Achieving a middle income status rests on how we manage our oil

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President Museveni in his first meeting with the new Cabinet issued a 18-point agenda (now expanded to 20) to be accomplished in the next five years.

It is a “wish list”, resembling previous ones we have seen in the last 30 yeas. Like the President’s previous grand directives, this may also come to pass. The directives, though good, are not followed by concrete implementation mechanisms.

We lack a true medium-term planning framework and everything seems to have been left to the President to initiate and even follow up. President Museveni should disengage from economic micro-management and delegate more to his ministers and hold them truly accountable.

I will mention just a few of the directives. The President has directed the creation of 22 industrial parks in five years, by any means, including “using manual labour of prisoners’’.

This is a tall order. Industrial parks are essentially export zones, where facilities are provided for investors to establish industries and produce goods for export (and import substitution). Have feasibility studies been done about the absorption capacity for these parks? Is the industrial park in Namanve fully occupied? Why not revive Jinja as an industrial town?

Another directive is “zero tolerance to corruption”. In my opinion, this is ‘the elephant in the room’. It has become a song for decades. The latest revelation that, of the Shs9 trillion given to the Uganda National Roads Authority in the last seven years, Shs4 trillion was stolen is beyond belief.

It is estimated that Uganda has in the last 20 years lost over $10 billion through corruption and there is nothing to show that things will change.

Museveni ordered 11 interventions in agriculture, including commercial farming, fertiliser use, food processing, mechanisation linkage with research institutions, etc, all laudable initiatives but with agriculture allocated only 4 per cent in the budget, this is a pipe dream.

Transforming 68 per cent of the population engaged in peasant agriculture into commercial farmers requires much more than that.

The experience of South Korea over 50 years ago in transforming rural livelihoods will inform us that it involved heavy expenditure on agriculture, including giving peasants free land.
As regards service delivery to improve health, education, feeder roads, the improvements promised would require nothing short of a mini ‘Marshall Plan’ given the deplorable situation now.

What is the good in renovating hospitals without equipping them with doctors, medicine and appropriate equipment? The same goes for UPE schools with a dropout rate of more than 80 per cent and USE schools whose success rate is not any better.

Oil companies should urgently get production licences so that oil flows by 2020. I believe this is an attainable objective and all those concerned must be made to sweat to get us there. Uganda’s graduation to a middle income country rests on this ‘black gold’, provided the corrupt do not get their dirty hands on it.

I am apprehensive though since many of the usual suspects are still in high places in government.
The President has directed that there must be a stop to the damaging of the environment through destruction of forests and pollution of rivers. If the government does not move fast, Uganda will have no forest cover left by 2040.

Rumour has it that the timber business is in the hands of politically and militarily connected gangs who are a law unto themselves. This is an area where there is no room for error and history will judge us harshly if we continue looking on as the environment is destroyed.

Source: Daily Monitor