Emergencies can bring lucidity and the one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare in Uganda as the country comes out of lockdown that it faces seismic challenges.
It is sad to say but the government is unprepared and bereft of imagination. This has been for all to see by how it has handled the challenges that have emanated from the pandemic.
The food distribution debacle, the COVID-19 isolation farce, the 20 million parliamentary facilitation ‘theft’, the boda boda fiasco, the handling of the reopening of businesses, the failure to work with banks to help out the very businesses and individuals who keep them in business. The list goes on…
As the aftermath of the pandemic begins to unravel, is the government ready? Is the opposition able to offer workable solutions?
Pandemic induced economic collapse and the imminent devastation to follow several small-scale industries, the uncertainty of the service sector.
The job losses, the exponential movement of people to rural areas as the last bastion of a food source, the shrinkage of the economy, the growing national debt, unsustainable debt levels, and a looming recession.
The UGX923b supplementary budget designated to COVID-19. Would have gone a long way to shield most of the impending doom however, only 294b of the total budget went towards the government’s multi-sectoral response which average Uganda struggles to see in real terms.
What has it done? Much of the remaining money was classified defence expenditure. Am I naïve in thinking we do not have any wars to fight, so all those defence funds for what? The government and the opposition were all party to this disservice to the Ugandan economy.
The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a disbursement of about US$491.5 million for Uganda under the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF). This is meant to help finance the health, social protection, and macroeconomic stabilisation measures, meet the urgent balance-of-payments and monetary needs arising from the COVID-19 outbreak and supplement additional support from the international community.
However, we know where those funds will end up, for the government and its seasoned politicians have no real concrete roadmap to get the economy going. There have been many missed opportunities to regain the Ugandan people’s faith in politicians.
People want a government that puts money in their pockets not take it, because that is what is coming to help pay for the government greed during the pandemic.
Our neighbours in Kenya were able to give its most vulnerable economically, money straight to their mobile money accounts. We could not get even the food distribution right; it was mired in the usual narrative corruption.
In the US, there is a vibrant venture capital industry that has driven the tech boom.
In Germany, they have the Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau – the credit institute for reconstruction – which supports that country’s fabled Mittelstand of medium-sized family firms. In the U.K they had the furlough scheme where the state offered to cover 80 percent of the workers’ wages. Froze rents, stopped interest rates, loan, and credit card payments.
Here, in Uganda what have we got, the government and opposition where are you?
The opposition has its crises of myopic littleness of politics in the face of colossal social-economic challenges.
Opposition politicians such as Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine cannot be let off lightly because these are the challenges they are bound to face in the foreseeable future if they take power. They ought to find solutions to some of these tasks.
Ugandans deserve a safety net, they deserve to have the protection from their government, it is clear the government has failed at this.
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Our politicians lack imagination, ingenuity, and love for our beloved Uganda, so it is up to us to make the case of the type of country we want for all the noise politics makes its failing Ugandans.