A writer/publisher of great repute was asked by an aspiring young writer to peruse his manuscript with a view of giving it the nod necessary for its publication. When he received the package he sent it back to the enthusiastic young man with a note, “Is this the best you can come up with?” The young man, undeterred by the blow, proceeded to re-read his manuscript dotting the “ts” and cross the “i”s, or rather the other way round (wanted to see of you were following. And then resent the manuscript to the great author. He received his comments that very after noon and the words were, “is this the best you can do?
Given how in awe he held the great author he went through the process with even greater rigor than before. Huge chunks of the works were expunged, reworked until the young man, like the great Father in the Bible, looked at his handiwork and was pleased. He sent it to the great man confident that the work would find acceptance. It came back with the same comments already mentioned.
The young man could not take it any more. He wrote a well thought out letter, editing it several times to remove coarse and offensive language, explaining that he had truly labored and he could not find any more improvements to make. Including a few more civilities he sent the letter and the manuscript to the great man. He received this reply, “I will now read your manuscript!”
This anecdote was brought to my attention when I heard that the Minster of Finance was seeking for aid from academicians to write about the economic challenges of our country Uganda. Under our current governance structure the Minister of Finance is the chief under whose authority the National Planning Authority(NPA) falls. The NPA is jammed packed with economists and other such academicians whose competence like Ceasor’s wife is beyond suspicion. And it is true that this department has excelled in providing written direction for the country to achieve the country development goals. These are codified in the National Development Plan 1 and National Development Plan 2. Priority areas defined in the NPD2.
We also have apex bodies like the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) whose analysis of the economic situation in Uganda is beyond reproach. In a stakeholders meeting in February 2018 the EPRC stressed a need for Uganda to make new strategies to address, inter alia, spiraling unemployment, reduction of dependency on debt; which leads to increased interest rate, increase productivity and industrialization. There was an observation that decentralization did not bring services closer to the people but actually, “decentralized corruption!” Its beyond the scope of the topic today to evaluate the pros and cons of a centralized corruption structure versus a decentralized corruption structure.
The greatest mischief in decentralization is the creation of political chiefdoms which are unproductive and a toil on the tax payer. To this juggernaut we have to add wastefulness necessitated by the body politic. There is a lack of commitment by the body politic to toe the line of financial discipline which is the first step towards economic recovery. Preference being for quick fixes like the obnoxious Facebook/gossip tax and mobile money tax. These temporary fixes are mirages that will not solve the greater economic mire Uganda find itself in. The first step is discipline and the ability to read what we already have available to us in the apex white paper for economic strategy in Uganda NPD2. Whose theme, ” Strengthening Uganda’s competitiveness for sustainable wealth creation, employment and inclusive growth,’ resonates with the heartbeat of the country.
NPD2 identifies 5 priority areas: infrastructure, agriculture, minerals, oil and gas and Tourism. We need to dig deeper into each of these elements in order to ensure that we leverage their latent capacity to empower Ugandans. Take for instance the dams we are building what component of that is owned by Ugandan? Or is it a question of casual laborers and a few supervisors? Is there skills transfer to local contractors to build their capacities or have we left it all to economic mercenaries?
In agriculture what steps are being taken to drive to commercialization? How well are we positioning the agricultural sector to feed into the indigenous industrial sector? How are we stimulating production and value addition? Have we worked on the marketing? The past leaders had Boards that managed marketing; what substitutes do we have for these interventions for bulking produce?
In tourism what is the capacity of our service providers? How do we manage our image as a country? What innovations do we have to strengthen the capacity of the sectors?
All these questions are not mathematical; commitment and a little discipline and the “bazukulu” enjoying the fruits of their labor will cause little dis-rest in the country.