My wish for the New Year is that we declare corruption public enemy #1 and we go after it in all its variations with unbridled enthusiasm.
Don’t hold back your laughter. Let it rip!
Corruption is bad for society, concentrating resources in a few hands, making the rich richer and the poor poorer.
"So instead of 1,000 inpatients being treated at Mulago, one man buys himself a Toyota Land Cruiser VX or sends his four children to a top international school locally for a year or organises a week long holiday for his five-member family plus nanny to the Maldives or Seychelles...
What this does, is prevents the upward mobility of the lesser privileged since the ladders of public education, health and working infrastructure have been kicked out from under them.
It is not a difficult logic to follow.
Even if these corrupt officials were using this money for productive endeavour and not conspicuous consumption, the net effect may still be the same.
In fact maybe it’s a good thing that corrupt officials are eating their money alone and not trying to get into production.
If these corrupt individuals got into production they would distort the sectors in which they operate to the point that even honest businessmen would be unable to operate.
In trying to get into productive sectors like agriculture and manufacturing these corrupt officials are trying to launder their money, make it legitimate.
So the grubby fingered official goes off into the country side and starts making peasants offers they cannot refuse for their small land holdings. He accumulates great chunks of land and decides to rear cattle or plant maize or dig fish ponds or whatever is the flavour of the month, at the cocktails they frequent in Kampala.
But as with all poor people who think money solves all problems and that by throwing money at any problem it will be resolved they soon find out otherwise.
The “farm” becomes a financial black hole requiring ever increasing amounts to keep it afloat.
Because these corrupt ladies and gentlemen have no sense of costing they undercut the genuine businessmen, put them out of business, causing irreparable damage.
Then either they decide the project is not worth it and jump onto the next business fad or, more likely than not, they get dropped from their juicy position and reality hits them: Their prized farm is just a drain on financial resources. They do away with it all together blaming lack of government support for agriculture as the reason for their demise.
Similarly for real estate or any other business they lay their hands on.
For those officials who have been around longer and gone through the full boom-and-bust cycle they stop pretending and just hoarde money under their mattresses, in their garages and in foreign accounts.
They accepted they were incapable of showing a return on investment and stopped trying.
So there really is little to no benefit to the wider society from these stolen billions.
In a world without corruption or more realistically with corruption minimised to bare minimum rather than at the endemic levels it is at now, more people would benefit and maybe, just maybe, we would stop wondering where all this economic growth they talk about is.
First of all these corrupt officials would transfer their ingenuity to the private sector where the pay is more commensurate with their talents. Hopefully they would be sanitised by proper systems and good governance protocols and turn their brains to creating value and wealth rather than pilfering it.
We might even collect more taxes, which increased monies would be directed to better social services and infrastructure. We would have better educated and healthy children and a more vibrant economy where the cost of doing business would be far reduced.
That is a utopian logic that would find it hard to exist in our world.
"Our tolerance of corruption comes from the wrong analysis that all wealth has its basis in crude accumulation by the elite...
So we look the other way because we are keen to build this wealthy middle class, which will serve as the bedrock of future productivity and stability. After 50 years of independence not a single public servant has broken through to be a serious industrialist or capitalist or build a business empire of any reckoning.
So clearly there is something wrong with that model of development.
Let us revert to the colonial model. We facilitate the education of our children, the treatment of our mothers and smooth out the kinks in our economy for our businessmen. At the bare minimum we will swell the numbers of the middle class and provide a more viable market for our businessmen who can then use this as a launch pad for national, regional and even international ambitions.
It is a bit naïve to believe this shift in thinking is within the realm of reality, but as they say when you have eliminated all the possibilities and are left with the most improbable solution then that is the right one.
Have a Happy New year!