By Isaac Mufumba
Memories of Vision 2025 and PEAP create doubt
Uganda has just launched a new Shs 54 trillion National Development Plan (NDP), the first in more than 40 years.
The NDPs vision is to have â€œa transformed Ugandan Society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years.
The Investment priorities listed in the Shs.54 trillion plan include human resource development; improvement of infrastructure; promotion of science and technology; and facilitation of availability and access to critical production inputs as the investment priorities.
Core projects lined up include development of Karuma, Ayago and Isimba hydro power plants; Construction of a standard railway gauge and rehabilitation of existing railway; development of greater metropolitan Kampala and implementation of rapid transport systems; development of a pipeline and refinery for oil and gas; development of a national skills programme; and development of an ICT park.
IMFs Senior Resident Representative Thomas Richardson says focusing on such investment priorities and core projects is the right thing to do.
Building infrastructure is essential if Uganda is to be an attractive destination for investment. And that is fundamentally important, because it is high levels of private investment that will in the end lead to a strong economy capable of financing needed poverty reduction spending he says.
Former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Adedeji Adebayo, who gave the keynote address at the launch, blamed the IMF for Africa’s developmental stagnation.
Â â€œNot to plan is to fail. To plan is to choose to go forward. We failed in the 1980s because we chose to go with the Structural Adjustment Policies,â€ he said.
The SAPs were prescribed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and encouraged governments to drop development planning.
Adebayo says that now that Africa has returned to the path of development planning, success of the plans will depend on involvement of the citizenry in the planning and implementation activity, non-dependence on donor funding, and an end to the culture of capacity building workshops.
Ironically, even as Adebayo was speaking, MPs could be heard grumbling that had neither been involved in the development of the plan nor debated it prior to its launch. They have since threatened to block the NPA budget.
Speaking at the launch, President Yoweri Museveni seemed aware of the pessimism around the plan and attempted to reassure the doubters.
â€œRight now we collect 24 trillion in taxes. Our projection is that oil revenue will help us meet fiscal deficits and we shall be able to implement all thisâ€ he said.
In March 1999 launched the so-called â€œVision 2025â€. It was the culmination of the two-year effort of a core team of local experts headed by Dr. Salim A. Bachou and several international experts and citizens.
Vision 2025 was to provide the planning framework for Uganda for the next 25 years. It focused on economic growth, human development, the environment and politics and governance as the basis for Ugandaâ€™s future development. The projection was that economic growth would be realised through making strategic interventions in the macro-economic sector, science and technology, information systems and improving basic infrastructure.
The document listed aspirations for having a manageable population growth rate that is in tandem with the countryâ€™s economic development; having a literate, informed, creative and well educated society and a high quality health care service, safe and clean water and sanitation, food security and creation of employment opportunities.
Mbarara University Lecturer, David Babi Kamusaala, attributes failure of Vision 2025 to lack of funds and the absence of constitutionally mandated body such as the NPA, to coordinate it.
Only one aspect, the fight against poverty, was implemented as the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP).
PEAP hinged around four major pillars, namely, creation of a framework for economic growth and transformation; ensuring good governance and security; enhancing poor peopleâ€™s ability to raise their incomes; and directly improving the quality of life of the poor.
Emphasis was on improving education and health.
Initial targets in education and women empowerment were to raise primary school enrolment figures to 98% by 2003; raise adult literacy enrolment to 85% by 2005; raise female enrolment in tertiary institutions to 40% of the overall enrolment figures by 2005; and increase the proportion of women among decision makers.
In the area of health, it sought to ensure that 65% of the population has access to safe drinking water by 2010 and 100% in 2015.
PEAP has over the years registered both failures and successes.
Statistics from the 2009 Human Development Index shows that 36% of the population do not use improved water sources, which is just one percentage point short of the PEAP forecast to provide 65% of the population with access to clean water sources.
The proportion of the population living below the poverty line declined from 38 percent in 2004 to 31 percent in the 2006, but while income per capita was US$300 in 2006, it has since fallen to US$217.40.
The vision of the NDP is not very far from that of the Vision 2025.
The Executive Director of the National Planning Authority which designed it, Longino Tisasirana , says that the plan replaces the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) as the medium term strategic national planning framework.
But the Vice Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on the Budget, Meddie Mulumba, the national resource envelope has never been sufficient to fund massive activities that could have reduced poverty to the projected magnitudes.
Will this be different? Throughout July, NPA will be receiving public views for incorporation in the final document to avoid failure.