In the 2008/09 FY government made a U-turn and created the Energy and Road Funds, and poured money into them.
It also established UNRA to lead the road construction program. In the first year, the Ministry of Works was unable to absorb the money because they did not even have road designs. However, we at ACODE had scored big: we contributed to the transformation of the budget from political patronage to long-term investments in Transport and Energy.
It is possible government (and Museveni) were already on this path. But there is no denying that my work with Godbar and ACODE generally played a vital role in this process and we should be proud of it. So I replied raising these developments to Godbar, arguing that criticising Museveni is not a fashion for me.
The president and government changed to our side and we should applaud them for it. Changing government behavior and policies does not always (although sometimes it may) require confrontations. Media and civil society work with government to achieve shared goals.
Let us now look at the facts of the 2019/20 Budget, which is Shs32 trillion: the largest portion of it goes to the ministry of works to do roads i.e. Shs6.4 trillion (20%), followed by Defense at Shs3.6 trillion, Education Shs3.2 trillion, Energy Shs2.9 trillion, etc. Public Administration has fallen from being number two largest budget item in 2002/03 to number 12 at Shs908 billion (2.9% of the budget) in 2019/20. Even if we add Public Sector Management, it comes to Shs1.5 trillion (4.5% of the budget and 10th largest budgetary item).
Even in the face of these facts, Godbar was not willing to change his mind. He said nothing has changed. The size of presidential advisors has remained the same or increased, which may be true. He argued that all government has done is separate Public Sector Management from Public Administration. He did not even care to look at the facts i.e. that even when the two sectors are combined the improvement is big. I must add that not everything under Public Sector Management was part of Public Administration.
I find it difficult to refuse to change my mind in the face of new developments or new facts. I find it dishonest to keep harping on a problem that has been solved.
Museveni may not have reduced the number of his advisors, districts or size of his cabinet. These have increased. However, they are increasingly taking a much smaller share of our budget. On the contrary, over the last decade, government has become more developmental, pouring ever increasing resources into long term investments like roads, dams, electricity transmission lines, water systems, etc.
Museveni critics have been raising a complaint that he has taken too many loans at the cost of increasing debt, which will be borne by our grand children. This argument is misinformed because it would make sense only if the loans were taken to finance today’s consumption. However, almost all the loans Uganda has taken lately have gone into long-term investments to benefit our grandchildren.