Speaking in Kampala at the launch of his wife Janet Kataha Museveni’s autobiography, My Life’s Journey, on Wednesday, President Museveni took a dig at those who rely on imported food stuffs and said he has little concern over currency fluctuations.
“For me I only eat traditional food. I don’t change,” he said. “When you have problems of imported food, for me am not bothered…I am not concerned because all the food am eating is local.”
The President’s comments will not offer any solace to traders and consumers of imported food and comes on the heels of a two day strike which entered its second day today. Mr Museveni said his menu is limited to homegrown food, something that cushions him from the vagaries of global currency wars.
Mr Museveni said that while he has heard the cries of his countrymen who say, “The dollar has gone up so what shall we eat?”, he is not bothered by the recent spikes in the dollar exchange rates.
The traders closed their businesses in protest at the rapid loss of value in the shilling, unfair competition and an apparent increase in the fee for trading licenses. The traders say they are also troubled because they pay taxes on imports to the country’s tax body in dollars rather than in shillings, exposing them to the swings in exchange rates.
Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde admitted that Cabinet was busy discussing how to combat the economic crisis but will need up to a month to work on the depreciating shilling. However, her comments appear to have done little to cool boiling tensions.
On Wednesday, Central Bank Governor Tumusiime Mutebile said the bank will not set any rate at which the shilling should trade against the dollar or any other currency, in large part due to government’s liberalization policy adopted since 1993.
By yesterday afternoon, the shilling traded at Shs 2,562 buying and selling at Shs 2615 against the dollar and traded at Shs 4,058 buying and selling at Shs 4,122 against the British pound.
Since the beginning of the year, the shilling has continued to lose ground against the dollar and other major currencies. Bank of Uganda has so far sold up to $150m (Shs 381.7b) to stabilize the country’s foreign exchange market but this has had little positive effect.