Who is this economy growing for if not for the workers

Raymond Mujuni

What you need to know:

  • So, from those two data sets, the question to potently ask the government is who is this economy growing for if not for the workers who produce for it? 

For all of my life on earth, the Uganda economy has recorded positive growth, in the year before I was born, (1992) Uganda recorded perhaps its lowest growth 3.4%, only matched by 2020 (3%) which was a pandemic year. 

This growth is of course underlined by a volume of goods and services produced within the territorial boundaries of the country, economists call the GDP. 

It thus follows, that with sustained growth, should be a matched rise in the incomes of individuals [Maybe not]. The data available tells us that from the year I was born, (1993 for context) the rise in Gross National Income per capita – or the amount of money in each person’s pocket based on national income, has risen from a mere Shs657,000 Uganda to Shs3,212,000 million. 

Except all of these good numbers raise the most fundamental question, why don’t I feel that in my pocket – or the pockets of my friends? 

This week, this publication started off a chain of reactions with its reporting on some data collected by the Central Bank in 2020 on financial literacy – it might be little to note here that this column last week suggested government spend more time on BOU data. 

The two prominent headlines from that data were that only 1% of working Ugandans earn more than a million shillings monthly, in that story, a small line mentioned that close to half of the entire working population earn less than 150,000 Uganda shillings monthly. 

The second headline dug in more stating that half of the working population cared naught about how they spent their money. I’d hasten to argue, that if you earn 150k a month, you really can't have an opinion on how you spend it. 

I don’t believe in blindly worshipping data but I fundamentally believe that the science of data collection presents a real chance of arriving at the truth. It reflects the current state of events to their completeness – or at least to their relative completeness.  This particular set of data from the central bank is truly indicative of the population, the sample size is healthy enough to keep mathematicians in their seats and the intention behind collecting this data is noble. 

So, from those two data sets, the question to potently ask the government is who is this economy growing for if not for the workers who produce for it? 

If indeed, as the survey suggests that only 2 in 10 workers are able to sustain their lifestyle for a week after the loss of income, who then is really able to sustain it for a month, three months – or a year in an economy that doesn’t make as many jobs as the graduates it churns out?

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