With the ongoing crisis, it’s important for the leaders to plan for the Post Covid 19 situation. Uganda seems to be so far in charge of the spread unless anything unforeseen happens.
As the hopes of recovering seem to rise, it’s important to plan for the situation that will follow.
Whereas all sectors have been affected, there has been a bigger effect on tourism, trade, entertainment, transport, service sectors, gambling, sports etc.
Even if Uganda survived Covid 19, as long as other countries are still battling, it will inevitably have a negative impact on our economy because we live in an interconnected world where countries relate symbiotically. But more importantly is that as top economies get hit, the world’s economic trends might shift; cutting of aid, higher lending rates at International level, unemployment, collapse of certain businesses etc could be the Long term effects. This possible paradigm calls us to think outside the box.
The other day President Museveni made two erroneous remarks. One of them was suggesting that manufacturing industry was growing amidst the crisis where he cited an example of pharmaceuticals and sanitizers. I don’t know how many of the purpoted 5,000 factories are into the business of sanitisers and masks compared to the many that are either not working or whose goods are not being consumed!
Even then he forgot that the economy can’t be boosted simply by production without consumption. For example, pharmaceuticals or sanitizers are good in helping people maintain their health, but when people are healthy but seated in their homes unproductively, does it positivity impact on economic development?
We can only have economic development if we have increased the quantity and quality of goods and services that we are producing.
Again the production of sanitizers can not match or substitute the effect of the other production sectors that are not producing as a result of this Pandemic. So the President was simply giving false hope.
Secondly the President said that there is opportunity in agriculture amidst this crisis. Whereas it’s true, this opportunity has been there for decades but why do we remain poor despite this potential, is the question the President should have addressed.
He ought not to think that Agriculture can turn around an economy by mere words, indeed if all wishes were horses, beggers would ride! For Agriculture to turn around an economy, there have to be three key issues, Increase in quantity and quality of production, value addition on what is produced which also improves the quality and access to a good markets.
All these do not come by accident or as miracles, they are planned for. For example, how much has been done to improve production to the extent of compensanting the loss made in tourism? Can we talk of increased production when 80 per cent of our population is still in peasantry subsistance agriculture? What do we expect to export to Europe in exchange of what we have been earning tourism? Can we talk about foreign exchange when we still import fruits from Kenya and South Africa or rice from Pakistan?
If in the 21st century we still export raw maize to Rwanda or lorries of Matoke to South Sudan which rot along the way, can we talk of value addition? How much has been allocated in the suplimentary Budget to agriculture to address any of the above gaps atleast in the short run? Have we even assessed the impact of the locusts in the North if at all they existed?
As the President said, there is market but unfortunately we don’t have quality Agriculture products to sell into this market. Also the transport network in rural areas still remains a big challenge, it’s possible to pay 8000 from Jinja to Kampala a distance of about 80km but it will take sh20,000 to move 20 kilometers within Jinja district if the road Network is poor.
This explains why a farmer in Kamwenge sells a kilo of maize at sh500 and the next day buys a kilo of posho at sh2500= while a cattle keeper in Rwakitura sells a litter of milk at sh1000 and later buys a liter of yoghurt at sh4000 to sh6000 depending on the type. Other factors like cost of power, taxes, transport, interest rates etc also affect the whole process!
Therefore the President would have developed policies that practically help to transform the economy than usual wishful thinking.
On top of exposing the incompetence of his regime when i saw the President begging for vehicles yet he has recently been running a vehicle bonanza to his Political mobilisers and psychophants like Fool Figure, he would not get embarrassed to turn Corona Virus billboards into his campaign posters!
Muhimbise George can be reached on email: firstname.lastname@example.org, 0787-836-515. He is a social & Political commentator & a member of Alliance for National Transition
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