Uganda’s experience in growth without equity and development

25 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: “Everyone has the
right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself
and of his family, including food, clothing and medical care and necessary
social services (such as the right to social security, to rest and leisure),
and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability,
widowhood, old age or lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All
children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social

11 in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states
that: “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of
everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family,
including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous
improvement of living conditions. The State Parties will take appropriate steps
to the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential
importance of international co-operation based on free consent. The States
Parties to the present Covenant, recognizing the fundamental right of everyone
to be free from hunger, shall take, individually and through international
co-operation, the measures, including specific programs, which are needed:

(a) To improve methods of production, conservation and
distribution of food by making full use of technical and scientific knowledge,
by disseminating knowledge of the principles of nutrition and by developing or
reforming agrarian systems in such a way as to achieve the most efficient
development and utilization of natural resources;

(b) Taking into account the problems of both
food-importing and food-exporting countries, to ensure an equitable
distribution of world food supplies in relation to need”.

in the bush waging a guerrilla war against the Uganda Peoples (UPC) government,
the National Resistance Movement (NRM) understood the meaning and importance of
article 25 in the Universal Declaration and article 11 in the International
Covenant. Accordingly, the NRM waged a ferocious campaign inside and outside
Uganda against the UPC government’s structural adjustment program in
collaboration with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and
other donors. The Movement considered the program out of touch with the needs
of ordinary people as called for in articles 25 and 11 respectively. The NRM also waged a well coordinated
campaign against the violation of human rights in Uganda. Eventually the IMF
and World Bank withdrew support from the UPC government contributing to the
overthrow of the government in 1985 with external support as documented by
Victoria Brittain.

Movement proposed a program of national unity, respect for human rights,
democracy and the provision of social services including adequate and balanced
food for everyone, schools to provide functional education, a health system
that would prevent or cure diseases throughout the country, adequate housing
and decent clothing and well paying jobs for everyone seeking work. Corruption
and sectarianism would be made history. And there would be room for every one
in the national tent. These proposals were compressed into the Ten-Point
Program of mixed economy in which the public and private sectors would work
together to realize the program that would transform Uganda into a modern
economy and middle class society. The Program was later expanded to fifteen
points. The Program was well received by all classes and all regions of Uganda.
Even those who had doubts soon joined the bandwagon and ended up in the
national tent.

Ten-Point Program was launched in 1986 when the NRM captured power. The Program
had a short life span – it lasted for about 15 months – and the mixed economy
model was abandoned under pressure from the donor community which did not
believe in a mixed economy that contained elements of socialism.

May 1987, the government abruptly changed course after it signed an agreement
with the International Monetary Fund which favored a neo-liberal or capitalist
development model. The government switched emphasis from basic human needs as
called for in articles 11 and 25 above to one of controlling inflation, raising
interest rates, balancing the budget, increasing and diversifying exports to
accumulate foreign currency, liberalizing and privatizing the economy and above
all promoting economic growth. The ministries of finance and development were
merged with broad powers, the minister of finance and the governor of the
central bank were removed heralding a new dawn. This switch resulted in
dismissing public workers, introducing user charges in education and health
sectors among others, reducing or ending subsidies on essential services and
allowing the market forces and the private sector to drive the economy while
the state took a back seat. The period
from 1987 to 1989 was devoted to a vigorous campaign to convince the public
that time had come to switch from the mixed to a capitalist growth model. These
efforts were rewarded at a seminar for parliamentarians and other stakeholders,
which took place at the end of 1989 in Kampala. The seminar gave a green light
to embrace the Washington Consensus.

massive donor support, debt relief, remittances by Ugandans living abroad and
the return of Asians the economy grew very rapidly, albeit from a low base,
reaching 10 percent in the mid-1990s. Contrary to expectations, the benefits of
economic growth did not trickle to the masses as expected, instead there was much
bubble up effect as peasants sold their properties to buy medicines and send
their children to school among others. The result was skewed income distribution
in favor of urban population and southern region and against the rural
population and the northern region. What about food security, clothing,
employment and natural resource use?

massive sale of food in local and foreign markets to earn cash and foreign
exchange has deprived households of access to adequate food intake in quantity
and quality. The result has been serious under-nutrition especially among
children and mothers. As a result 40 percent of children under five are stunted
and 12 percent of infants are born with low weight indicating that their
mothers are malnourished. This is not a good base for strong human capital
formation. Therefore the current policy of selling food needs to be reviewed
taking into account the needs of Ugandan consumers.

growth of the private sector has not been fast enough to absorb the retrenched
and new workers. Consequently the levels of unemployment and under-employment
are very high with all the adverse implications in terms of meeting the basic
human needs. In order to make ends meet theft and other forms of crime are on
the rise in both rural and urban areas. Signs of stress and frustrations are
also increasingly being expressed in domestic violence. The situation has been
made worse by the skyrocketing food prices which are putting women under
tremendous pressure as they try to put food on the table at least once a day.
The state needs to do something in the form of public works for cash or food or
subsidies to ease the pain until proper arrangements are in place. This
suffering will not be eased by market forces or the private sector.

poverty has made it impossible for the vast majority of Ugandans to buy new
clothes. They have resorted to used imported garments which they resent but
have no other choice. The importation of secondhand clothes has had another
unwelcome consequence. Uganda grows high
quality cotton which fed a once vibrant textile industry. The importation of
used clothes (and increasingly of cheap new ones from Asia) has undermined the
local textile industry which has in turn drastically cut back on its activities
including the purchase of cotton from farmers. The farmers have in turn lost a
valuable source of income and are reverting to a subsistence form of
survival. This is retrogression and not

economy is predominantly natural resource-based catering for domestic and
external needs. With population growth and increased production for exports
using extensive agricultural, fishery and forestry rather than intensive
methods, the resource base has come under tremendous pressure. De-vegetation,
soil and fertility loss, hydrological and thermal deterioration and low
productivity are clear manifestations of an economic system that is unsustainable.
The increase in the exports of fish, timber and other agricultural produce
besides domestic demands will result in serious and possibly irreversible
environmental degradation. The increasing emphasis on livestock herding
especially of goats for commercial purposes needs to be reviewed against the
negative impact on the country’s ecological system. While it is important to
take care of the interests of the present generation we should not forget those
of future generations.

sum up, as we prepare to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us revisit articles 25 of the
Universal Declaration and article 11 of the International Covenant and make the
necessary corrections in Uganda’s current development agenda so that all
Ugandans enjoy a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being
including food, clothing, housing, medical care and the necessary social
services. This requires formulating policies, strategies and plans of action
that combine growth with equity and sustainable development.