We must save Entebbe Airport and our posterity

Ben Matsiko Kahunga 

What you need to know:


‘…..now this is  Rwongyerera-maganya…how did we get here sincerely…?...no this is a danger to our children and their children…must be nipped…doctors, now Chinese taking airport….we need urgent action….’

Mzee Mashurubu had been literally grieving over the strike by medical doctors, and as he settled into his seat during our monthly clan meeting, the newspapers hit him with the news about the Chinese taking over Entebbe Airport. Rwongyerera-maganya is what the English call adding insult to injury. It has its roots in the ancient Nkore-Karagwe fable of a woman who carried beer-bananas, to be cooked in the funeral of her father-in-law. The bitter beer-banana is never cooked. Delivering it to a bereaved family adds grief.  

So, this is what the airport story did to him. Before the official opening of the meeting, Mzee Mashurubu curtain-raised with a defence of the doctors’ strike. The medical profession and practice, he says, ranks among the noble ones since it handles human life. It therefore follows that there should be minimal disruption in its way, especially in our context. We are still plagued by diseases and ailments that long ago were eliminated in parts of the world that produce medicine…meaning no more investment in research for remedies to African diseases.  

He illustrated the plight of a medical doctor with a story of his doctor friend and her cousin-brother. Dr Milly, as is common practice here, brought her cousin Musoomoro, an S.2 drop-out, to seek opportunity in town. Within three months living with his cousin, Musoomoro had learnt his way around the neighbourhood. He borrowed Shs90,000 from Milly, and bought an old bicycle from the mechanic in the neighbourhood, at Shs 70,000. With this and a working capital of Shs 20,000, he ventured into fish mongering. Diligent and honest, he established a loyal clientele, thus a growing daily revenue stream.  

Four months into the business, Musoomoro had reached daily net earnings of Shs 60,000 which he saves religiously into a sacco in the same neighbourhood. All this while he works half-day, since he picks supplies early morning and delivers to clients according to a roster. By mid-day, his day is over, his workhouse bike washed, parked, saving the entire afternoon for sport-biking, confident of a monthly net tax-free income of Shs1,800,000. This is an amount his benefactor, Dr Milly, is not earning, all her degrees and experience notwithstanding.  ‘…we can’t put doctors into fish mongering…government must address the doctors’ plight. 

All we need is to earn the confidence of Ugandans through productive use of taxes…we will each pay taxes willingly…   enough government revenue to pay doctors, teachers, policemen, virtually everybody…Musoomoro is among the millions in the informal sector who are not taxed in a structured manner into the national coffers. ...yet with confidence in tax usage and everyone paying taxes willingly and diligently, we shall avoid this looming enslavement from infrastructure loans. Resurrecting Graduated Tax will widen the tax base beyond the current overburdened ‘formal’ sector, spreading the national responsibility to all Ugandans between 21 and 60 years.

He argues that for starters, the Civil Aviation Authority should remain exclusively on aviation licensing and regulation. Planning, development and management of airports should be under a different agency, or better a Directorate of Airports in the Ministry of Works and Transport. For the Chinese loan at hand, a Twetaase Fund 24,   financed through 5 percent levy on MPs’ gross earnings for 24 months, all bank transaction charges for 24 months, 1 percent of all phone call charges for 24 months, Environment Levy on fuel diverted for 24 months. This fund, over and above the current amortisation plan, managed by the Directorate of Airports, will see us saving Entebbe and our posterity. Bitter pill in the short run for our posterity. And we pick lessons.

Separation of airport business and revenue from aviation regulation, Uganda Airlines under outsourced professional management, will relieve the Chinese noose from us and our posterity. It is possible.

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