It’s amazing how in hindsight things look different, assume added or less importance and sometimes seem to have happened much further in the past than one actually thought.
A review of this column in 2014 makes for interesting read. I take little credit for that, as the events that I commented on last year provided threw up (forgive the pun) some interesting, oftentimes frustrating and sometimes hilarious to the point of bizarre, subjects.
The more things change the more they stay the same.
Clearly economic growth is second nature to us. For the last three decades we have had a chain of unbroken years when the economy grew, to the point that the economy has grown almost tenfold in size since 1986.
Unfortunately we continue to grapple with how to distribute this wealth, which prompted me to write in January that,
“The truth is to the extent that there are wealth and income inequalities in an economy, is the extent to which the government is not doing its job ... Either the government is not facilitating economic growth or if it is, it is failing to ensure that the benefits are more equitably shared...”
It’s not rocket science. And the way to do it for us is by improving agricultural productivity.
In the same month I took time to celebrate the ascension of Finance Trust to a fully-fledged commercial bank.
It has been a long and arduous journey but the bank, which begun as a credit institution for women had rode the challenges and gritted through its darkest moments.
“The major challenge of our economy is that there is not enough indigenous capital, local business of a credible enough size. Part of the reason is that our businesses have failed to transcend a generation, that our indigenous businesses when taken over by the children find it hard to replicate or surpass the success of their parents or founders. This failure means that our biggest indigenous businesses are few and small. To create size takes time as Trust Finance has shown,” I wrote at the time.
Which dovetailed very well with a theme that run through this column last year – the need for our businesses to be more formal, more corporate, which is imperative for them to grow and if for nothing else, so they can stay afloat.
I argued for a minimum wage. That without a minimum wage there was no incentive to mechanise and increase the efficiency of our businesses holding back our plans for industrialisation, launching into the whole argument about worker laziness with,
"Uganda workers are the least productive in the region and it’s not because they are lazy, it's because the capital injected into their work process does not match regional standards.”
I weighed in on Robert Mugabe’s abysmal economic record in Zimbabwe,
“The situation got so bad that the country was forced to abandon the Zimbabwe dollar and adopted a basket of currencies including the South African Rand, US dollar and Chinese Yuan as legal tender in the country, which was ironic because President Robert Mugabe always want to make out that his country is the last bastion of anti-colonial resistance.”
Adding that when you subvert the laws of supply and demand you do so at great cost to the economy and the story never ends well.
And then I was obviously tearing my hair out with the corruption scams that continued to rain down on us from the front pages.
First there was the Mukono-Katosi scam that was intricate in its detail, amazing in the actors roped in and mind boggling in the greed of our public servants.
Then there is the standard gauge railway. An 850-km ribbon of railway that will snake its way from Malaba to Kampala with branches north to Pakwach leading to Nimule in Southern Sudan.
Officials trying to ram it through the government procurement process stand to share among themselves at least $7m per kilometre or about $6b (sh16,200b).
It looks like an exercise in futility to try and roll back the corrupt and their evil schemes but I thought different,
"For every scam exposed, even if the deal masters are not brought to book, causes pause for them and their contemporaries in the industry. Exposure chips away at impunity, ever so slowly but surely.”
But what really got my goat was calls by the works ministry for the creation of a national airline.
Calls, which got louder with the orchestrated demise of Air Uganda in mid-year.
My argument was that the government does not have the capacity nor the money lying around for such a misadventure.
"My opposition to a state owned airline is against the background of the inability of the government to run even a kiosk. An airline is an expensive proposition – by the time of the closure of Uganda Airlines it was gobbling sh10b or about $5m a month and it was only flying one route. Such monies would be better spent equipping our health centers and schools and opening up murram roads.”
In many instances it was easy to feel down about this country’s prospects. But we continue to muster some flashes of …. Not brilliance, but some level of success in things like the innovations of our university students and a capital city that is becoming increasingly functional, enough that we can retain a level of hope for a brighter future.
So it would be wise to fasten your seatbelts and prepare for another year of drama, disappointment and success that will literally take your breath away.