Bujumbura’s market going up in flames hits economy hard

After a fire at the end of January that razed Bujumbura’s market to the ground, Burundi’s economy is suffering. Tax revenue has dropped considerably, the banking industry is declining, and countless traders are out of work.

Mail and Guardian reports: “The fire in the market was devastating, and now we have begun to see its effects on the economy,” said finance ministry spokesperson Desire Musharitse. “State revenue dropped by 20% in the three months that followed.”

Widow and mother-of-eight Marguerite used to sell rice, beans and palm oil in a stall in the market, living life “with dignity”.

Now she barely manages to feed her family, renting a room without water, electricity or toilets for 12 000 Burundian francs a month ($7) in a poor neighbourhood of Bujumbura.

“When the market was burned, I lost everything,” the 32-year old said. “It is as if my life had stopped. I found myself helpless, four of my children were in private school and had to stop studying, I had to beg for food.”

One former finance minister, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained the impact of the fire is being felt across the country as many regional traders bought their supplies at the market.

The loss was “a huge blow to an economy already in crisis,” said the former minister.

Even before the fire, Burundi’s economy was massively dependent on foreign aid and suffering from the repercussions of the global economic crisis.

Falling tax revenues following the fire have deepened the problem.

The crisis is not only hitting shops, transport and real estate, but also banks.

Two months after the fire, one of the leading financial houses, Interbank Burundi, said that deposits have slumped by nearly a half.

In the lakeshore port of Bujumbura, most warehouses are empty.

In desperation, the finance minister has called on the international community to fulfill its promises of aid.

But civil society groups argue that Burundi – ranked among the most corrupt nations in the world – also suffers from a problem of leadership.”

For the full story visit Mail and Guardian.

Image via flickr user Dave Proffer 


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