By Oweyegha-Afunaduula

Success and failure are not necessarily antagonistic. They are cyclic, one feeding into the other. They are just like life and death, which are also cyclic, one feeding into the other.  When you succeed, the next experience is failing, and when you fail the next experience is succeeding.

We can learn from both success and failure, and thereby improve our situation. If we don’t learn from success and failure, then we cannot unlearn and relearn. The aim should be to improve on success and reduce possibilities of unwelcome failure.

One thing is true. Most people, countries or institutions do not see success as an essential aspect of failure and vice versa. They hate failure, as if failure does not teach how to succeed. All they want is success. They get disappointed when they fail, and refuse to take lessons from failure.

Many people have committed suicide rather than face failure and make good out of it. Some institutions have wound up because they failed. But we should accept failure as a necessary evil, although we must not strategize to create opportunities for it to dominate. We should take it as sorhing that spurs or should spur us to do better.

De-regulation (the removal of restrictions and regulations) has failed to fulfill its promises of vigorous competition and rising production. The country is now heavily dependent on foreign “aid” rather than domestic production.

Competition is being undermined by Government itself, specifically the Presidency and State House ( the official home of the First Family). These prefer certain economic actors and spoon-feed them by availing them with free money, free land, free electricity, free water, no taxes, – all at the expense of indigenous economic actors.

Businesses of political businessmen and business women beat whatever deregulatory laws are in place to avoid competition and cheat the citizenry. Besides, whatever deregulatory laws are in place have left consumers at the mercy of a volatile and insensitive market place.

Life has become difficult for the absolute majority of Ugandans because business actors seem to have connived, or are conniving to rob citizens to the bone, often in league with preferred foreigners in business.

Liberalization, which in Uganda involved relaxation of government controls in economic terms, not political terms, has meant that it is not entirely successful. Politicians in power have often undermined it with their own choices in trade and business.

For example, while it is government policy to trade and do business with any country competitively, President Tibuhaburwa Museveni has just announced that Uganda will engage in (failed Barter Trade) with Iran.

Besides, increasing Business and Trade in Uganda, and between Uganda and other countries is now almost the exclusive right of a small group ethnically connected to the occupiers of State House or those connected to them economically, politically and socially.

Liberalization is a failed project in Uganda. It continues to be mentioned because it helps conceal the truism that trade and business in Uganda and between Uganda and other countries are largely in the hands of the First Family and those connected with it socially, economically and politically.

Privatisation, the transfer of everything public to private ownership and control (which is robbery from the poor) was, in 2015, pronounced failed in Uganda by the President of Uganda, Tibuhaburwa Museveni.

That was 20 years after World Bank and IMF enforced it. All that time the President defended it as the best approach to economic development. Even then the President and politicians in Government continue to evoke it to justify their ineffectiveness to intervene when citizens demand that Government acts to relieve their suffering at the mercy of private actors, as if it is a success story.

When told that privatisation is disadvantaging indigenous business, the President defends it when long ago he admitted it was not working and is not working. The beneficiaries of dysfunctional privatisation are the business entities preferred, floated and supported financially by the President with public money, free land, tax holidays, free electricity and free water, or those private individuals connected to power.

This cannot be privatisation.  There are claims the firms taken as islands of privatisation in Uganda are propped up and protected by power, however much their activities hurt the citizens because power has special interest in them.

A good example, is Roko which works in other East African countries where it does not get favours from power, but in Uganda Uganda it does, even when its performance meteorically falls to intolerable levels.

Today, the President wants Parliament to allocate some 200 billion shillings to Roko even when the number of unfinished Government projects entrusted to itto construct  has risen to an intolerable level.

When it would have been wiser to give the money to UPDF Construction firm, whose performance has been rising from Government Project to Government project, the President is ignoring it as if it does not exist or has not performed.

There also very many other construction firms of indigenous Ugandans that have performed better than Roko, but the President is by-passing them. Of course, if the President does not consider them as useful to the economy, they cannot be supported with public money the way the President wants Roko to be supported.

