Development is political

Author: Phillip Matogo. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The taxes in Uganda are so high that they should come with a health warning.  Really, then, the issue at issue is not salaries but the rising cost of living without a corresponding rise in the standard of living. 

How will the State pay good salaries if there’s no socio-economic transformation? Where does it get money from? When we took over the government, we were earning very small salaries for a long time, even now I earn a small salary,” President Museveni reportedly explained.

The President said these words last Saturday while passing out 413 secondary school head teachers at the National Leadership Institute, Kyankwanzi. Although the President is completely right in some respects, he is not so right in others. 

First of all, does the State pay good salaries where there is socio-economic transformation? In the United Kingdom, for instance, there is socio-economic transformation. However, the median civil service pay for the topmost government jobs is about two-thirds of the mid-market level for the private sector.

Furthermore, we cannot talk about a “good salary” without taking into account the cost of general living expenses. 

In Uganda, expenses such as housing, utilities, transportation, groceries, healthcare et cetera gobble up salaries faster than you can say “wages”. 

To compound matters, the taxes in Uganda are so high that they should come with a health warning.  Really, then, the issue at issue is not salaries but the rising cost of living without a corresponding rise in the standard of living. 

Second, the State being relied upon to pay high salaries presupposes a more command economy while we are moving in the direction of a private sector-led economy. 

This duality typifies a Keynesianism growing in the womb of a laissez-faire economy. 

Similarly, our politics reflects the self-same duality as the extent of government power is determined by how that power reproduces itself.

That is why I am free to write critically about the government, but unfree to make my criticism count. 

This cafeteria politics offers the illusion of choice with a democratic fare starved on a diet of negatives.

On the flipside, instead of seeking to grow government salaries from termite mounds to mountains; public-private partnerships must be encouraged.  Such collaborations between government agencies and private sector companies help finance, build, and operate public projects; along with the added benefit of tax reliefs for Ugandan companies. 

This supply-side economics, namely promoting economic growth by lowering taxes and decreasing regulation, would bolster investment and the economic development that comes with it. 

As a result, with more disposable income being available in the economy, money could be ploughed back for the State to fillip civil service pay to attract the right people for some of its most critical roles. That said, none of this can begin without our politics being fixed to approximate the unshackled nature of free market economics.  

We must appreciate that our politics and economics are Janus-faces of the same animal: development.  

So when one falls short, the other is equally abbreviated. 

To be sure, socioeconomic development is not a dog’s whistle summoning our politics towards good governance. It is a political instrument ensuring who gets what, when and for how long. 

Politics, after all, is the sum of our sectional interests at play in the public interest.

This is why we emphasize the primacy of politics in all fields of human endeavour.

Accordingly, our fiscal policies must not only be designed to increase aggregate supply, as opposed to aggregate demand, thereby expanding output and employment while lowering prices. 

These policies should also increase the supply of democracy, thereby expanding the output and employment engendered by Ugandan solutions arising from Ugandan questions. 

Again, democracy improves the standard of living by reducing the cost of running an overbearing state purpose-built to stay on top, by keeping the rest of us down. 

Mr Philip Matogo is a professional copywriter  
[email protected]