Saturday, October 30, 2010


The presidential campaigns got off to a relatively calm note earlier this week – so calm in fact that Inspector General of Police Major General Kale Kaihura threw a party for his officers in charge of overseeing the campaign.

Meanwhile the candidates are putting the finishing touches to their manifestos and I hoping to add my two cents to their thinking processes.

As far as I am concerned there is only one issue in this country and every other issue derives from it – poverty.

As far as I am concerned poverty is the root of all our evils.

Was it a coincidence that this week that the Uganda Bureau of Statistics released results showing that poverty levels had fallen to 22% from 31% five years ago. Poverty here is defined as a situation under which a person lives on less than $1 a day.

The improvement in our figures has a lot to do with the people of northern Uganda returning to productive lives. Also considerable improvement was registered in eastern Uganda.

To begin with I would change the emphasis away from poverty eradication to wealth creation, because what you focus on expands.

First let us understand the various levels of economic health.

At the bottom of the ladder are the poor who consume more than they earn, then the financially independent, these can sustain themselves on their income but are often a pay check away from poverty, then the financially secure who in addition to a regular income have assets throwing off income that would sustain them without a job and then finally the rich who assets throw of so much income as to guarantee financial security for generations to come.

So the challenge of my presidency would be to get the poor jobs. Encourage a sound banking system in which the financially independent can save their money and low lending rates so they can borrow more to invest in productive assets. The financially secure and the rich would benefit from lowering the cost of doing business by reducing corruption, improved infrastructure and a better quality human resource, so they can see a better return for their investments.

Of course all this will be anchored by continued stability in the country and a commitment to widespread financial literacy so people can graduate from one level to the next level of financial health.

I think the $1 a day definition of poverty is too low and easy to achieve what I am proposing is a more ambitious plan that will create a bigger middle class.

The middle class is the anchor on which more developed economies and democracies are built.

The middle class are the biggest guarantors of stability since they have a real stake in their respective countries, beyond the fuzzy, sentimental pitch about nationalism and patriotism politicians sell.

And because of this real interest in the country – in the way of investments, the middle class are loath to resolve issues through violence and are more likely to look for civil solutions to conflict, this attitude is the bed-rock on which all enduring democracies are built.

Hate them all you want but the colonial government built up a network of social services – education and health, which elevated our previously poor, rural leaders to their current levels of exaltation today. The colonial government could do this because there was little pilfering of tax payers money, schools and health facilities got constructed and manned, roads got built and maintained and things worked as they were supposed to.

Poverty is not a natural condition (whatever our religious leaders tell us), it is a failure of political leadership and mapped by geographical boundaries.

It is true what they say, the rich are different. Their interests go beyond transient racial, religious or ethnic boundaries. James Mulwana’s milk is not restricted to the Baganda or MTN does not do business with the people from Charles Mbire’s tribesmates or Sudhir Ruparaelia’s does not open his banking hall to only his Asian brethren.

We are teethering on the cusp of social unrest and political implosion because we do not have enough rich people among us.

So I can assure you as your president I will lead a determined push for a middle and rich class and relegate to the dustbin of history this patronizing $1-a-day rubbish.

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