Since President Yoweri Museveni declared that Uganda must be transformed into a lower middle income status by 2020, there have been derisive talk that it’s a political gimmick meant to hoodwink. Some people, including otherwise respected leaders seem to think that transforming Uganda is the responsibility of Museveni as an individual and perhaps his ministers.
The transformation of Uganda especially our immediate communities is the responsibility of each of us individually and collectively, although the President, ministers and senior public officials are the team leaders in setting correct priorities, planning, and mobilizing and distributing public resources. However, to rapidly achieve the desired transformation the civil service and its attendant policy framework must be dismantled and restructured, and new goals and timeframe set. This should include the formal financial service sector.
There is greater need for well-coordinated and strategic partnership within government and private sector, civil society and local beneficiaries for robust implementation of public investment management processes. Equally, there is need to explore more innovative and efficient approaches especially using locally available resources to mentor enterprises, and solving some of the most pressing needs of the so-called poor.
All should know that if not implemented seriously, the rising discontent among the young, educated and uneducated, urban and rural folks living on the margins of a relatively small affluent society will implode in the immediate future, and no one will really be safe.
Perhaps what hasn’t been clearly articulated enough by leaders and understood well by the public is what a lower or indeed middle income status means and entails. According to the World Bank, UNDP, and Uganda’s National Development Plan II and in line with Vision 2040, a middle income status is achieving annual per-capita gross national income of USD 1,025 and USD12, 615. Uganda’s target is to attain a lower middle income status by 2020 with an annual per capita income of USD 1,033 meaning very working adult on average to earn at least USD 1,033 (UGX3.5million) annually and USD 86 (UGX 290,000) monthly.
This will ensure enough food for everybody, better primary healthcare, and fewer cases of malnutrition and infant mortalities from common diseases, children spending longer years in school system, and gaining ability to read and write. Family sizes should be manageable.
In addition, Uganda should have no people living in abject poverty, although there may be pockets of insecure non poor. Further, no wide disparities in income distribution across the country.
Currently sixty eight percent of Ugandans who live in rural and peri-urban squalid settings are not fully integrated into the formal commercial economy although a lot of potential lie idle in front of them. Leaders, who are sneering at the suggestion of achieving a middle income status, are mainly, in my view, people who have or want to abdicate responsibilities to their communities and country, because how else can one explain the widespread cynicism.
Part of the cynicism appear is responsible for the widespread corruption, negligence, and unexplainable incompetence by many public servants entrusted with the distribution of public resources through implementation of programs intended for social upliftment. There is a prevalent attitude in public servants including elected politicians that ‘common people’ are un-transformable, and therefore should be kept on handouts.
The discovery, and revelation this week by Gen. Julius Oketta of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) that up to 350 value-addition machinery like tractors, rice and coffee hullers, maize mills, animal feed mills and mixers, and milk coolers among others bought and taken to districts to aid production and productivity are lying idle, and improperly kept is an example of how negligent public officials are. This, comes heels of similar revelations that government health and education facilities have un-installed and poorly kept laboratory equipment, computers and books which simply waste away deserve strong sanctions on the managers of these entities.
Without much scientific research, taking most of rural Ugandan setting where land tenure system is good, if collectively guided subsistence producers can score earn better, regularly and sustainably. These projects can be as modest as local poultry, livestock and crop husbandry provided new methods are applied.
Firstly, there is need to help people select appropriate, manageable and sustainable enterprises according to their rural or urban settings however small, where they can earn some 150,000 monthly. Then, help introduce more than one income stream projects that if possible bring in weekly or daily incomes. Third, also help the setting up income streams for medium and long term duration every four to six months, and annually. And then forth, where land tenure is more secure set up, small plantations to bring income in four to eight years especially for old age security. These can all be done through mobilization and creative application of resources within the communities, presently idle or put to wasteful expenditures.
Where possible eliminate or reduce existing inefficiencies in production and productivity in key sectors. We must make efforts to reform and restructure agricultural practices especially sub-standard and unregulated inputs on the market including planting materials, fertilizers, and pesticides. This is critical for both crops and animals in post-harvest handling. To increase animal and crop productivity there should be mandatory and regular animal vaccination and treatment, and pest and disease control programs at community levels.
By Ofwono Opondo