By Mike Ssegawa
There are no simple fixes to an already broken economy like Uganda’s. However, there are painkillers government can give to relieve the situation.
A popular street phrase these days; Teeka sente wolaba (put your money where you can see) that president Museveni and his economy managers need to borrow literally.
Word on the streets and inside boardrooms is that the economy is in bad shape. Companies are throwing thousands back on the streets, and certainly only a few companies are hiring. The situation is negatively affecting the confidence of new and old investors in the country. Everyone is worried.
People wish Finance minister Matia Kasaija is on a forefront as well as the Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi. But we read the two are fighting!
Uganda Revenue Authority continues to deliver below targets, as more companies close. We are in an economic crisis!
Unfortunately, there’s little or nothing being done by government officials as one by one quickly deny there’s a problem. Their actions too show they’re unaware of the problem.
However, we should salute the recently launched BUBU campaign by the prime minister Ruhakana Rugunda and Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde. This is one of the things the country needs to take, to reverse, or at least stop the economic diarrhea.
BuBu stands for Buy Uganda Build Uganda. It aims at turning to domestic production as well as domestic consumption. That would keep money in Uganda. However for a long time, we pursued unpatriotic liberal economic policies coupled with indiscipline of the managers of the economy. Corruption has made the public coffers leak, and services are not reaching the majority of citizens.
Yet, the little money left is spent on buying toys in China. BUBU should find equivalents at home, and buy only what cannot be found here. And that case, government which is the larger consumer and spender, should take the lead. Unfortunately, I don’t this will happen.
Other initiatives should include:
1. Meeting CEOs and owners of the top 200 companies. The president should find time to dialogue, and most importantly, listen to challenges businesses are facing and act on them.
2. Pay suppliers
When business people asked to be paid for their supplies to Uganda government last year, cynicism accompanied the move. But now companies are collapsing because they took loans to supply government goods and services yet government has failed to pay. To save the situation, the president should give an executive order to prioritize paying suppliers since those companies are key to generating growth and protecting jobs.
3. Relax NGOs rules
NGOs have been over the years contributings millions of dollars to the Ugandan economy. Government pushed through terrible laws to restrict the earning of NGOs especially those seen as anti establishment. However, this money is an important jab in the arm for the economy to resurrect.
4. Business people should be on the forefront
Uganda happens to put the cart before the horse. Politicians and politics seem to be more important in this country. But, like politicians have realized or will realize soon, they flourish at the back and from the sweat of business people who toil to make the money that politicians misuse/swim in. Government needs to respect business owners and business community, more.
5. Tax holidays to support both small and big businesses to spur growth and consumption. More emphasis should be on employers of more than 1000 people.
6. Put money in agriculture. Bank of Uganda executive director Adam told NTV that, agriculture cannot be substituted for anything else if Uganda is to grow to middle income status. You cannot imagine the economy earned at least sh200 billion from beans and maize in 2014/15. It says a lot.
7. Stop foreigners especially Chinese from taking government tenders.
8. Help fix South Sudan the major market for Ugandan products.