Top on the biggest security challenges that have been identified to threaten our country in the recent years has been food security in particular, and poverty in general. Without the assured resolution of the two aforementioned challenges, the country is practically threatened with anarchy. Indeed, the international community designed the sustainable development goals in which the two (food and poverty) featured prominently, among the challenges that need to be addressed.
The NRM government has also struggled with so many programs to reduce poverty and enhance food security. Some of the programs include Plan for the Modernization of Agriculture, Entandikwa, Plan for the Eradication of Poverty, NAADS, EMYOOGA, Operation Wealth Creation and the now much-talked-about Parish Development Model.
With the particular exception of Operation Wealth Creation, which seems to be felt by the citizens on the ground, all the other programs have come and gone without much impact. Yet a thorough interrogation should have been carried out to find out why the previous programs failed before the introduction and implementation of a new one.
But of all programs designed to fight poverty and food insecurity, none has received as much moral support as the Parish Development Model. But it must be stressed here that the moral support may not necessarily guarantee its success. Only a better thought-out strategy will ensure its success. However, there are immediate obstacles that are already working against the success of the PDM as you are about to read below.
Too much Bureaucracy
One of the disturbing issues about this PDM has been the bureaucracy involved. There has been too much talking about this program which is time consuming rather than focusing on how to put it on the ground. Sensitization tours have become the order of the day. For instance, this week, it was reported that Members of Parliament had concluded the sensitization tour of the Parish Development Model in their respective constituencies.
It’s obvious that each MP was facilitated to carry out the sensitization which costs a lot of money. Already, there are reports that the ICT ministry is seeking for UGX70Bn to implement PDM! They unashamedly claim that since the ICT ministry was charged with responsibility of spearheading pillar 5 that deals with community data of PDM, they need the UGX70Bn, among other things, to validate information on the beneficiaries, evaluate the standards of living etc…
This alone shows that the cost of sensitization and implementation might overlap the real cost of the PDM itself. The concerned authorities (the originators and supposed implementers of the program), should have simply put the implementation plan to the concerned teams to implement sequence-by-sequence without wasting time.
Yet you will certainly admit that one of the reasons why Operation Wealth Creation has worked is because there was almost minimal, or no bureaucracy at all. This is because Gen Salim Saleh, who is the head, is not one man who can entertain seminars and endless sensitization tours.
The PDM has seven pillars which include, production, storage, processing, and marketing, then, Infrastructure and Economic Services, Financial Inclusion, Social Services, Mindset change, Parish Based Management Information System and lastly, Governance and Administration. Therefore, as it stands, most of what is considered as pillars is bureaucratic expense and will still be the most disturbing obstacles to the parish development model.
Not for Start-Ups
The Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Ramathan Ggoobi has variously been heard saying that this PDM money will not be given out to people who seek to start new businesses (start-ups). He stressed that it will go to those who have been doing something small but have been hindered with lack of funds. In other words, the PDM money is for giving existing businesses, a push to the next level! Oh dear!
How can you say you are fighting poverty, but you are focusing only on those who have already taken off? How will the poor transition from kidda kyonka (subsistence) if they are categorically not allowed to access the fund? A good program should seek to lift all poverty-stricken people who have the desire and plan to work. If you focus only on those who have already taken off, then you will leave the poor to sink deeper in poverty.
In the end, this will have the un-desire-able effect of making the rich people even richer and the poor, poorer. The reality is that there are very many people who can do something out of a small push but they lack the opportunity to get that small money incentive to start. The PDM should have been an open opportunity for anyone with an investment plan to tackle poverty in whichever way they can, as long as they can return the money.
Political Partisanship of the program
One of the fundamental reasons why all poverty eradication programs have failed can be rightly attributed to the politics. The Entandikwa was a good program that very victim of this ugly vice. How? When people got the money, they thought it was a political grant donated to them for voting President Museveni into power in the 1996 elections. As a result, this good program collapsed.
And by the way, in Africa, when programs are designed, the sitting government targets the party supporters and leaves out the citizens considered to be leaning towards the opposition. This has a direct negative such initiatives` effect in their implementation. For instance, when former Zimbabwean President, the late Robert Mugabe grabbed the Whiteman’s land, he deliberately made sure that it was only redistributed to the citizens who subscribed to his ZANU-PF Party.
In the end, although it looked patriotic on the surface, President Mugabe’s land redistribution exercise failed to have the desired effect on the common Zimbabweans. Likewise, President Idi Amin embarked on the indigenization of the Ugandan economy by dismissing all the Indians from Uganda in 1972, and redistributed all the Indian properties among his henchmen and Muslim friends.
In the end, not all Ugandans benefitted from his much talked-about economic war. Now, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to deduce who are going to benefit from this PDM money.
The hostile economic environment
Today there is global inflation that is raving businesses all over the world. The cost of living has gone up and inflation is making it difficult for any investment to take place. The prices for basic necessities and food prices have gone up and undermined the purchasing power of the consumers.
It so happens that there is a likelihood that any money that is thrown into the economic turbines will easily be wiped out by the hyperinflation. As it stands right now, you don’t need a professor to prophesy that the PDM timing is not conducive for investment of any sort at the moment.
Harsh Government Polices
As you are grappling with the harsh economic realities, there is the harsh government policies that make Uganda a harsh destination for business in particular, and investment in general. To do business in Uganda, one will have to grapple with the uncoordinated tax regime that is totally unforgiving to the business, to the extent that some shrewd businessmen prefer to run smaller business entities than expanding to avoid the eye of the tax authorities.
This obviously explains why most citizens engage in tax evasion, because it’s high and insensitive to the survival of a thriving bossiness. The taxes aside, you have the high-power tariffs which the NRM has failed to balance to create a conducive business environment. In the end most citizens have resorted to taping power illegally.
The way forward
We need a discussion about taxes. The city authorities must harmonize the tax collection system with the citizens. It’s important to wage taxes that are affordable. In fact, some of us are suggesting that tax holidays must be instituted to enable the local citizens to operate businesses without fear. A tax holiday can be easily instituted if the authorities create it as an incentive for people to register their businesses.
Once someone registers, then they should enjoy some tax holidays of around a year or two, after which they can start paying an affordable tax. If the NRM government can eagerly give tax holidays to foreign investors, why does it find it unthinkable to grant it to Ugandan citizens? This tax holiday strategy is a better option than having people defaulting completely. The tax collectors shouldn’t be enemies but partners of the business community. Power tariffs too, must be revised to affordable prices to enable businesses to thrive. But if the PDM money is thrown into the fray in an unrevised tax environment, it will suffer a premature death.
- Fred Daka Kamwada is a seasoned journalist, blogger and political analyst for over a decade in Uganda
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