By Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba
If we are to achieve Vision 2040, then it cannot be business as usual in regard to corruption
The Uganda Vision 2040 is indeed a source of inspiration for all Ugandans regardless of age group or political affiliation. It provides plans and strategies to operationalize the Ugandan vision, which is “A transformed Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years.”
I would like to join the many Ugandans to commend the National Planning Authority (NPA) for the good job done. The question on everybody’s mind is whether Vision 2040 is achievable. I am one of those who strongly believe that it is, but only if we do things differently. I would like to make some suggestions.
First, I urge the NPA to produce the successor NDP 2015/2016 – 2019/2020 so that all Presidential candidates for the 2016 elections base their manifestos on the new document. In this case, the difference in the manifestos would be only on implementation strategies.
Let NPA also publish a progress report for the current NDP so that Ugandans can know where we stand. There is no country in the world that has developed without mobilising and rallying its citizens towards a common vision. It happened in Singapore, China, Malaysia, Mauritius, Hungary and Chile among others.
The duties of every citizen are clearly stipulated in the Uganda Constitution. If every Ugandan undertook these constitutional duties, today Uganda would be a middle income country or close to becoming one. Unfortunately, many Ugandans I talked to before writing this article did not know their constitutional duties.
Yet, the same Constitution provides in Chapter 1 (4) for the promotion of public awareness of the Constitution by the State. Because this noble duty has never been undertaken by the state, many citizens have not performed their duties and many do not uphold and defend the Constitution at all times.
As Ugandans it is important that we go back and set a strong foundation by ensuring that every school-going child knows about the duties as a citizen. At the very least, the Constitution should be taught in secondary schools. At the same time, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs together with bodies such as the Uganda Law Reform Commission should undertake the translation of the Constitution into all languages and disseminate it widely.
All the countries we keep referring to (Singapore, South Korea, China and Mauritius) that have achieved middle-income status, have also ensured zero tolerance to corruption. If we are to achieve Vision 2040, then it cannot be business as usual in regard to corruption.
We must as a country come up with serious deterrents to make it unattractive for anybody to engage in corruption. Again the government must show leadership in fighting corruption just like it did with HIV/Aids in the 1980s and 1990s.
When you talk to people in government, most of them think that revenue from oil and gas is the savior for Uganda. This mentality could lead to the collapse of other sectors that are key to human development i.e. sectors that create jobs for the citizens.
We need to focus less on oil and gas as a source of revenue for funding Vision 2040 and maximally exploit other sources of revenue such as exporting human resources to the western world and Eastern Asia that will in the next few years be faced with aging populations; tax and non-tax revenues; Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and government issuing long term bonds to investors.
Another way of funding the Vision 2040 is to cut down on public expenditure and prioritise in the national budget the key sectors in Vision 2040. For instance, we need a lean cabinet and Parliament. The Presidential advisors are too many and too expensive to maintain.
Today, we have many unviable districts with a huge public expenditure. The message is that we need to critically review public sector expenditure especially in regard to the wage bill and see whether we can do away with some of the public service employees.
Also, there is need to fast-track devolution of powers from the central government to the regional tier governments so that some of the powers decentralized to the small districts can be handled at the regional government level. This will greatly cut on the public expenditure. For instance you don’t need engineering and planning departments at district level– these can be at regional government level.
The countries in developed world and the middle-income countries have their budgets developed by experts and politicians are involved at approval stage. In Uganda we need to take out the politicians out of the initial budgeting process that allocates funds to the different sectors because politicians are more concerned with the short-term gains like winning elections yet the long term planning and corresponding financial allocations is what will propel Uganda into a middle-income country.
Furthermore, it is scientifically proven that human beings begin to slow down at the age of 55. That is why in countries where there is retirement age it is around 60 years. After 55 years, it is recommended that one engages in less stressful jobs like serving as a judge, professor, advisor etc.
In view of the tasks ahead of Vision 2040, Permanent Secretaries and Cabinet Ministers jobs will be very stressful. Once again it is good to borrow a leaf from the 1st world and middle-income countries like USA, UK, Austria, China, Singapore, South Korea and Mauritius and ensure that multi generation workforce fills these positions.
In this regard, as a country if we are to work towards achieving vision 2040 Uganda’s cabinet should be structured along proposals like 10% of the cabinet being in their 30s, 40% in their 40s, 40% in their 50s and 10% aged 60 and above. In addition we need to ensure regional balance so that everybody feels included in the transformative team of our dear country.
As a country, we need to prioritise health services and access to clean fresh water; education;job creation; infrastructure including energy, roads and railways; and modernization of agriculture to position Uganda as a leading world food basket.
We may construct dams and build roads but without focusing on health and education we shall not have healthy and skilled people and hence no job creation and finally we shall not have human development. There is also need to fix a minimum wage if we are to ensure fair income distribution among all the citizens.
As per Vision 2040, Uganda’s population is projected to reach 61.3 million in 2040 up from 33 million in 2010. Unplanned population growth will exert negative pressure on the meager resources and retard growth and finally lead to failure to achieve Vision 2040.
Finally, as a country we need to put in place efficient and critical systems like a national data bank/ national identification system and land registration system, immigration system, health system etc.
The author is the Vice Chancellor of UTAMU