Predictions: 2012 will be worse than 2011

Sunday January 1 2012

Streets in Kampala were littered with fire as

Streets in Kampala were littered with fire as city dwellers demonstrated against the high cost of living. PHOTO BY JOSEPH KIGGUNDU 

By Timothy Kalyegira

My opening sentence was: “We can be sure for example that most Ugandans will complain about being short of money as a result of overspending during the Christmas 2010 holidays and festive season.” The same sentence can be made for 2012, only a little more pain it will be because of the inflation and high fuel prices.

In that forecast for 2011, I mentioned that “Whoever wins the February election (especially if it is the NRM), there will be plenty of drama on the national political landscape brought about by the emergence of the private (or independent) in the 2010 election primaries and campaign…Either way, an ugly situation awaits the NRM after February 2011…”, my prediction stated.
Sure enough, that drama came in mid 2011.

Ministers Kabakumba Matsiko, Sam Kutesa, Mwesigwa Rukutana, John Nasasira stepped from their dockets in 2011. The campaign against corruption was driven not by the opposition FDC or DP, but by several young NRM legislators and an independent, Gerald Karuhanga, the climax coming in the alleged Tullow Oil bribes.

I added: “To appease this garrison of the NRM disgruntled, to find them money, jobs and tenders, government hospitals and schools will go for a further five years without the basics, Kampala City will remain without street lights and potholes on the roads will become trenches and pits.”
All that happened. At one point, Entebbe’s Grade B Hospital even had to shut down because it did not have electricity or water.

That was the forecast for last year. I could decide to lazily submit the same article to the Sunday Monitor and the forecasts of 2011 that came true would remain true for 2012. Uganda has reached the stage of stagnant predictability.

Most of my predictions for 2011 came to pass. That is a good feeling as a writer, but what then? Did getting predictions right improve Uganda? Did it help the business community to plan better? No it did not. That is why end of year or beginning of year forecasts in today’s Uganda no longer matter. We cannot act on or plan around them.

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One cannot do much long-term planning and reading from a forecast that corruption will continue unchecked does little to help one adjust one’s estimates in 2012.

All through 2012, the media will continue debating the corruption, abuse of office, decaying public infrastructure in response to events, rather than shaping them. That is what happened in 2011.

The media kept reacting to statements by this or that politician, this or that denial, scandal or power struggle rather than stand back and lead the country in the direction it should take.

Since 2012 is Uganda’s 50th independence anniversary, the media will take a more historical view of Uganda’s problems. One way out of the monotony of national news that revolves around President Museveni’s rule and that of his henchmen is to start widening news coverage beyond the “big men” who steal in Kampala.

Uganda is going to remain what it has been since political stagnation set in starting in 2004. Each of the next four years will be like any of the years from 2004 to 2011.

The media will have to find other ways of gathering and defining what makes news, beyond responding to each and every dramatic event around teargas, the arrest of an opposition politician, the resignation of a politician and statement by the President.

For example, while it made sensational reading and amusing bar and online talk to follow the Amama Mbabazi, Hillary Onek and Sam Kutesa oil saga, had some of that newspaper space been devoted to a rising business in Iganga or a model school in Kilembe, that media coverage would have done much greater, long-term good to these small communities than endless speculation about “Will he resign or won’t he resign?”

What really changed?
Now that we saw ministers resign, did that increase the income in our pockets, bring street lights to Kampala or stop the load-shedding?
When we look back at the major news of 2011, a year that proved even more dramatic than 2005 and 2006, it becomes clear that dramatic news, by itself, does not shape a country.

The drama around the arrest of FDC president Kizza Besigye came and went, the spray-painting of UPC leaders pink, the Gilbert Arinaitwe scene with a hammer smashing Besigye’s car windows, the parliamentary debates on the alleged Tullow bribes --- all these came and went but it changed little for the average Uganda.

This shows that dramatic events are, of course, news and should be covered. But they should not alone be the centre of news. The news must have a functional role. How much real news and national trends went unreported as the Ugandan media focused nearly all its front-page and headline attention on the scandals and absurdities of the “big men”?

Best wishes for 2012.

What Kalyegira wrote at the start of 2011

The world financial then world economic crisis that started with the collapse in September 2008 of the giant American investment bank Lehman Brothers continued into 2010 and Europe is bracing itself for 2011 as the year of economic austerity and budget cuts.

The US economy, the world’s largest, is not expected to recover from net recession until about 2013 at the earliest, that is if at all. Since Uganda is heavily dependent for budgetary support, aid projects, remittances from Ugandans largely based in the economically-stricken West, and direct foreign investment on the West, it can be assumed that 2011 will see a slow drying up of money from the West into Uganda.

This trend was already underway in 2010 with the continuing depreciation of the Ugandan currency, the shilling, against the US dollar. The Uganda Revenue Authority reported a short fall in revenue collections in 2010.

With the poverty so widespread in Uganda and competition, not much thought is required in predicting that the five telecom companies will take their price war into 2011, except this year it could extend into Internet tariffs.

All through 2011, the US diplomatic cables published by the WikiLeaks website will continue to roll out. There is much that is still unknown about what is said about President Museveni and his government officials. However, the little we glimpsed into in 2010 indicated that there will be much for Museveni to fear from Libyan strongman Col. Muammar Gaddafi even if Museveni remains in power after the February election.

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