Ugandans need to take stock of what has gone wrong in the economic area since NRM came to power in 1986 and to decide what development path they need to take since the Washington Consensus (WC) which the NRM government adopted lock, stock and barrel in 1987 has failed to deliver as expected and was abandoned in 2009. No credible alternative model has been developed by NRM regime.
To craft an appropriate alternative to WC we need to understand its major characteristics. Washington Consensus replaced Uganda’s mixed economy model with laissez-faire capitalism and the invisible hand of market forces that served as the engine of economic growth. The role of the state in the economy was reduced significantly.
Trade and financial liberalization, privatization of public enterprises, export diversification, macroeconomic stability and balanced budgets formed the new development paradigm. The equitable distribution of economic growth benefits was to be effected through a trickle down mechanism. The state was primarily concerned with maintenance of law and order, enforcement of contracts and protection of property rights. Uganda pursued economic activities in which it has the so-called comparative advantage namely production and export of agricultural raw materials. By 2009 it was concluded that the model had not worked as expected as shown below:
1. Economic growth had remained far below 9 percent required as a minimum to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015;
2. Trickle down mechanism had failed to distribute economic growth benefits resulting in skewed income distribution in favor of a few families already rich;
3. Trade liberalization had resulted in domestic manufacturing industries outcompeted and the economy de-industrialized;
4. High interest rates and high prices of imported intermediate inputs had constrained expansion or start of micro, small and medium scale enterprises that create jobs;
5. Absolute poverty had remained high over 50 percent;
6. Social conditions in terms of food security, quality education and healthcare, employment, clothing and shelter especially in urban areas had deteriorated;
7. Security conditions had deteriorated as desperate people committed crimes to make ends meet and prosperity remained a dream for the majority of Ugandans;
8. Accordingly, the Washington Consensus model was abandoned in 2009.
An alternative development model contained in the National Recovery Plan (NRP) which has been recommended by United Democratic Ugandans (UDU) an umbrella organization of political parties and organizations at home and abroad opposed to the NRM regime (and posted on www.udugandans.org) has set priority areas that include:
1. Focus on rural areas and agriculture where some 90 percent (depending upon how an urban area is defined) of Ugandans live and earn a livelihood. Commercial agriculture and manufacturing of agricultural produce and rural development in general has a high potential to create jobs and transform the structure of the economy;
2. Support and protect infant manufacturing industries from unfair competition until they are ready to compete regionally and globally;
3. Arrange for provision of social protection and human capital formation;
4. Promote sustainable development as an integral part of economic growth to save the environment for present and future generations;
5. Place Ugandans in charge of their development taking into consideration local and regional endowments;
6. Encourage development partners to support programs designed, owned and sustained by Ugandans.