M7 should admit that his development policies haven’t worked in order to be able to make adjustments. But by refusing to admit he is continuing to make errors. He has now begun to come up with statistics about Gross National Income (GNI) and per capita income and increase in the manufacturing sector and energy production.
At the beginning of his presidency he came up with a comprehensive ten-point program whose end result was to end the suffering of the people of Uganda. He stressed ending, not reducing, poverty in Uganda. He stressed making schools work and produce quality and skilled workers. He would feed all Ugandans adequately. Diseases would be conquered and he would re-grow hair on balding Uganda hills. These were laudable goals.
But Museveni lost the way by embracing inappropriate neo-liberal policies of invisible hand of market forces, laissez faire policies, labor flexibility, austerity program and trickle down mechanism. He knew these policies had not worked in Chile and Ghana and he knew Tanzania was resisting them.
Then he picked foreign advisers and inexperienced NRM cadres who got lost in theories and experiments. He dismissed capable Ugandans because they were connected with UPC. He blocked return of well educated and experienced Ugandans in the diaspora. He preferred loyalty over competence. Then sectarianism set in and was accompanied by mismanagement of public funds and corruption. Development funds that were not stolen were diverted into security forces.
Museveni devoted much time on Great Lakes issues including helping to overthrow Bantu-led governments in Burundi, Rwanda and DRC and fighting in Sudan.
Now the time to harvest has come and Museveni finds he invested in wrong projects. He removed subsidies from agriculture, education and healthcare. He increased the price of fuel and kerosene. He abolished cooperatives and weakened extension services. Infrastructure was neglected and institutions began to decay.
He urged Ugandans to produce babies to the limit of their reproductive capacity and allowed migrants to flock to Uganda virtually unlimited. He chose to export food instead of feeding Ugandans. He urged Ugandans to flock to towns because that is where development opportunities were located.
Because of bad investments and choice of advisers and public servants, he was not able to deliver on promises of ending poverty, educating, feeding, clothing and sheltering Ugandans and keeping them healthy in a restored environment.
The economic achievements that were recorded particularly in the 1990s were not related to policies but to the excess capacity in industries, agriculture and labor that NRM inherited in 1986. That excess capacity is gone and that is why Uganda’s economic growth plummeted from ten percent in the mid-1990s to about 3 percent currently.
Museveni was told directly or through his advisers that austerity of the magnitude he went for combined with trickle down mechanism were going to produce more human suffering that he had vowed to eliminate. He didn’t listen to those voices he thought were sabotaging his programs and belonged to the opposition camp.
Out of desperation he is making even more serious mistakes including the idea to give peasant land to large scale farmers going against international opinion. The prime minister’s argument that large scale farmers are more productive than small holder farmers is false. It is not clear who gave him that advice. He has refused to elaborate.
The international community including G8, the United Nations, the World Bank and the NGO community support small scale farmers and have earmarked funds to support them including those in Uganda.
During the 64th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference in Bonn, Germany (September 3-5, 2011), it was reported that some 70 percent of people in developing countries depend on agriculture for their livelihood (In Uganda the figure is higher). It was also reported that 80 percent of world food is produced by small holder farmers. They are more productive than large scale farmers. It was noted that “The challenge therefore is to defend small family farms and promote ecological agriculture, not as luxuries, but as imperatives for both sustainability and poverty reduction … while countering false contentions that industrial agriculture [large-scale] can feed the world”.
We urge Uganda prime minister to drop the idea of forcing peasants off their farms in favor of large-scale farmers.
We urge NRM government to read what has been proposed by UDU as alternative solution to failed NRM policies in its National Recovery Plan accessible at www.udugandans.org.
Dwelling on aggregate figures of GNI and per capita income will only delay focusing attention on the right policies and strategies to get Uganda out of the hole in which it is trapped. Eric