Sunday May 4 2014

Writing a column the Twitter style

By Timothy Kalyegira

A print newspaper column as Twitter updates
This week, not much to write, so I have decided to pen this Sunday Monitor piece in the 140-character format of the social media site Twitter.
Twitter’s share price slumps
Shares in Twitter stock itself fell sharply on the NASDAQ index in New York, with investors worried about its stalling growth. Tough times ahead.
The crisis over Ukraine is deepening and the confrontation between the West and Russia is steadily returning the world to the Cold War era.
The chairman of Uganda National Examination Board, Mr Fagil Mandy, resigned last week over the reappointment of Matthew Bukenya as Executive Secretary. Another body plagued by Uganda’s politics.
The US economy still weak
The American economy barely grew by 1 per cent in the first quarter of this year, despite billions in a Federal Reserve stimulus. Is this turning into a Japanese stagnation?
South Sudan crisis rages on
As some of us predicted last December, the South Sudan civil war was going to last for years. Last week, the conflict became cast in stone.
Getting tired of Ugandan pop music
I am tiring of Luganda as the lingua franca of Ugandan music these days. The low life themes and artistes behind the music degrades Luganda.

This, by the way for those who are not on “social media”, is the way we communicate online. Twitter confines the user to a maximum of 140 typed characters.

Often, the “tweets” (as the messages and posts are termed) come across as incomplete thoughts or more often than not, nonsensical. But that’s what the world has become today.
To expand further on the above tweets, there is a growing feeling in the digital technology industry that the share price and other valuations of many of the large technology companies, such as Facebook, Apple and Twitter are much higher than is justified by their revenue stream.

A bubble is about to burst as it did back in March 2000, warn many experts. The steep fall in Twitter’s share price last week signaled this growing concern.

But there’s another crisis looming. This is the “subprime” lending in the US, the world’s largest economy. In the years leading up to 2007, subprime loans were given to the public to purchase homes. Now it is to purchase cars.

The term “subprime” in this use, refers to loans given to people who do not have a solid enough financial standing or a questionable record of repaying loans.
Bloomberg TV reported this on May 1 and if true, we should prepare ourselves for yet more economic collapse soon in America.

As for Ukraine, that friction between the West and the Russian Federation is starting to go a step further than a war of nerves and mind games and into actual armed fracas and encounters.

No matter how much the United States and the European Union tighten sanctions on Russia, Moscow remains unmoved. These are people who have endured decades of winter and economic crisis and hardship to them is nothing new.

We have a crisis on our hands that we in Africa will eventually start experiencing directly, as happened during the 1945-1990 Cold War.

When it comes to the resignation of the veteran educator and recently board Chairman of the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB), Fagil Mandy, there is no surprise.

Like most public institutions today with any connection to the government, intrigue is the way UNEB is run. The competition to be listed as one of the country’s top performing schools in the three annual national exams, at a time that education is no longer just a service but also a business, inevitably fraud had to come in the picture.

There are persistent rumours of certain schools paying officials at Uneb to mark or rank their schools favourably, something Mandy said he had come to stamp out.

Sure enough, on “orders from above”, meaning orders from President Museveni, the Executive Secretary of Uneb, Mr Matthew Bukenya, had his contract extended by Museveni.

Mr Museveni has become the appointing authority for every public position, major and minor, in Uganda today. Although the 1995 Constitution in theory stressed the reduction of presidential powers, today Museveni enjoys (and many would say abuses) more powers than the powers by any head of state under the 1962 and 1967 constitutions combined.

The President is ruling Uganda virtually by decree, even though that spirit of decree is framed in legal terms.

To the “tweet” about the US economy, think about it this way: about one trillion dollars have been pumped into this huge economy as emergency intervention since the September 2008 world financial crisis.

A monthly buying up of bonds and other financial instruments by the U.S. Federal Reserve, America’s Bank of Uganda, and interest rates at nearly zero percent and still the economy’s growth and recovery are at best weak and the number of unemployment benefit claims rose by 14,000 to the late 300,000s last week.

We have to ask, given all this: what must life be like for the ordinary, struggling American --- the teacher, waitress, policeman, kyeyo African and supermarket attendant?
Those who never went to America for “green pastures” before 2004 should forget about ever going there. Economic difficulty now seems to be turning to a permanent feature of life in the United States for the ordinary people.

We are already feeling it in Uganda where spare euros, dollars and pounds to send to us by money transfer services are harder and harder to come by.
That’s it for this Twitter-like column for this week.