Anyone who has followed President Museveni’s 15 national addresses must have heard him insist that the lockdown and measures put in place to safeguard the public against the spread of Covid-19 would not hurt the economy, since work in agriculture and manufacturing has been allowed to continue.
Even after agriculture showed clear signs of distress, with a glut in the market for products such as eggs, matooke, milk, fish and chicken, the President insisted the economy would be fine.
The President’s argument has been that farmers can add value to their products, which would also provide positive linkages for manufacturing.
But the ministry of Finance showed in their report for April that the President was only ignoring reality.
The slowdown, which has so far resulted in the revision of Uganda’s economic growth rate from six to 3.9 per cent for the financial year ending this June, is a global problem.
The world over, countries and institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are predicting a recession so great, it can only be compared to the Great Depression of the 1930s.
To sort this problem, countries are providing cash handouts, subsidising companies to continue paying their workers, and in paying utilities in some cases.
Uganda’s problem, therefore, is that government has chosen to act like the ordinary person would not know how to wisely spend money.
The government is instead aiding big business, the same way it has always done while leaving small businesses and households to their own devices. Small businesses do not repatriate profits and poorer households shop abroad. This means this group would be a wise investment since it is the most reliable market for goods in Uganda.
Now that the government is receiving public donations and loans from the sudden goodwill of concessional donors such as the European Union, IMF and the World Bank, importing cars and subsidising big companies should not be the priority.
The economic report also showed us that inflation is above the 5 per cent target. We know that several Ugandans are struggling to feed themselves and their families. Early predictions on the impact of Covid-19 on Uganda by Finance minister Matia Kasaija showed that the number of poor people would be increasing.
All this should show the government that ordinary Ugandans need financial relief from bills such as rent, water and school fees.
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