What you need to know:
- The flawed weight of Museveni’s logic becomes clearer when one reads The Independent Magazine of December 5, 2021. It quotes a survey carried out by the IGG together with the German Society for International Cooperation in various government departments. It reported that Uganda loses up to Shs20 trillion annually to corruption.
Fresh from the bush NRM leaders inundated Ugandans with leftist laced revolutionary lectures. They castigated the bourgeoisies comprador, the neo-colonialists puppets and their exploitative agents who were bleeding our resources through corruption.
President Yoweri Museveni declared that his revolutionary leadership would stop at nothing to eliminate all vestiges of the vice. These allegedly were perpetuated by past regimes that had recently been relegated to the garbage heap of history.
History has the stubborn habit of repeating itself. Soon there were reports that some of the liberators engaged in corruption. The earliest red flag was the missing money collected for the people of the Luweero Triangle where the liberation war was fought. Then there was the exercise of privatisation as the economy was being restructured. Then the Bank Paribus scandal.
Politicians like the late Basoga Nsadu who spoke ‘on behalf of the people of Busiki,’ Constituency made names for themselves by exposing these deals.
The defunct Weekly Topic, Uganda Confidential of the late Teddy Ssezi Cheeye, the New Vision and The Monitor plus other publications gave us a lot of detailed stories that left readers with no doubt that Uganda was still deep in the waters of corruption or sinking further.
It didn’t happen overnight. There were some bad signs. Those days Museveni held press conferences frequently at the VIP lounge of Entebbe Airport whenever he returned from foreign trips. One day Museveni became exasperated by a barrage of questions regarding corrupt officials in government and what he intended to do to them. An irritated Museveni declared that he despised people who talked about corruption as if it was easy to deal with it.
With time, Museveni and the NRM government in typical Orwellian fashion changed its tune. Like they were reading out of George Orwell’s Animal Farm the tune was now about the advantageous nature of contemporary corruption under the ideologically superior and clear headed NRM.
Museveni put on a brave face and declared that ‘the good thing’ about the ongoing corruption is that those dipping their hands in the public kitty were patriotic.
Unlike their deposed counterparts in the bad regimes of the past, they invested their money in the Ugandan economy. The corrupt were actually investors benefiting the country!
Uganda could turn a blind eye to their debauchery as a small price to pay in the quest to develop a middle class. The class would eventually spur the economy into the dizzying heights of middle income.
This trajectory would also have a political benefit for the NRM. It would own the middle class of its creation and selfishly have it on a short, tight leash. For instance it would be easy to dictate to such a class on whom to employ, or offer tenders and opportunities.
Furthermore enriching this class by handing it unfettered access to public funds would impoverish the many.
They would turn into powerless beggars, -always waiting for handouts. These sort of people eat hand to mouth and can die if they don’t work for a day. Leaving their low paying work to, say take part in political demonstrations is next to impossible.
With all that in mind when the Inspector General of Government (IGG) unveiled her strategy of carrying out lifestyle audits as a way of dealing with corruption, Museveni cautioned her to go slow.
The IGG was planning to task public officials to match their wealth to their earnings. Museveni feared it would scare the ‘good thieves’ who were investing their loot ‘here,’ into repatriating it abroad to the detriment of the economy and Ugandans at large.
The flawed weight of Museveni’s logic becomes clearer when one reads The Independent Magazine of December 5, 2021. It quotes a survey carried out by the IGG together with the German Society for International Cooperation in various government departments. It reported that Uganda loses up to Shs20 trillion annually to corruption.
Now Uganda’s budget is about Shs54 trillion. So as the Minister of Finance reads the budget every June, close to 40 percent is guaranteed to be ‘lost.’
Intriguingly most of the usual graft suspects are not known to own firms or industries engaging in production that provides incomes and employment to multitudes. These would then pay taxes and demand, plus buy goods and services. This would deepen financial inclusion plus expand economic activity.
The news makers do not appear on the list of top tax payers whose investments are sources of government revenue.
What happens is that many of them make very safe investments in real estate so you have an oversupply of unoccupied arcades, apartments and vast tracts of undeveloped land. They use imported materials for construction so they don’t really benefit the locals that much.
They also buy financial instruments like treasury bills or opt for fixed deposits. Some money is sent abroad. A good chunk may be kept under their beds or in their ceilings.
Because they are assured of easy money from their access to public finance, they spend with reckless abandon on ostentatious consumption often running after easy women.
The people envisaged to become the captains of industry through whom prosperity would trickle down are predatory consumers with a huge appetite for public funds.
They are not into the risky, painstaking game of setting up firms with long-term investment plans. Yet for industry to grow and develop requires investment in the best brains in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to keep in touch with current and advancing trends.
It is hard to see a Ugandan business person sending ‘another person’s child,’ (as an asset in their set up) to a university abroad to sharpen their skill set and return to help the entity grow. They would rather engage in low-level, value addition of semi finished products using simple or outdated technology.
‘Steal and invest at home,’ as an economic strategy is a spectacular failure that gives Museveni a bad name.