To the best of my memory, the first time an article written by me got published was in the Daily Monitor Ist April 1998; or close thereabouts. In the article my point of concern was well captured by the editor, “Where did Clinton money come from?” At that time Bill Clinton paid a visit to the republic of Uganda.
There was a beehive of activity as the authorities rushed to ensure that the city was spruced up; paint jobs were done on building where the American president would pass and potholes quickly filled up. All this done without explanation where the funds appeared for several activities that were not budgeted activities nor planned for. I did not receive an answer for the query although several Ugandans admitted that it was necessary to ask those questions if the pearl of Africa was to rise and shine again.
Since 1998 the NRM has made great improvements in collection of revenue. The Uganda Revenue Authority runs an efficient operation and we witness a continued rise in the national coffers. To their credit payment of tax is painless and efficient once you recognize the need to give Ceasor his due.
In the aftermath of a failed economy in 1986 Uganda collected revenue of about 5 Bn. This therefore meant we could not survive without a huge foreign debt and indeed we borrowed heavily. The NRM government adopted a policy of reduction of the foreign dependency as well as expanding the tax base and encouraging the private sector to stimulate growth of industry. The policy was for, “an integrated, inter-related, self sustaining economy with the agricultural sector feeding into the industrial sector; with raw materials and the industrial sector feeding into the agricultural sector ; with implements and machinery necessary for production!”
Whereas some of these ideals have not been achieved, we have made rapid progress in revenue collection attaining over 1,488.78 Billion in 2016/17. The president has been on record boasting how we have money and can put some of these money in infrastructure projects: especially roads. Indeed, unless you are a blind man you cannot fail to see the advances made in the road developments in the country. Using any location from Kampala to locations in Mbarara, Gulu, Arua, Acholibur, Kasese, Fort Portal, Kisoro etc where it not for the energetic police men we would be speeding through at unimaginable speeds.
But at the same time there is a lot of waste of resources. In order to maintain the political equation we have created a huge burden on the tax burden by creation of new districts and the immediate consequence of a new district is: a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) , an Assistant CAO, a Resident District Commissioner , an Assistant RDC and their attendant administrative structures, a Local Council 5 and his administration, a local Member of parliament and women’s member of parliament.
All these high profile cosmetics necessitate resources for office maintenance and administration costs. The costs of their maintenance eats into the national cake; this reduces the money available to pay doctors and teachers. A clear case of unaligned priorities. The priority of the regime is to create more jobs and rewards systems for its players and so in this regard their interests are achieved with a bloated political structure. The wanainchi on the other hand would prefer the doctors to be paid and the hospitals to be stocked with drugs. We are at cross roads, a Mexican standoff as it were.
In analyzing the growing revenues its is important to document the reduction of the government intervention in enterprises. Parastatals are run on different terms than previously.(many others were sold off). Payments to medical interns not there, boom for students removed, subsidies to students no more. For those unaware, Apollo Milton Obote’s government used to pay students allowances, on top of free university education a cash bonus called boom, all students were given exercise books by the government, plus pencils and pens!
The president has been categorically clear. We shall get Cuban Doctors. No more nonsense from the doctors! Let him go ahead, after all, he who is undressed cannot fear a big one. We are ready for Cubans in all dispensations!