Uganda’s development agenda in the 21st century

At the start of the twentieth century,
Ugandans were growing enough food and manufacturing a wide range of products according
to their comparative advantage that, barring natural disasters or temporary
man-made conflicts, enabled them to trade surplus in local and regional markets
and obtain what they needed. European travelers and explorers were struck by
the vitality, eagerness, intelligence and the life-enhancing quality of
Ugandans. They were dubbed the “Chinese”
and later the “Japanese” of

Winston Churchill was not only impressed by
the beauty of the land, but also by the fertility of the soils, the abundance
of water and the coolness of the air. Compared to other African countries
Churchill said “The scenery is different, the vegetation is different, the
climate is different and, most of all, the people are different from anything
elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of
Africa” (Sidney Taylor,
1967). He called
Uganda “the Pearl of
Africa”. He added that, one day,
Uganda would become the
great center of tropical production and play a most important role in the
economic development of the whole world.


State intervention in the economies of developed countries

In the second article on the NRM successes
and challenges which was published in the Weekly Observer, I pointed out that
because of imperfections in the functioning of the market forces, governments
have had to step in to correct those imperfections or to provide services that
do not fall within the comparative advantage of the private sector. I gave
examples of such interventions from developing countries.

Some observant readers pointed out that I
did not draw on examples from developed countries as well. They asked me to do
so if such examples existed in order to have a balanced presentation. This article
is designed to do just that with reference to the
United States of
and the United Kingdom – the two
developed countries that I am fairly familiar with.


Looking at the empty half of the glass

In my article on the interview given by the
World Bank’s chief economist for
Africa, I observed that
the interview covered the full half of the glass. I reasoned that in order to
give readers a balanced and informed picture, it was necessary to look at the
empty half of the glass as well.

In his budget speech on June 12, 2008, the Minister of Finance covered the full
half of the glass when he reported on the achievements of 2007/8 financial
year. In this article, I am examining the empty half of the glass namely the
social and environmental aspects that were not covered in the speech.


World Bank chief economist for Africa discusses Uganda’s progress

On June
4, 2008
Paul Busharizi and Sylvia Juuko of the New Vision published
an interview report with Shantayanan Devarajan the newly appointed World Bank
Chief Economist for
Africa. The interview covered a wide range of
economic and social issues. The chief economist, however, said that he was
looking at the glass half full.

In order to give readers a full picture, it
is important that the story about the empty half of the glass be told as well.
While it is true that
Uganda has had twenty
years of uninterrupted growth, this growth has on average fallen short of 7
percent – the minimum required to meet the Millennium Development Goals adopted
by World Leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000. The economic
growth has not improved social conditions as expected regarding food security,
quality education, healthcare, housing and clothing. For example, according to
UNICEF (2008), 32 percent of children under the age of five suffer moderate and
severe stunting, 20 percent suffer moderate and severe underweight and 12
percent of infants are born with low birth-weight, meaning that their mothers
are malnourished.

The benefits of economic growth have been
unevenly shared such that 53 percent of total household income has gone to 20
percent in the highest income bracket with only 15 percent going to 40 percent
in the lowest income bracket.


Observing the Human Right to Food

The United Nations General Assembly adopted
December 10, 1948 the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. In article 25, the Declaration proclaimed the
right to adequate food as an indispensable element of the right of everyone. It
also stressed that motherhood and children are entitled to special care and

In article 11 of the International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which was adopted by the United Nations
General Assembly in 1966 imposes on its States Parties the obligation to take
appropriate steps to ensure the realization of the right to adequate food for
everyone. Furthermore, State Parties recognize the fundamental right of
everyone to be free from hunger and make an obligation 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 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.