By Amon Mbekiza
Perhaps buoyed by Ugandan journalist, Andrew Mwenda’s hypocritical article about the current crisis in the country, the Sunday Vision of September 18, 2011, quotes Museveni explaining the crisis as ‘increased consumption due to a growing consumer middle class’. And the sinker lies in this same argument by the president: ‘increased consumption’, thus a consumer middle class. What the president does not tell us and the journalists he addressed did not raise, is that this consumption by Museveni’s middle class has two destructive ingredients: spending ill-gotten money on imported consumer goods. These are the two sinkers that we are blind to, and which our leaders are branding signs of success, instead of worrying about them as destructive cancers and trends.
One major indicator advanced by our leaders is the increased number of vehicles on our roads. What they do not tell us is that these are literally baggage that the Japanese are off-loading from their system as they go hitech into more economical vehicles, thus off-loading guzzlers onto Uganda. We have more vehicles, not because we are getting richer, but because the Japanese are getting richer and more hitech: thus the cheap ‘brand new, posh’ cars on our roads, since Japan no longer recycles old vehicles to get components for new ones. We are actually the biggest consumers of mitumba (second-hand) vehicles globally, with 99% of the vehicle market in Uganda being mitumba. In a producer economy, this ‘middle-class’ consumption would be a boon to the economy. Because for every truck or bus bought, this translates into thousands of jobs along the value chain of the various linked industries and sectors involved in its production: steel, tyres, glass, paint, electrical, electronics, direct and indirect services. This is where middle class consumption in a producer economy makes sense. This where Kenya beats Uganda and will stay miles ahead, unless we rethink our strategies. Even with simple groceries, only 1.2% of groceries on the shelves of super markets are Ugandan-produced. Even eggs and green vegetables are imported. We produce 0.001% of our textile and leather needs. All shopping arcades are full of imported mitumba, rejects and fakes. Yet for every one shirt bought, 1,700 people are employed in the linked and cross-linked value web. Studies into the emergence of economic powers tell us that Spain and Portugal (currently two members of the euro zone’s PIGS Club) once dominated world sea trade. The ditching came because of consumption economics. A middle-class, spending ill-gotten wealth and money begged elsewhere can never be an engine for growth. The ‘posh’ cars, mansions, shopping sprees, showbiz education…e.t.c are identified with civil servants working in ‘projects’, ‘connected fellows’, employees of ‘civil society’, all of which are linked to begged dollars or earned through patronage institutions a la Heritage, Umeme, Uganda Railways, Chogm, et al. True, we have a middle class, but it will not transform Uganda. THIS IS WHERE OUR OPPOSITION IS FAILING US: FAILURE TO PROVIDE CREDIBLE, FACT & FIGURE-FILLED ANTI-THESIS TO UTTERANCES OF THIS NATURE
On the political economy of the districts, if we are to go by Museveni’s emancipation theory, then we are set to have 52 or less districts. His major variable in donating districts , according to what is reported, is a common language. Based on this, Buganda should be one district, Bunyoro one district, save Kiryandongo, which is largely Luo-populated; Busoga should be one district; Nkore-Kigezi ( save for Kisoro) should be one district; Toro should be one district; Acholi should be one district; Lango should be one district, Teso should be one district et coetera. This, even if we go to ’emancipate’ the Kakwa and the Labwor, through separate districts for them, will see us have a maximum of 52 linguistically distinct districts. You score on this one, Mr President. Parliament, please take up the formula: common language!!!!!!!!!!!
As earlier argued, Uganda’s problem is easy to fix: all it requires is sincere and honest leadership from us all. Simple.