Tuesday, July 13, 2010


The news of land related violence continue to come in fast and thick. And just when you think you have plumbed the depths of human depravity, villagers in Kayunga went and burnt a landlord to ashes in his car.

Two weeks ago I wrote that these incidents are a sign that a class war is crystallizing in this country between the haves – actual, perceived or otherwise and the have-nots. I wrote that a widening income gap, perpetuated by a badly flawed development model is precipitating the trend and suggested that a “revolution” maybe in the making.

This week I want to add that poverty is at the root of all this trouble, and to the extent that the number of people sliding into poverty increases is the extent to which the risk of continued, seemingly senseless violence will continue.

Government statistics point to the fact that poverty is reducing, and these statistics will be right to a point. To qualify as poor according to official statistics, one has to be living on less than a dollar a day or thereabouts.

First of all the standard for poverty is too low and secondly, it is a scandal that there is anyone in this country who lives on less than a dollar a day.

It is a scandal because poverty is not a preordained condition. Poverty is a condition brought on by poor implementation of government policies and more importantly, individual failure.

Next week the financial literacy week kicks off with talks from Wednesday to Saturday at the Imperial Royale hotel.

Financial literacy is not an end in itself, but it is hoped that with improved financial literacy individuals will work less and less for money and have money work for them more and more.

This is an alien concept for the majority of us. Through at least three generations of going to school and socialization, we know only one way to make money – to work for it. The flip side of this is that if we do not see someone expending energy and sweating profusely at his job and he still makes a good living, we are wired to believe they must be cheating, stealing or worse.

One of the biggest benefits of improved financial literacy is that an individual can then dispense with the fatalistic notion that if they are poor they were meant to be that way.

This wrong assumption explains our low productivity as a nation, fuels corruption and triggers bizarre superstitions like child sacrificing.

The corrupt are basically good people. We should know, they are our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They get sucked into the act by a basic human need to secure their future and that of their families. But because they are not financially literate they need to steal more and more to provide for an increasingly rich future.

People looking from the outside in wonder why the corrupt official does not steal a few million shillings set up a business and stop their thieving ways. I am sure the corrupt officials wish the same, but he wouldn’t know how to do that to save his life.

They put up a big show of having farms, houses and even businesses but the pattern is always the same. As soon as they lose their vaunted position they find the farms and businesses can not sustain themselves without regular infusions from the office imprest.

So surprising as it may seem, learning how to make your money work for you may save you a lot of sins.

I find that people who want to justify their lack of financial strength like to misquote the bible, “Money is the root of all evil”. However the correct quote is, “For the love of money is the root of all evil,” if you want to misquote the bible I suggest “poverty is the root of all evil”.

Published August 2009, New Vision

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