Prior to the French Revolution, which begun in 1789, Queen Marie Antoinette when presented with the complaint that the peasantry was being racked by famine and had no bread to eat responded with a toss of her royal curls, I imagine, “Let them eat cake.”
With that statement she became the poster child of all that was wrong with the ruling elite of the day. How so out of touch they were with the plight of the everyday man.
There are doubts that she actually made that comment but it has stuck and for most of us we would rather not let the facts get in the way of a good story.
On Tuesday the honourable MP for Buryaha County Margaret Muhanga went before parliament to explain her role in the irregular sale of UBC land a few years ago. When she was asked how she raised the sh10b she put down to buy the 23 acres of land in Bugoobi, in 30 seconds of video footage that has gone viral, Muhanga’s eyes widened as if in disbelief that she could be asked such a question then, “I sold cows, goats and everything,” she answered.
This kicked off a firestorm on social media for the next 24 hours, with all and sundry rolling in the aisles more at the incredulity of the answer and her attitude towards a serious issue of obvious asset stripping of a public agency.
"It was not her finest hour. She may never live it down. This may even be, like Marie Antoinette, how she is remembered if public outcry against government poor service delivery and corruption, in the future, snowball into worse...
Muhanga’s transaction may very well be above board but it raises more questions than answers about the way our public affairs are conducted and the sensitivity of our public officials to the plight of the everyday man.
Right now the man on the street is grappling with issues of how to make his income – if he has one, carry him through the month, expensive health and education services, because the public system is irreparably damaged and how to better himself generally given his training and the opportunities available in the economy. But at every turn he is coming up empty handed.
So when public officials are suspected or arraigned before the courts or parliament to answer to allegations of impropriety we explain the lack of credible answers as a sign of impunity – they never thought they would have to answer so they never got their story straight; we explain the obvious nonchalance as evidence that this was business as usual and suffer headaches when we try to wrap our minds around the sums involved.
Jokes aside the stability of nations depends on the equitable distribution of that country’s wealth.
Disparities in income and wealth will always be there, and are even healthy in motivating hard work and innovation, but too much disparity is a recipe for social instability. The resentment of these disparities is even worse when there is a hint that some people are getting ahead for reasons other than diligent work.
We have said it many times, the challenge of this country is not that we do not have resources but that our resources are not being fully exploited and even when they are, are not being exploited for the benefit of the majority.
"How do you raise incomes and create wealth for the majority?..
You build the social and physical infrastructure that allows them to not only discover their full potential but maximise it for their own benefit. A good education and health system ensures that we develop better quality workers who can demand higher income from the market; we lay down good laws and regulations and enforce them objectively and transparently across the board, this ensures security of person and property the cornerstone of strong economy; we lay down the roads, railways, telecommunication networks to allow easier access to resource centers and markets, which allows the private individuals to thrive.
A handful of people can subvert this by for example diverting resources for their own personal gain and the ensuing dysfunctionality manifests itself as widening inequalities in the general society.
"Widening inequalities lead to hopelessness which quickly leads to desperation and eventually social disruption and instability. Think about it...