The current strategic mission of the current government of uganda, is to do all within its means to get Uganda into a middle income status by 2020.The president, to ensure nobody staggers on this mission and give excuses, clear and precise guidelines for his cabinet, which our ministers are expected to break down into tasks for their subordinate technocrats, we told our sleeves, and DELIVER, the quality and quantity of this middle income status golden egg!
But can we really deliver it? There is precedence and evidence, that if we all worked not only hard but also smart, and together as teams,yes,we can, without forgetting however, our high school economics disclaimer of “Ceteris paribus”,i.e all factors held constant!.What is the precedence and where is the evidence? There is a time in our recent history, When we Ugandans imported or smuggled, literally all consumer goods for domestic use from our neighboring Kenya laundry soap,bread,soda,pilsner beer,salt,posho all the groceries! Why? We couldn’t manufacture any here. And today? Because of the economic infrastructure that has been put in place, we are not only exporting posho, beans, sugar and other groceries to our neighbors in south Sudan and DRC, but we export hardware-cement, iron bars, processed coffee etc and beyond our immediate neighbors. For these reasons, our income per capita has moved from $100/200, and now, we are closing into $700! And what is the measure for this middle income status? The World Bank categorization is about $1200.
In other words, we are just 5500 short of the runway! Someone will ask, how many years has it taken us to move from $100-700 of today? Certainly and frankly, more than a decade or so. But hear this! This economy started from an inflation rate of over 200%, Movement of goods and services from Kampala to Arua took days, not hours like today, to send some money to anybody anywhere, you had to kill time off and go to the Bank or post office, If you missed the bus to the city, you would go back home and try again tomorrow! At the time inflation was over 200%, government revenue was only 5bn.Not only didn’t we have electricity for factories, but load shedding day and night was the norm. And when government revenue increased further then the social infrastructure like schools, hospitals, Health centers were a priority demand on the revenue and attention of government. Today, because we have about 15 trillion of government revenue, we can now talk of constructing a standard gauge railway, more power dams, and better district road units to make rural roads motor able and link rural producers to urban markets. Today, am here with you, and I don’t have to prove the difference!
That is the precedence of where we have come from, and the evidence of how far we have made it so far. So, the argument here is that Uganda is now in better position to move faster to our coveted, desired status, “Ceteris peribus”! What are these factors that we must watch out for and try to hold them constant, so that they don’t hold us back, and later help the cynics to say, “I knew”, I told you”! Two such serious factors are Resource absorption, and resource utilization especially at the local government level, where the majority of the poor people to be uplifted are found!. Government projects and programs are usually delayed because of poor contractor capacity, arduous, interminable procurement processes, and even late financial releases! Happily, Ministry of Finance is up working on the financial release bottleneck! Then, comes in poor or lack of supervision of these programs especially at the local government’s level! And when all these are put together, they breed opportunities for corruption. And of all these factors, I dare say that inspection and supervision are the most critical, and must not be done in a touristic manner, but regularly, and even impromptu!
There are of course external factors like the international economic environment! That is beyond our control, but if we all did due diligence, made our best effort input, each at his or her level, the aggregate outputs and outcomes would certainly be in the middle income range objective of government by 2020! There is a principle of management i believe in; which says that;”If you don’t inspect, don’t expect”!
By Col Shaban Bantariza