenue. To make remittance taxes fair and acceptable to all, you must spread its benefits to all regions instead of wasting in administration and salaries for unproductive government employees. For example, if 20% of the remittance money has been received in Borama, Awdal has to use the generated income in development projects only. Try to turn the mobile money transfer crisis into opportunity. Force ZAD and E-Dahab to add higher VAT tax on all sales and other transactions. Higher VAT in mobile money will divert buyers back to the use of Somaliland Shilling.
- Raise taxes on Khat. To control Khat consumption and keep the tax income at the same time, raise the tax rate up to 100% and stop Khat dealers from sending US dollars to Ethiopia. Tell Khat-drug merchants “Either buy with Birr or no Khat to Somaliland” A high tax on Khat will lower Khat users and help reduce inflation without affecting the government income as the lost revenue from Lower Khat consumption will be offset by revenue from higher taxes.
- Create a Food Security Agency. In the campaign trail, you mentioned that if we farm only 16 KM in each one of the six regions in Somaliland, we will become a self-sufficient country in food production. I agree with you Mr. President. The question is what type of crop do you want to start with? Mr. Sillanyo’s ministry of agriculture has planted 9 kinds of rice in every region. Can you reap only one kilo of rice from all Sillanyo rice farms? I advise you to choose only two tropical crops like Tef and Gidir to replace our need for rice and flour.
- Nationalize some assets from the major private companies. Somaliland is the only capitalist state where the state owns nothing. Even in America, the federal government owns few companies. In the USA where I live, municipalities own utility companies such as water. In the third world, most of the power, gas and oil, transportation and telecommunication companies are owned by governments. Since all those sectors are now owned by private individuals, it is the time to buy out some of their assets. We, the people need to own at least 51% in telecommunication, transportation, utility, food import, and Livestock Export companies.
- Abolish the local City Council system. We all know that our municipality system is a joke. My advice to you is to get rid of them or decrease its size to only 5 members from the self-sufficient elites who will not get paid and willing to work for free. Also, since we love tribalism and there is always a fierce tribal opposition to mayors whenever the mayor is from a different tribe, turn the local government crisis into an opportunity. I advise you to divide the administration of each city by tribe lines. For example, rename the city of Hargeisa “Greater Hargeisa” and divide it up into 3 towns like Awal town, Arap town, Gabooye town and GarHajis town. Similarly, Burao City should be divided into Jeclo town and Yooniso town. For example, a property tax collected a house in Jeclo town will be spent only to collect garbage and pave streets in Jeclo town. If a town within the greater city like Jeclo town refuses to pay property taxes, let them drown in their garbage. Their City, Their Rule. This may seem strange, but I believe it will create a positive tribal competition in building roads and bridges that we desperately need.
- Fix the Education system. As you know Mr. President, we generate thousands of graduates whose level of education is below high school. I advise you to pick one college from each national university and increase its academic value. For example, you can hire PhD holders from places like India and Pakistan. In India, a highly paid professor in Engineering gets paid US 1500 a month. If we provide free housing on top of their salaries, we can recruit the best and the brightest. Only ten of them to teach in the same college like the College of Engineering in Hargeisa University will produce a great outcome in the Engineering fields that we desperately need such as Civil, architecture, and telecommunication. Our goal has to be producing tens of future Engineering professors to replace foreigners in few years.
- Reduce government employee. Instead of creating a large and unproductive government employees, cut the government employee in half and use the money to buy shares from the successful private companies after you pass a nationalization law. Force private companies to sell some shares to the government. Buying shares will help the government generate millions in profits and enable the government to know profits made by private companies and make them pay their fair share.
Finally, I advise you to be a president who worries about quality and not quantity as your predecessor. Be a “Targeted and Quality-Oriented’ president”
Khadar CaloolGeele, Austin TX