How public reacted to President address

A vendor sells foodstuffs on the streets of Kampala on February 2020. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Ugandans faulted the President for failing to practice what he preaches regarding frugality.

Several Ugandans have criticised President Museveni’s state of the economy address, with some saying he has lost touch with the realities on the ground.
The President on Sunday night told Ugandans to forget about tax cuts and subsidies to reduce the skyrocketing commodity prices.

The Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party on Monday said Mr Museveni has no moral ground to preach frugality when he is living luxuriously.
“If you look at Mr Museveni’s residence and office budget, you don’t have to be intelligent to know that he was yesterday (Sunday) preaching water but taking wine, saying we can take water because it is cheaper but with a bottle of wine in his hands. The whole of his speech was about that, ‘for you go and suffer, me I can’t suffer as a President’,” Mr Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the FDC spokesperson, told journalists at the party headquarters in Najjanankumbi, Kampala, yesterday.

Mr Ssemujju said Parliament last week passed a budget of Sh977b for the State House, which he said translates into Shs1.8b per day , and that the budget of his office is Shs147b, translating to Shs400m per day.
“Frugality means you cut expenditure on avoidable items. As the country goes through this crisis, Mr Museveni has given himself Shs140b for donations, Shs88b at his residence for classified expenditure, Shs70b for consultation services ,”  he said.

Mr Ssemujju also wondered how the President could attempt to explain an economic crisis that he has failed to handle.
“He said his government cannot propose the subsidies and tax exemptions because that would interfere with the country’s development agenda. I don’t know which Uganda he is talking about, people have parked vehicles and he says that helping them to go and work will interfere with the development agenda,”  he wondered.
Dr Sarah Bireete, the executive director of Centre for Constitutional Governance,  a legal and policy organisation,  said the President took Ugandans in circles without offering any solution.

“In summary, Kaguta Museveni speech on rising commodity prices was an explanation of the boiling frog syndrome. Ugandans had been “boiled slowly” about government’s decision to do nothing about their plight,” she tweeted .
Mr Silver Kayondo, a technology and business lawyer, said Mr Museveni was completely misplaced to have compared Uganda’s inflation rates with those of developed economies. 
He also said during periods of economic hardship, in economies like that of Uganda, government should always look at the informal sector, where solutions lie.
“It is misleading to compare our inflation with developed countries. For developed countries, governments pumped a lot of funds into the economy. Consumers cut down spending on goods and are spending more on travel  and luxury services. For us, we received just vibes. Only dololo,” he tweeted.
Mr Mbwatekamwa Gaffa, the Igara West MP, while appearing on NTV morning show on Monday, said he expected Mr Museveni not to offer any solution to the crisis.

“He just did what exactly I expected because the President Museveni I know has nothing new to offer Ugandans. He provides a very nice preamble, but no solutions. When he came to power, he promised Ugandans that all things were going to be manufactured here according to the NRM 10 point programme, but 36 years down the road, we do not even manufacture toothpicks or safety pins,” he said.
Mr Simon Ssenyonga, a lawyer, said Mr Museveni cannot talk about political accountability when he is not genuine.
“When you talk about political accountability in regards to following up on financial resources, it comes from the genuineness of the leaders. One of the causes of the biggest financial haemorrhage in Uganda has been the lack of a clear policy on incentivising,  especially investors in regards to tax exemptions,” Mr Ssenyonga said.

He also said the President cannot ask Ugandans to be frugal  when State House is always the biggest beneficiary of supplementary budgets.
“Whenever they bring the supplementary budget to Parliament, the biggest supplement is for the State House. Everyday, State House uses more than Shs2b. If the President is very genuine to Ugandans when he cautions them not to spend, then he would have been the first person to begin with,”  Mr Ssenyonga said.
We were unable to reach Mr Ofwono Opondo, executive director of the Uganda Media Centre and Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Dr Chris Baryomunsi,  for a comment by press time.