Property Tax Policy in the City of Kigali (Rwanda): A Case Study of Policy Implementation

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Problem: The city of Kigali (CoK), the capital city of the Republic of Rwanda, is fast growing in demography and urbanization amid pronounced fiscal challenges. The city, its districts with the support of the central government, is exploring property taxation among other options to improve revenues to develop new infrastructure and modernize those existing. Studies around the world demonstrate that property tax is a hope for every local government. It is stable, reliable, and less subject to inflation as it applies to fixed assets. Nonetheless, studies show that in developing countries, property tax implementation has rarely worked well. Purpose: The purpose of this research was to investigate perceptions and experiences of practitioners and decision makers involved in property tax policy implementation in the city of Kigali from 2003 to 2018 by exploring how policy content (statute and other policy decisions), political acceptability, and institutional capacity impact property tax policy implementation. The ultimate objective was to discern the gap between what is practiced in the city of Kigali and general principles of policy implementation theory and practices as delineated in the literature to generate recommendations for reform. Methodology: Interviews were conducted with tax collectors, local government managers, business community leaders, and civil society organizations. In addition, the study used secondary data analysis. In the process, the investigator has learned that property tax policy implementation is complex, multidisciplinary, and multifaceted. The process implies arduous change management, handling social sensitivity, high economic cost, and the task is politically and managerially demanding. The process requires huge investments of money upfront before revenues start flowing, an issue that many developing countries find difficult to face. Findings and Conclusions: The city of Kigali made tangible progress and learned valuable lessons through trial and errors. Detailed prior planning, cultural dialogue, employing collaborative governance to rally needed expertise, and engaging involved policy and organizations in continual learning are among techniques to improve implementation. In addition, employing participative democracy to rally taxpayers’ support and early involvement of experts in information, communication, and technology can increase policy acceptability and make implementation easier. Recommendation: Above all, it was found that symmetry between policy and culture is a strong element, that fairness of both policy and process of administration are critical, and that the only way to succeed is through collaborative governance.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree Doctor of Public Administration
Public Administration, Public Policy, Urban Planning