The narrow path can extract wealth from development

Matsiko Kahunga

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Development, as seen in infrastructure can therefore yield household wealth, triggered by the narrow path paradigm...

‘…yes, it is possible for development to trigger wealth. Development in infrastructure alone, with no household income, will not create wealth …will have no impact…President Museveni can pick a leaf from our president...take the narrow path …and all households in Uganda will have wealth…’  Dr Mugumya, our cousin on holiday from an Asian tiger where he works with a UN agency, was reacting to President Museveni’s new year address to the nation, Saturday  December 31, 2022. Three key related concepts stood out in the President’s address, according to Dr Mugumya. First is development, which in the President’s address, refers to infrastructure, notably roads, electricity, water.  These are established by the State. They are public goods for the benefit of all citizens. Another key concept is wealth and this was simplified as development at the individual household level; while the third concept raised is the narrow path, which the President says is what leads to heaven, as quoted from the gospel verse. These three hold the secret to our transformation and prosperity. The narrow path, in corporate lingo and practice, is what is called business unusual, going against the established practice, while in the sphere of development theory, it is called The Other Canon school. This school, argues Mugumya, is an antithesis to The Standard Canon school, variously called the Washington Consensus. The latter roots for a purely private sector-led development paradigm, with minimal or no State participation in the economy, while the former holds that the State must take an active dirigiste role in the economy.  And President Museveni says the NRM believes in the narrow path. We thus are in the right hands. All we need is a mutually-supportive combination of these three pillar concepts and prosperity will fall in line.

Development, as seen in infrastructure can therefore yield household wealth, triggered by the narrow path paradigm: the State leading nationalist entrepreneurs into creating wealth. ‘Our President took this narrow path and literally coerced national businessmen into investing in key select sectors and enterprises in partnership with the government investment corporation… and this is what Uganda needs to do here, beyond establishing infrastructure’, Dr Mugumya says. He has lived for close to a decade in this Asian country, so he spontaneously refers to its president as ‘our president’.

The development trajectory spearheaded by this leader has seen the country defeat poverty and join the ranks of respected industrial economies. The story goes that it all started with a Saturday afternoon casual stroll by the president, in a remote, endowed but poor corner of the country, where he has a private holiday and retreat home. Amidst the poverty he saw, the natives of this village harvested pods of a wild plant whose sap they used to fortify their wide brim palm frond hats.  The abundance of this thorny plant and its pods attracted the curiosity of the president and he instinctively summoned the vice chancellor of the state university with his botany professors.The scientists recognised the plant as the natural raw material for an ingredient in the tyre manufacturing process, a binder that fortifies coagulate rubber. And that afternoon stroll marked the turning point for this region. Through the state industrial corporation, the president summoned the top 70 entrepreneurs in the country and ‘coerced’ them into raising the essential capital to invest into a mega factory extracting this essential glue.

And the rest is a living history. ‘…this is the coercion that Uganda needs today’, Mugumya holds. The Presidential Investment Roundtable can be the fulcrum for this narrow path.