I hear you Mr. President, but are we all on the same page?
I bring you greetings from Kigarama, in Ndorwa East, Kabala District. I thank you for fulfilling your Constitutional obligation under Article 101 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, to deliver the State of the Nation Address, 2021. I congratulate you heartily.
I appreciate the fact that you are always able to give us the history of our country and I commend you. Even now, in your address, you reminded us how we have been able to recover from being a small enclave modern economy of 1971, and how your leadership has expanded this economy from US$1.3billion in 1986 to now US$40billion, and I agree with you that we have a number of points that we need to concentrate on in order to transform Uganda into a Middle income country, on the road to becoming a First World country (this I believe is the dream majority of Ugandans have).
I also agree with you that the year “Twenny Twenny” was an interesting and challenging year that came with locusts, floods, the rising levels of the Lakes, land-slides, floating islands and the deadly COVID 19. I commend you because Uganda did not only manage to cope with these challenges, but also the economy managed a modest expansion of 3% for the financial year 2019- 2020 and will manage an expansion of 3.3% for the financial year 2020-2021, hopefully.
Your address caught much more of my attention when you made reference to the French Revolution of 1789, where the French society, at the time was a four-class society: feudalist, capitalist (bourgeois), working class (proletariat) and peasant. And you were prudent enough to make mention that at that time, the society in Uganda was a three-class society: feudalists, artisans and peasants. I appreciate your verbal commitment here to ensuring that the peasantry class is eliminated in Uganda but I am not sure I agree with you on the means by which we shall get there.
To achieve this dream, you rightly put it that the appeal is for everybody to join the money economy and get out of subsistence production. I entirely appreciate this but I think that this song we have sang it for so long but am not sure that Ugandans have picked interest in singing along or even taking to the stage to dance to the song.
The figures you shared about the global demand and supply for milk, coffee, maize, and the like, may make sense to a few elite MBAs around but will still sound like Arabic to the common humble citizen in Kigarama, where I come from. There is no doubt that you are big on global, continental, and regional Market advocacy, but I am afraid we may need to first get almost everyone on the same page by empowering the local person to exploit the local market. It is then, that we shall attack the Regional, Continental and global markets. As for now, I would like to interest you to find out how many Ugandans are actually exporting to those markets, as opposed to how much product is exported. If you found out the percentage of Ugandans exporting, you would then know that we still have a long way to go, to appreciate the big dream of eliminating the peasant class in Uganda.
From your address, you strongly urged Ugandans to join the 4 sectors: commercial agriculture, industries, services and ICT. And you rightly mentioned that the delivery/implementation mechanism is the parish model. I personally love the parish model but not sure that there is capacity and political will to implement it.
Also, you promised continue dealing with the issue of costs of manufacturing in Uganda. I.e. the cost of money-interest rates of the exploitative commercial Banks, the cost of transport, and the cost of electricity. You mentioned the other cost which would be the cost of labor but you think that is still low. Whereas you are right and we have these as key challenges to our manufacturing sector, I believe that we have for long ignored the would be great triggers to this particular sector. When you mentioned that you are continuing to fund the UDB ─ so that it can give loans for manufacturing, agriculture, some services, to curb the cost of money, I knew we were getting into usual charismatic rhetoric, and the corrupt Ugandans in those positions were getting yet another good killing from this financial year’s budget.
About the services sector, which is equally big but has been hit deadly by the COVID 19. You are solely relying on the mercy that COVID goes, and we keep on moving at the same pace. But I think that you have not appreciated the need for us to aggressively market our services sector to the rest of the world. Kenya can be a good example for us on this and we need to borrow a leaf.
Mr. President, you wondered how some private business in Europe and US can have a size bigger than the GDP of a whole country. But I can comfortably tell you that we ought to empower the private sector by creating a favorable environment through which business can thrive, and that way, through taxation and the likes, the size of the economy will grow bigger.
As I conclude Mr. President, my two cents on your speech are that amidst everything, ensure that Ugandans access affordable financing from UDB and ensure that accessing this money is not as hard as cutting a big tree with a knife, regulate the banking sector so that commercial banks stop over exploiting Ugandans, Extend the same tax holidays to Ugandans who wish to invest with reasonable capital just like the same is done to foreigners. We are currently encouraging foreign investments more than local investments and in the end, we have no strategy of curbing profit repatriation.
I seem not to see your deliberate plan for the young people of this country who comprise over 78% of the country’s population. You are aware that most of the programs that have been imitated by Government have been either mismanaged, or taken advantage of by corrupt public officials. Even when we have a fully-fledged ministry in charge of Youth Affairs, for the last 5 years we have had a Minister who was out of touch with the realities surrounding young people. Mr. President, as you set out to another set of five years, please note that you must have a deliberate plan to engage young people and drive them into action and production. Your proposed interventions and mechanisms will only benefit and engage a very small section of Ugandans leaving the rest of the majority in either abject poverty, or subsistence production. You must think about how best to get the over 78% of Ugandans involved in the development of this country at least at executive level.
I am not sure what you are planning to do to fight corruption this time, your proposal to hire children of the rich as opposed to children of the poor to curb Corruption sounded to me as though you were teasing the children of the poor or rather ridiculing them for being born to poor parents. An indeed a wide section of Ugandans have expressed their concern over this statement. Am not sure whether you don’t want to come out clearly and either retract that statement or event provide a better strategy for fighting corruption. Otherwise us, who struggle to make ends meet and religiously do so, feel mocked by your statements and we are hurting.
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Otherwise I bring you warm greetings from Kigarama again!
Alexander Kyokwijuka, Humble Citizen, Kigarama – Ndorwa East