President Museveni has cautioned advocates of public-private partnerships (PPP) to trade carefully before rallying the private sector to invest in power generation, transport and financial projects.
Sharing what he termed as his terrible personal experiences on PPP projects in power generation and banking, President Museveni said private sector investment in cost pusher of Uganda should be ring-fenced. Cost pusher is when supply costs rise or supply levels fall.
“Private sector is welcome [in public-private partnership project], but caution needs to be observed. Cost pusher of the economy need to be ring-fenced,” President Museveni said yesterday at the launch of the High Level Inaugural PPP Conference in Kampala.
The three-day conference that drew experts in PPP projects from Africa, Europe and Asia, is aimed at awakening government and private sector spirits about the new market opportunities.
President Museveni said private-public investment in the power generation must be done with a clear understanding of a long duration within which to recover their money.
He said the International Monetary Fund and World Bank forced him to privatise Uganda Commercial Bank, promising a drop in interest rate, which did not happen.
“The interest rate is now at 23 per cent. So what happened? Unfortunately, the private sector is ashamed. They don’t give me answers,” he said.
He said the same groups came to him with proposals to privatise Uganda Development Bank over the same reasons.
“I said no. It is the only bank that is helping us to extend affordable loans to industries and farmers,” he said.
He added that private sector funding of Bujagali Hydro Electricity Dam did not cure the problem of high power tariffs, but exacerbated it, where the cost of a unit of power went to $13 cents and government had to subsidise power to the end users such as factories to save them from collapsing.
He wants government to prioritise the funding of railway projects other than the private sector for fear that investors might charge unreasonable amount of money to recoup their money hence impact on the transport costs.
He suggested that government should be allowed to access funds from pension and saving schemes to fund such projects.
Former prime minister of Kenya Raila Odinga said Africa is lagging behind on infrastructural projects due to lack of funding yet there is a lot of money in pension and saving schemes that is lying idle.
“We have found out that there is a lot of money lying idle. Several African countries have huge pension funds, huge saving funds, huge insurance funds which are idle. These funds would be used in infrastructure development,” Mr Odinga suggested.
Mr Odinga said only 5 per cent of those funds are needed to cater for Africa’s annual infrastructural demands.
Mr Odinga said if Africa is to develop, there is need to establish linkages through regional infrastructural development.
He cited the difficulty of Uganda trading with Central Africa Republic, which is a few miles away due to lack of linkages such as railway and roads.
Finance ministry apologises for sabotaging PPP conference
The State Minister for Finance David Bahati has apologised on behalf of his colleagues for distancing themselves from the organisation of High Level Inaugural PPP Conference in Kampala City.
Mr Bahati, who attended the event at Kampala Serena Hotel, said “I am apologise for what happened. There was a miscommunication.”
Finance minister Matia Kasaija, who is listed among the speakers, in a letter dated August 6 to President Museveni, indicated the conference is being convened by private individuals who are using government’s name, which has sparked off confusion and chaos.
“Given the above misrepresentations, I advise that Your Excellency, you disassociate yourself from the event,” he wrote.
United Nations representative in Uganda, Ms Rosa Malango, too stated on her social media platforms that they were not anyway associated with the event and accused the organisers of the event of illegal use of their logos.
Both President Museveni and former prime minister for Kenya Raila Odinga attended the conference yesterday and condemned action of people they said were bent on sabotaging the event that has good intentions.
“God forgive those who were sabotaging the event. Please don’t send them to geyena (hell). Forgive them Lord. They will repent,” President Museveni said.
Mr Raila said the participation could have been high hadn’t there been sabotage.
The organiser, Ms Beatrice Ikilai, a former worker in the Ministry of Finance, said she was overwhelmed with joy by the presence of President Museveni and Mr Odinga.