I’ve read Jaffer A’ita Joel’s submission on the Shs250 million toll collection for 3 days. I think he is thinking too much into the Entebbe express project, especially that he is a very experienced project manager.
It’s hard to excuse his thinking. Surely he knows that a toll road is a development promoted on business principles and not on social service premises. The Entebbe express agreements were clear on the business arrangements of its loan servicing. But, also, metaphorically, no one opens up a restaurant business at inflated costs (compare with spending 12 million dollars on a kilometer of a road) to make loses because his clients will be nourished and go have extra energy. No restaurant owner will run after his clients to tax them for the time his food is making them productive. This is a typical argument he is advancing when he claims that users of the road will each be saving one hour at 6,000 UGx when they go through the road. Meanwhile the government will be required to service the loan and I won’t be donating my saved hours to government when I use the road. It will have to divert money that would be paying for the essential services of providing healthcare, education etc. Just like the restaurant owner must meet the 4 basics of operating a business which are, 1. Meeting customer’s needs, 2. Managing cash flow, 3. Achieving a good return on investment and, 4. Managing growth, all these four done in an environment that has competition, our government must deal with the following questions;
1. Within the 20 years Jaffer claims I’ll donate my one hour every time I use the express road, what will happen when a new and very smart project manager like him develops another project of a light rail that connects the airport to Kampala city? Won’t the road become a ghost road? Remember, Entebbe is not an industrial zone so it’s traffic will remain passenger and a train is much more effective at passenger mobility than a car. Or, are we going to see a government that will frustrate infrastructure development in the near future because they already have a burden of an infrastructure whose costs of development were mismanaged into a bad business decision.
I’m making this the first point because I can predict we are likely to mismanage the cost of developing our oil infrastructure (especially the pipeline) that all the oil might end up being used in servicing the loans of infrastructure development. If the Chinese thugs did it on the Entebbe express, what will stop them from “diding” it again on the oil pipeline.
2. On customers, does this project really meet the actual needs of a typical productive Ugandan or is it a road mostly enjoyed by parasites and tenderpreneurs? For example, how does this road serve our taxpayers in enabling them become productive on a daily operation? And, what value in terms of goods and services that are important for industrialization of our economy use this road? What commerce functions does it serve for the development of our economy? Also, at what cost will this road be maintained to keep the customer satisfied enough not to opt for other infrastructure options, present and future?
3. On cash flow, how much money do we need to finance the daily operations of toll fees collection and other operational costs? Are you sure 250 million shillings is not too little money for the needs of the current toll road managers? Do you have any clue about their salaries and allowances? Won’t ministry of finance and public service need to increase their budgets beyond what is collected in toll fees to pay salaries and other costs associated with the operations of the toll business?
4. On return on invested capital, at 12 million dollars a kilometer for 53km, of all infrastructure options we had to transport passengers, was this the best choice to deliver the highest return on investment?
5. On growth, what actual industries have developed because of the road? It has existed for enough time for us to measure its impact on business and industry development.
This communication is advanced not to discredit the good works our government is doing but to help us learn and improve on our delivery of services. Honest asking helps. I pray for the time when our youth will be honest in their praises. Especially that “praise makes bad people worse”.
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