Today, Daily Monitor runs its final report on the effects of oil discovery in the Albertine region. It is important that as a country, we do not become worse off after profitable oil reserves were struck eight years ago. This means when Uganda joins the club of major oil producers in the next few years, it must guard against the oil curse.
Already, some countries are worse off with the oil resource than without it. And now, the Albertine region, which is Uganda’s oil and gas-rich industry’s zone, is showing both good and bad results. The prospects of wealth have drawn in speculators, job seekers and entrepreneurs. This has come with unemployment, but also strain on social services and soaring crimes. And prices of commodities have also skyrocketed. While this is good for marketers, it has increased rent, prices of food stuffs and the rates of other utilities, making Hoima expensive.
So policy makers should seize this early opportunity, manage this resource well and distribute fairly the profits, and develop other sectors. This demands measures to deliver good social services and economic benefits to all Ugandans.
The good news is that there are solutions for most of these challenges.
For instance, the huge stress on social services can be relieved through compliance by oil companies with social and environmental responsibility, or corporate social responsibility (CSR). As urban planner, Dr Amin Kiggundu Tamale of Makerere University, suggests, it should be now that the oil companies and stakeholders protect the interest of society and comply with good CSR practices. The companies should allow communities where they work to benefit from hospitals, boreholes, schools and health facilities so as improve quality of life of society at large.
Besides, with population outmatching social services, the region should opt for private public partnerships to set up social facilities. Also, government should plan satellite towns and provide amenities as electricity, water, and roads to draw away people and relieve stress on Hoima. Alternatively, As Dr Ibrahim Kasirye of Makerere University proposes, government should consider giving Hoima special status and extra funding, given its unique status, and anticipated growth so as to absorb the challenges.
Above all, government should focus more on people as the group most directly affected by oil activities.
Uganda should, therefore, emulate Ghana and push for a law that seeks to set up a local content development fund to enable citizens draw funds and compete in the resource.
To the government and stakeholders in the oil sector: Let ordinary Ugandans derive benefits from the oil resource. This would be the first step to balanced economic development and social transformation.
The issue: Managing oil resource.
Our view: Uganda should, therefore, emulate Ghana and push for a law that seeks to set up a local content development fund.