Every ninth day of October Uganda celebrates its independence day with the 58th Independence Day celebrations hosted scientifically at Statehouse Entebbe due to COVID-19 restrictions.
It was graced by President Yoweri Museveni under the theme ‘Celebrating Uganda’s steady progress towards economic take-off and self-sustaining economic growth’.
In the days leading up to the country’s independence, minister for the presidency Esther Mbayo released a statement that drew widespread opinion.
When asked, many Ugandans (at times depending on political affiliations) will tell you that “Yes we are independent because after all, there is peace, infrastructural growth, democracy and women empowerment”.
Many political commentators however differ.
“What is actually happening in Uganda is political independence. And if that status quo doesn’t change to economic independence, then we are doomed” said Professor Augustus Nuwagaba an international consultant on economic transformation.
Presidential aspirant Joseph Kabuleta assents to Professor Nuwagaba’s school of thought that economics must drive politics towards ‘take-off’.
“Let us reclaim our country and kin by choosing financial liberation for a financially liberated country is indeed an independent country” posted the former journalist-turned-pastor and now politician on his official Facebook account.
During that news briefing at the nation’s Media Center, a minister in charge of the presidency Esther Mbayo underlined what Uganda needs to do to attain self-sustaining economic growth.
“Achieving our destiny requires a deliberate, qualitative change in all aspects of our lives; especially, in the structure of our economy, the nature of our infrastructure, the education of our young people and acquisition of skills, and, above all, in our attitudes and holding firm to the values that define us,” Minister Mbayo said.
Makerere university business school’s policy analyst and researcher Dr.Ramathan Ggoobi concurs that indeed Uganda is on its way to achieving its destiny as noticed by the independent political decisions (and mistakes at times) taken in Kampala rather than during the past when London had to be consulted.
“Many youths are lucky; but as some Ugandans grew up, their leaders sought permission from the U.S. and others in the west to pursue simple things like import substitution that is now being encouraged to boost exports, increase income, reduce unemployment and boost GDP”
Professor Nuwagaba however disagrees with Dr.Ggoobi and the minister’s assertion because in his view, a country that still depends on a donor-funded budget, road construction left to China, export of expertise labor aplenty, and almost 80% of the ministry of health budget from the United States Agency for international development; can’t be called independent.
Uganda’s economic growth has averaged 7% over the last 30 years though many in the country earn slightly more than a dollar a day and live from hand-to-mouth earned from the informal sector.
The country also sustained single-digit inflation over a long time to date and the government will be implementing National Development Plan III and focus on strategic objectives such as enhancing value addition to the productive sectors, which include agro-processing, mineral led industrialization, oil refinery among others.
For these to be achieved, Dr.Ggoobi says government expenditure as a result of lucrative political offices should be cut and money saved directed to relevant services like health and education.
“Fiscal indiscipline leading to increased public expenditure has increased due to political mistakes. We seem to be ‘buying’ the peace we have expensively with gerrymandering increasing administrative units that have leaders earning big and envied by experts that are deserting trades like engineering and medical fields to pursue the political path at the expense of public health”.
In this era and time, despite some semblance of infrastructure, Ugandans still die of avoidable complications with the infant mortality rate as per 2019 still at a staggering 33.4%. Most of these deaths are a result of little/or no health service delivery and for sure how this happens day-in-day-out in an INDEPENDENT country provides more questions than answers.