Growth should be at the heart of development in Uganda

Policy development should be inclusive. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • More and better research on the drivers of growth will be needed to improve policy in Uganda.

Historically nothing has worked better than economic growth in enabling societies to improve the life chances of their citizens, including those at the very bottom.’

Economic growth is the most powerful instrument for reducing poverty and improving the quality of life in developing countries. 
Both cross-country research and country case studies provide overwhelming evidence that rapid and sustained growth is critical to making faster progress towards the Millennium Development Goals – and not just the first goal of halving the global proportion of people living on less than $1 a day.

Growth can generate virtuous circles of prosperity and opportunity. Strong growth and employment opportunities improve incentives for parents to invest in their children’s education by sending them to school.  This may lead to the emergence of a strong and growing group of entrepreneurs, which should generate pressure for improved governance. Strong economic growth therefore advances human development, which, in turn, promotes economic growth.

But under different conditions, similar rates of growth can have very different effects on poverty, the employment prospects of the poor and broader indicators of human development.

The extent to which growth reduces poverty depends on the degree to which the poor participate in the growth process and share in its proceeds. Thus, both the pace and pattern of growth matter for reducing poverty.

Uganda needs a successful strategy of poverty reduction, and must have at its core measures to promote rapid and sustained economic growth. The challenge for policy is to combine growth promoting policies with policies that allow the poor to participate fully in the opportunities unleashed and so contribute to that growth. This includes policies to make labor markets work better, remove gender inequalities and increase financial inclusion.

For example, Asian countries are increasingly tackling this agenda of ‘inclusive growth’. India’s most recent development plan has two main objectives: raising economic growth and making growth more inclusive, policy mirrored elsewhere in South Asia and Africa. Future growth will need to be based on an increasingly globalised world that offers new opportunities but also new challenges.  

New technologies offer not only ‘catch-up’ potential but also ‘leapfrogging’ possibilities. New science offers better prospects across both productive and service sectors.

Future growth will also need to be environmentally sustainable. Improved management of water and other natural resources is required, together with movement towards low carbon technologies by both developed and developing countries. With the proper institutions, growth and environmental sustainability may be seen as complements, not substitutes.

More and better research on the drivers of growth will be needed to improve policy in Uganda. But ultimately the biggest determinants of growth in a country will be its leadership, policies and institutions.

Ambrose Byamugisha Muhoozi,
Managing director , Ambrosoli Consult Uganda Limited    [email protected] 

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