Fuel prices: In Uganda, everyone has their turn to eat

Author, Nicholas Sengoba. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Now the lumpenproletariate will also find their space and lane in the set up. The look at the rich or those they think are doing well. If your home is too fortified for their daring, they will wait for you on the dark streets to hurl pavers and snatch your belongings while you bleed.

It is now all about fuel prices that have gone out of hand. It is not the first time and definitely not the last that prices of an essential commodity or service shoots unrealistically high.

Surprisingly many people are acting like it is a strange happening that is unheard of. But looking back in the last one year alone, this trend has been ongoing. Starting with January when we had an election. It was for the people at the grassroots. Mark you these people had just returned from their villages for Christmas.

The transport fare had almost gone up seven fold to ‘help’ the desperate move to and from their villages. Now those seeking their votes sold property and got loans from banks and sharks to appease them. Voters could eat from anyone and vote for anyone, betray the one who paid them to guard their vote, etc.

When the MPs went to Parliament they started off with sorting out their remuneration plus designing all manner of activities that would bring them allowances. That story will go on for five long years as they recoup their investment.

Then Covid-19 entered its second wave. It was the scene in which the owners of hospitals took to the stage.

We saw a night in the ICU going for almost Shs7 million. Then ambulance fees, oxygen drugs and all. It became common place to find medical bills in the range of Shs70m to Shs100 million even in cases where the patient went back home in a body bag. Since the health professionals urged everyone to take a vitamin rich diet, the price of fruits like lemon skyrocketed. At one time one lemon was going for Shs2,000.

The distressed buyer, anxious about catching Covid-19, had no choice but to fork it out.

Meanwhile, those offering funeral services who were charged with burying the dead were taking their bit. Levying all manner of special fees for three sets of protective gear, ‘high grade’ sanitizers and so on, they laughed all the way to the bank doing something quite mundane.

Owners of buildings rented out to traders had their share when businesses were allowed to open. Claiming they had bank loans to service, they raised rent in some cases and uncompromisingly, demanded for arrears for the months where the shops were closed. When the economy was opened up this year it was the turn of school owners to show us what they could do.

They created all manner of charges including building fees, Covid-19 fees, and school uniforms costing the equivalent of an average three-piece suit.

Now you have the owners of fuel companies tripling, in some cases quadrupling, the price of especially petrol. The shortage is purportedly caused by a strike at the border where drivers are contesting Ugandan protocols concerning Covid-19 testing.

Even the one who had stock has quickly raised their price to take advantage of the situation.

With time the sugar factories will break down needing repairs leading to a price hike. Then the cement factories will have a fi re or some excuse leading to scarcity and a more expensive bag.

That is Uganda for you. Raising prices when opportunity strikes or creating it is the mechanism that we have shaped to distribute resources.

It is the responsibility of those who manage the State to create a system that secures its wealth, manage it, and ensure equity in sharing it.

Now when those in charge decide to be inconsiderate when it comes to general good by simply grabbing for themselves first and then leaving what they can’t take for the rest, it soon becomes a national culture. You care for yourself first by creating your own ‘social safety net’. You callously squeeze those who come to you for what you produce or what you are in charge of. You do this with the knowledge that when it is the turn of your neighbour, they will do the same to you.

Your station provides you with the opportunity. So you go to the police or the courts of law for justice you will find all manner of malfeasance standing in your way with money being the only option to overcome the hurdles.

The government official will do the same. Creaming off their share to take care of their future when they retire with no care of what happens to the next person.

Now the lumpenproletariate will also find their space and lane in the set up.

The look at the rich or those they think are doing well. If your home is too fortified for their daring, they will wait for you on the dark streets to hurl pavers and snatch your belongings while you bleed.

That is how it works. When the effort to hold society together by creating an operating system that works equitably for all fails or is designed to fail in order to weaken society and make it easy to lord it over, it is time to grab from everyone for yourself.

Depending on how creative one is or on their ingenuity, it is just a matter of time that their turn to eat will come.

You blame yourself if you don’t use it well for it may be a long will before the chance strikes again. It is the turn for those pumping gas.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues

Twitter: @nsengoba

Nicholas Sengoba

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