Monday, February 1, 2016


Last week we read about the suffering plight of some of our workers abroad, specifically women. The stories were harrowing and footage circulating on the net was even more gruesome.

And of course our bureaucrats were falling all over themselves to stave off the PR disaster that these mostly ladies revealed about their experiences.

"How as a country did we come to the point that we are unable to employ our able bodied men and women, release them in to the wide world where they are seen as nothing more than units of production? Expendable units of production...

In the 1970s and 1980s we had mostly two kinds of immigrants --- political and economic. The former category had fallen foul of the powers that be and the latter just couldn’t make ends meet here. With political stability over the last three decades we have had more of the latter and less of the former.

In hindsight it looks like it was easier to sort out the politics of the country or at least stabilise it, than it has been to ensure that economic growth is translated into improved livelihood – development, for the wider society.

Official figures show that by some measures – GDP per capital has doubled to $571 from $258 in 1986 and that people living on less than a dollar a day have plummeted to about 20 percent from about thrice that figure in 1986.

They also show that the country’s Gini coefficient, which is a measure of income inequalities is at 0.43 the best in the region is Tanzania with 0.35. The Genii coefficient scale runs from 0 to 1, the closer the figure is to zero the less income inequality there exists in a country.

Essentially this supports the anecdotal evidence that a lot of the economic growth gains of the last three decades have been concentrated in a few hands and these are mostly in the urban areas.

"To address the income inequalities a combination of continued economic growth, increased investment, reduced corruption, improved labour law implementation and better education for a workers should do the trick...

We cannot get rid of poverty by throwing money at the poor --- although unemployment benefits can cushion the worst hit until they are back on their feet.

Which brings us full circle to our abused immigrant workers. We have let them down. Not only because we do not represent them effectively wherever they are in the far flung reaches of the world but because we have not created a local environment that would make going abroad to do menial jobs would not be their plan A.

On a purely humanitarian note if we better appreciated the numbers surrounding modern day slavery we would not be keen to have our citizens go abroad to forage for work.

Slavery encompasses everything from bonded labour (people working to pay off debt) to sex slavery to child labour to forced migrant labour.

It is estimated that this totally unregulated industry racks in $35b annually or almost double the size of the Ugandan economy.

These slaves do alot of the work the more developed citizens would rather not do out of dignity or because it pays way below their minimum wage levels. By definition these kind of workers work outside the official parameters and a run by illicit gangs for whom human trafficking and modern slavery are just one line of business in an illicit menu that may include drug running, arms dealing and smuggling.

"To hear the stories of the sub human treatment meted out to our fellow Ugandans is heart rending and tear jerking. That they are not a political priority is not because their numbers are relatively small compared to the general population but because and relatedly because once they leave for outside shores they have no one to bat for them at home.We  need to think about that! ...

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