In spite of the failure of the four principles of neoliberalism in Uganda, the World Bank and IMF are still very much at the centre of Uganda’s economy. The reason is that the NRM government opened the avenue for them to pump more  money in the economy and possess it in terms of loans.

Uganda can no longer do anything, including paying salaries, without loans from both World Bank and IMF, but also from China. For example, following the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020, the two IFIs came in with another Uganda Economic Recovery Programme. A lot of money has been pumped into the economy, ostensibly to manage the pandemic and spur the economy.

However, on the ground little has been registered as development, transformation and development of our health sector and other sectors of the economy. Instead we saw lots of construction of skyscrapers, hotels, arcades, petrol stations and supermarkets.

Many believe money got as loans ended up in the hands of unscrupulous people. However, power believes corruption builds the economy. The question persists: “Who in foreign aid helps who?” It continues to be relevant in the case of Uganda.

The Era of Presidentially-dominated Projects is not mutually exclusive from the Era of World Bank/IMF dominated Projects. Ever since the application of the Principles of neoliberalism failed in Uganda,  the Government of Uganda propose projects and the two IFIs provides the necessary finance to support them.

Unfortunately, the majority of the projects fail because of poor management corruption and failure of the two IFIs  to adhere to World Bank’s “Social and Environmental Guidelines”

This way, in Uganda, the two IFIs have become like the China Development Bank (CDB), the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Sinosure, China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation ( CECIC)  and China Export and Import Bank (CEIB), all of which are unbothered about human rights abuses and social and environmental impacts of the projects they support.

This explains why President Tibuhaburwa Museveni has preferred Chinese financial support of the projects he initiates, such as roads, railways, Kampala-Entebbe Highway and Entebbe Airport. Unfortunately, the easiness with which President Tibuhaburwa Museveni secures Chinese loans has led to overindebtedness of Uganda.

Apart from being at the centre of international finance coming into Uganda via loans and grants, President Tibuhaburwa Museveni is at the centre of money moving between the Parliament of Uganda (which approves funds for projects, programmes and institutions) the economy; Treasury; the  Parliament of Uganda and State House; the Parliament of Uganda and the programmes and projects that he personally initiates and. Ecome cast as Government programmes and projects. Many of them have collapsed but many that survive operate below capacity at very high cost to the tax payers of Uganda.

Money draining presidentially-initiated projects that have collapsed include: Bonna Baggagawale and Emyooga. Those that are operating below capacity at very high cost include Bujagali Dam and Operation Wealth Creation (OWC).

In many cases, money is released even before their feasibility is assessed. When the money is released, those in the decision chain say, “The President has directed”. What this often means is  that normal project process will not be followed.

Therefore, the overriding factor responsible for the high failure rate of Government projects is that the President of Uganda, Tibuhaburwa Museveni, has positioned himself at the centre of the process of each project, making them more or less political projects.

This has obscured the normal project process phases of initiation, planning, execution, monitoring/controlling and closing. Sometimes projects are initiated even before they get parliamentary approval, because the President of Uganda has desired them.

Many are managed by people who are not professionals or experienced in managing projects, but whose main justification for being in charge is either royalty or interconnectivity to the powers that be – politically, ethnically or by kith and kin.

A lot of money that would otherwise be invested in development, transformation and progress of Uganda’s communities in particular and Uganda in general is being invested in potentially failed projects or ending up swindled by people not committed to the projects initiated by the President.

If we are to effectively combat corruption and wastage of public resources we must “depresidentise” Government projects, allow institutions to work and ensure the normal project process is followed and managed by professionals, not nicompoops.

When a project is proposed, we should rely on our intellectual capital to publicly debate the pros and cons of the project. Parliamentary debates are not enough because they are of very poor quality, if they take place, and based on the dictum that “What the President Desires Cannot be Contradicted”.

In one sentence “We must deburden development with Presidentialism, which is responsible for militarizing development projects and institutions that used to effect development professionally”. Otherwise myths will continue to dominate development in Uganda to the detriment of Ugandans and our country.

For God and My Country

The Writer is a Ugandan Scientist And Environmentalist

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