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World Bank to Museveni

By independent team

If you do not open up space for citizen participation, you basically are sowing the seed for the destabilisation

The World Bank has been criticised for its continued support to Uganda which it describes in its current report as “one of the few durable success stories in Africa”.

The WB, which  has recently given Uganda a US$ 2 billion loan, praises it for strong economic growth which it says has enabled substantial reduction in poverty, hunger, universal primary education, gender parity, and combating HIV/AIDS.

But critics are concerned that in its report on President Yoweri Museveni winning the election on Feb.28, for another 5-year term after garnering 68 percent of the vote, the World Bank fails to mention that observers ruled that election was not free and fair.

In an interview with the World Bank’s Africa Region Vice President, Obiageli Ezekwesili, on the Hardtalk show of June 11, BBC’s Stephen Sucker asked why not one word in that WB report reported “ about grave doubts about legitimacy” of Museveni’s victory.

Ezekwesili defended the Bank saying it prefers not to be “partisan”.

Asked whether “economic growth can be delivered by a leader who has been put on spot by a number of reports for rigging, torture” and whether that needed to be factored into the Bank’s assessment of Uganda, Ezekwesili said that is part of the talk of political economy and governance issues.

“As part of the bilateral and multilateral partners that work with Uganda these are issues that we normally raise with the government,” she said.

She said when the WB engages in a country, it is not because of the leaders of the country but because its mission is a world free of poverty.

She said since political rebellions broke in countries like Egypt and Tunisia that have been praised by the World Bank because of their economic achievements, she has been speaking to African leaders and told them that if you do not open up space for citizen participation, you basically are sowing the seed for the destabilization of the economy.  She said she tells the leaders that every economy that gets trapped in these political rebellions loses 20% in terms of its gap of tackling poverty.

BBC asked: “Did you say that to Museveni?”

“I would often say that to Museveni asften as I get that opportunity,” she replied, “I can assure that when we speak to the leaders, we do not spare on the question of good governance”.

She defended Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s handling of the economy as a “leader who determines his priorities”.

“He doesn’t have to engage with any of the donors as long as he doesn’t want to,” she said.

The World Bank has recently given Uganda a US$ 2 billion loan to support the National Development Plan (NDP). It is expected to contribute to transforming Uganda from a poor to mid-income country in the next five years. All countries in the East African region, including the biggest economy Kenya, are classified as low income. Sudan is a lower middle income country. The criteria are based on several indicators including level of GDP.

Two days after the Ezekwesili interview, donors in Kampala issued a joint statement critical of the government continued high spending on the military and public administration, especially the new districts, at the expense of priority areas like health and education.

The Country Manager of the World Bank and Co-Chair of the Joint Budget Support Development Partners Group, Kundhavi Kadiresan, said: “Reallocating budget funds after the FY 10/11 Budget that was approved by Parliament reduced the value of the Government Budget for planning and policy direction. In the coming and subsequent fiscal years it will be important to limit supplementary budgets in order to reduce reliance on domestic borrowing and rebuild foreign reserves.”

Echoing this sentiment, the Co-Chair of the Joint Budget Support Development Partners Group and Head of DFID in Uganda, Jane Rintoul, stated: “Looking forward, DPs urge stronger management over the planning, release and accounting of scarce budget resources if public money is to be translated into effective services to all Ugandans in coming years”.

The donors urged the government to effectively address rising inflation because it hurts the poor, tackle unemployment by improving the business environment, and fight “endemic corruption and inefficiency in public service delivery”.

They warned that donors who last fiscal year, either reprogrammed or reduced their financial support, need evidence that the ambitions of the National Development Plan are translating into improved service delivery on the ground to ensure continued their support to the budget in the future.

The 11 Joint Budget Support Development Partners include the World Bank, the European Union and the governments of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany (KfW), Ireland, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. They provide budget support through a joint framework.

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