By Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba
To transit to a middle income country, we need well defined institutions and systems of state
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.’’- Charles Darwin.
As we celebrate 50 years of independence, there is a lot to thank the past and present leaders for and also a lot of missed opportunities and unfulfilled promises. It is important that we acknowledge our achievements and failures as a country so that we can embark on the journey of building a better Uganda for the future generations and ourselves.
We need to be seen to honour commitments at national, regional and international levels. For instance, declarations of the General Assembly of the African Union that required national governments to allocate at least 10% of the national budget to Agriculture, 15% to health and at least 1% to science, technology and innovation among others, some dating way back to 2003 should be honoured since they were made in good faith and Uganda was a signatory to them.
Health services, education and employment (jobs) are necessary preconditions for human development. Therefore it important that in addition to emphasizing road infrastructure, health services, education and job creation should be prioritised if we are to progress towards becoming a middle income country. The education system should be planned in such a way that at every stage students exit with skills. There should be institutions that can absorb dropouts and impart in them skills that can make them employable or job creators. We need to focus on imparting skills on teachers/ lecturers and the students.
There is need to have a law on how many children a couple can have and a maximum of three (3) is reasonable. Otherwise, we shall have a huge young population whose demands for health and education services and other services will greatly hamper the growth of other sectors.
There is a strong feeling that going forward we need to have a Salary Commission that can ensure that there is equity across the public sector. Otherwise, we should prepare to deal with a de-motivated workforce in the public sector. A driver in the public sector should never earn more than a medical doctor.
Those entrusted with public offices and institutions must be seen to account to the public and the political party in power should ensure that this is the case otherwise it should be voted out by the public the next time it seeks their mandate.
For Uganda to be able to transition into a middle-income country and then first world country, corruption should be fought by everybody, but the Executive should be seen to deal with those who have been proven to be corrupt by competent authorities. The penalties for persons involved in corruption should be severe as a deterrent.
Uganda is over-burdened by unnecessarily huge administrative structures that impact greatly on the national budget. There is therefore need to right the size and rationalise administrative structures across the sectors. There is also duplication of mandates by the different organs, which ends up in wastage of public funds.
With the recent trends in technology, any country must have key information systems such as a National Identity System, Health Information System, Immigration System, Voter Registration System, Taxation System, Criminal Records System, Pay roll systems etc that are integrated so that they can communicate with each other. This is necessary to enable service delivery and efficient tax collection among others. These systems are not a choice but a requirement.
As a country we should demand for well-defined state institutions and systems that are justifiable under any regime. We should for example have consensus on how big the Cabinet should be, how many Presidential advisors with clear duties and linkage to the sector ministries a President can appoint and how big our parliament should be. Do we need all the district women members of parliament if at the end of the day every county becomes a district? Do we need Resident District Commissioners etc at each of these small districts? We need to review this as a country and redirect the money to key sectors like health, agriculture and education and other key infrastructure projects.
Planning across all sectors is mandatory if we are to progress towards becoming a middle-income country. We need to plan for cities and towns infrastructure including roads, railways, and buildings. Kampala and its outskirts might become impassable if the upcoming building plans and road network is not looked into as matter of urgency.
The national budget in the coming years should always reflect the people’s priorities i.e. health services, education, agriculture and job creation among the top funded priorities. The politicians should also be able to come up with policies that grow the private sector, increase revenue from taxes and create more jobs. Unemployment if not addressed will be Uganda’s biggest challenge in a few years to come.
It is also important that those in power do not abuse people’s rights and freedoms. It is important that our leaders develop a culture of tolerance, restraint and respect for those they lead. Obuntu culture (humaneness) is slowly dying out of Uganda. We need to preserve this trend by promoting patriotism, togetherness and service beyond self. The Uganda we want has no room for those in authority to exercise excessive force on innocent Ugandans.
As Charles Darwin said in the quotes above, we need to encourage our leaders to rapidly respond and adapt to change. We should never wait for change to change us. Time is of essence in everything we do and we should never waste any second. The Chinese never waste time and this is how they have managed to develop.
If we are to transit into a middle income country, we need to build strong political parties so that we can have a strong opposition that could provide alternative policies and leadership in case the people want to change leadership from one party to another during elections. These political parties should be issue-based and Ugandans should join parties on the basis of what they stand for instead of who is heading them. The UK and USA present good examples of strong political parties. We need to see a situation where leaders are answerable to their political parties instead of political party organs being answerable to the Party President/ Chairman. Without strong political parties, becoming a middle-income country will only remain a far off dream.
Prof. Baryamureeba is the VC of Uganda Technology and Management University (UTAMU).
This is an excerpt from his presentation at the Uganda@50 Debate on October 3.