As the dust from the just concluded polls settles it’s time to move on, use the lessons of the campaigns as a stepping stone to a better future for all Ugandans.
As far as I am concerned everything – political or social has its root in how the economy is faring, how it’s being run.
"Going by our per capita GDP of $800 we are a poor country, however that is to wildly discount the potential of our people and the bounty of our natural resources. We are poor because we have failed to mobilise ourselves to exploit these natural attributes for the benefit of our people...
Understandably we are only just emerging from the dark hole that was the 1970s and 1980s, when the productive sectors of our economy were gutted and we regressed into a subsistence economy. Since 1986 the economy has rebounded, posting prodigious growth figures year after year to the point that the economy has grown by a factor of seven since President Yoweri Museveni marched into Kampala at the head of the rebel National Resistance Army.
And there is the rub. Economic growth is critical for development – the upliftment of people’s wellbeing, but economic growth does not necessarily translate into development.
Currently we are seeing a widening in wealth inequalities as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, a concentration of resources which manifests itself in angry urban youth and sub human rural poverty.
Economic growth for its sake is useless, economic growth has to be enjoyed by more and more people every year.
That is he challenge the new government has to face up to with increasing determination.
One way to do this to create an environment that encourages investment and therefore creates jobs.
Every first Friday of the month the US Bureau of Labour Statistics office puts out the Non-Farm Payroll (NFP) numbers. These represent the number of jobs created in the previous month excluding government and private household employees.
Over the last 12 months more than two million jobs have been created in the US. Job creation is important beyond having people gainfully employed and not engaging in running battles with the police, the more people employed means the more demand there is in the economy and the more attractive it is as an investment destination. And the more investment the more jobs that are created, a literal virtuous economic cycle.
Clearly we have done some good work on the macroeconomics front with our consistent growth figures, but clearly more work has to be done.
According to the latest World Bank’s Ease of Doing survey, Uganda jumped to 122 from 135, which is something although we were much nearer the bottom the 189 polled nations than the top.
To come up with the result the surveyors measured such things as how easy it is to set up a business, register property, pay taxes, enforcing contracts, access to credit, getting electricity, obtaining permits among other things.
Government can through a combination of sensitisation of its workers and adoption of new technologies go a long way to easing the regulatory processes around doing business in Uganda. For instance why should it take 10 procedures and one and a half months to register a property versus 5 procedures and less than a month in the more developed countries?
I find we are shooting to low when we compare ourselves with Sub-Saharan numbers as if we deserve a lower quality of life than human beings in the developed economies.
Like Rwanda did these regulatory stumbling blocks can be felled in a blink of an eye.
Understandably making these processes more cumbersome allows some public servants to take advantage of the situation, easing the going for those willing to part with a few thousands more.
Which brings me to the biggest factor behind concentrating wealth in a few hands to the detriment of the larger majority – corruption.
Undeniably corruption is making doing business in Uganda more and more difficult.
And we are not talking about the direct cost of bribing an official here and there but the indirect cost to businesses which manifests itself in a poorly educated workforce, high levels of absenteeism due to illness, pilferage that is hard to plug because law enforcement agencies are not performing and high transport costs because of the poor road network.
"Unfortunately some of these nefarious networks have ossified themselves into place over the last three decades. Uprooting them may be politically costly but ignoring them only means they spread their tentacles into every facet of society, making it harder and harder for economic actors to be productive and, not unlike running in molasses, the economy will eventually grind to a halt...
So going forward let us be lie the Americans let us track how many jobs the economy is creating every quarter to begin with. In trying to create jobs we will have to work backwards and remove the impediments to job creation.
They say when you focus on something it expands. Let us focus on creating jobs.