Friday March 11 2016

The 10th Parliament must be the sieve for our future

By Matsiko Kahunga

In her upcoming book, The Family Table, Ugandan motivational speaker, trainer and mentor, Ms Lydia Amuge of Winning Choices, underscores the role of generational pillars in family lineage transformation.

She refers to them as transition leaders, not in the sense of being transient or temporary, but rather in the sense of being sieves that prevent dregs of past generations from spilling into future generations.

As our newly elected MPs warm up for the August House, our prayer to them is to play that historical role of being generational pillars in the history and destiny of Motherland Uganda.

The starting point is to have an individual and collective mindset of being the sieve that will prevent all our past and present dregs from spilling into our future. The dregs that the 10th Parliament must sieve are immense but not insurmountable.

With our past being piggish, our present rattish and wolfish, you will appreciate that you need a total paradigm shift to give us hope for a future which we now cannot clearly picture.

The primary dreg to be filtered is unemployment. By the way, it is no longer youth unemployment, but the menace cuts across all working age brackets, including retirees.

There are three key sieve holes that need tightening to ensure meaningful investments that create jobs across sectors all over Uganda.

The Counterfeits Bill already in Parliament must be passed and followed up for enforcement. The definition of counterfeits should be expanded to include used goods, notably textiles and leather products.

Simply picture the tens of thousands of jobs we will create when we replace the current factory rejects, discards and cast-offs, with locally manufactured ones.

A regional strategy at EAC level will yield better results than a lone-ranger Ugandan effort. The Committee on the National Economy should as a matter of priority establish a ‘dream team’ drawn from the relevant institutions to work out this strategy; in liaison with similar teams is the EAC partner States.

Related to this is an amendment in the investment law, which will prevent manufacturers from being their own distributors, wholesalers and retailers. You are familiar with the practice where retailing is carried out at factory level.

The post-production value chain in a manufacturing process is that manufacturers have territorial distributors, who supply wholesalers, the latter supplying retailers.

This is how opportunities and jobs will be created if the current vertical integration that establishes value chain monopolies is broken. Not easy dreg, but must be sieved.
Linked to the above is the abolition of foreign direct investment in retailing, both small and large-scale.

With EAC investors considered domestic investors, this will not affect firms from EAC partner States in large-scale retailing as it exists.

Foreign direct investment should be limited to manufacturing, thus providing the missing capital and technology. Preference would be in partnership with local investors.

Dreg number two is our sick health system. This, besides assuring us a healthy life, has great potential for investment and employment in direct and support sectors. The secret here is simple, if we decide to keep it that: simple.

Shelve the debates, studies, stakeholder consultations as has been the practice. All you need is reactivating the shelved public health insurance debate and give it a simplified approach - for salaried Ugandan, a percentage deduction at source.

For informal sector Ugandans, a graduated development tax will do the magic. Collected by local governments from every Ugandan (male and female 18 years and above save students), 20 per cent of this goes into the National Health Insurance Fund.

Mr Matsiko is a management and development consultant.