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HomeOPINIONS AND COLUMNSOWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA: Is Uganda Really Too Poor To Pay It's Civil Servants Well?

OWEYEGHA-AFUNADUULA: Is Uganda Really Too Poor To Pay It’s Civil Servants Well?

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By Oweyegha-Afunaduula

The following 45 countries were still listed as least developed countries by the UN as of December 2023 Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Kiribati, Laos, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, East Timor, Togo, Tuvalu, Uganda, Tanzania, Yemen, Zambia. Uganda is among them.

Although Africa is extremely rich in terms of natural resources, it is extremely financially poor compared to the other Continents. According to the World Bank’s latest data, the poorest countries in Africa by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita are mostly located in sub-Saharan Africa.

The top 10 poorest countries in Africa, according to the World Bank, are mainly those that have suffered from political instability, conflicts, and a lack of economic development. The have high poverty rates, low life expectancy, and poor education outcomes.

Country and their Gross National Income as seen below. 

1.Western Sahara $56
2. Burundi $220
3. Somalia $430
4. Central African Republic $480
5. Mozambique $490
6. Madagascar $490
7. Sierra Leone $500
8. Democratic Republic of the Congo $550
9. Niger $590
10. Eritrea $610

Therefore in terms of financial wealth Uganda is not so badly off. Her Gross National Income per Capita is $760 and her Gross National Product (GNP) is $ 884. In terms of GNI the country is ranked the 17th poorest, while in terms of GNP it is ranked 18th poorest. However, terms of natural resources, Uganda is one of the richest countries of the world.

Uganda has natural forests, although these are under the threat of false economic policies that are encouraging establishment of extensive plantations of oil palm and sugarcane, and of nomadic pastoralists that these days regard every inch of the lands of indigenous peoples as theirs.

Yet the lands God and Nature gave them are the Semi-arid and Savanna lands. Accordingly, the environmental and ecological  security of Uganda is being compromised. So is food security since food production in the country’s 7 or so agroecological systems depends so much on environmental and ecological security and by extension climatic security. Food insecurity can weaken farmers and lead to decline food and cash crop production.

The country will no doubt be impoverished towards displacing one of the poorest countries in the world. As if this is not bad enough the National Forest Authority (NFA) is playing the role of a biological desertification agent by encouraging and taking part in the degradation of natural forests and replacing theme with plantations of the hot desert plant of the Genus Eucalyptus and the cold desert plant of the Genus Cypress.

Uganda has the largest percentage of the world’s freshwater resources, which are unfortunately being degraded by leaking chemicals and oil in them. Her freshwaters are naturally productive, but their productivity is in danger of plummeting due to unwise policies and use of the land and natural resources such as oil.

I have written before that Uganda is extremely rich in minerals such as gold and mercury, and the rare earth minerals, which include cerium, dysprosium, erbium, europium, gadolinium, holmium and lanthanum and are found in Busoga.

The country needs to be planned in such a way that her rich natural resources are used to nourish the economy rather than enrich foreigners from afar There is also need to rethink how government uses the scarce financial resources so that Ugandans benefit maximally in terms of social development.

Un fortunately it is President Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s policy choice that focus is more on infrastructural development than on environmental development, ecological development and social development, which are so tightly linked.

Right now these types of development are being grossly violated by environmentally, ecologically and socially deficient socioeconomic development choices and the failure of the government to control the marauding nomadic pastoralists, some from outside the country.

It is absolutely important that we rethink the way we plan for the country, lead and govern ourselves and our resources – natural and financial – so that there is justice for all. True we are poor because we are poor and because we are poor, we are poor, but injustice can breed even more poverty among the population groups most vulnerable to the vice of poverty.

With income injustice, the people may not think about the poverty of the country, but about the greed and selfishness of those who plan the economy and govern the resources, tending to allocate them so than only a few people benefit at the expense of the majority.

I have just been. Reading the Daily Monitor of 5th February 2024. I was attracted to the story “Museveni calls for socio economic transformation for government to increase public servants pay”. According to the story, the Presidents new stand about the disparities in incomes in the country is that public servants of Uganda cannot have their salaries raised until the country achieves socio-economic transformation so that government has the resources to do so.

The problem with transformation of anything is that it is a continuous process. It may be perturbed, decelerate or accelerate along the way, but no one can say now it has come to an end. Even countries such as USA, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, and China, which are developed are still under transformation of their economies, especially under the influence of the World Wide Web, which requires new ways of producing and managing knowledge and human resources.

They still need to continue innovating new ways of motivating their public servants and their people so that they fully and patriotically participate in the continuing socioeconomic transformation processes.

The problem with Uganda is that everything, including transformation of the country, is almost exclusively in the hands of our politicomilitary rulers. They want to develop and transform the country for the people not with the people.

Or else they have chosen to excessively pay themselves directly or indirectly while giving public servants peanuts in terms of salaries. Those connected to the rulers are scattered in various stations where they draw excessive salaries, even where they do no have the necessary experiences and qualifications compared to those who work below them.

President Tibuhaburwa Museveni has to rethinking his thinking about how a country develops and gets transformed. If he cares about the development, transformation and progress of Uganda, he needs to put the people at the centre of these processes, not outside them.

He must rethink how he treats our civil servants, doctors, professors, teachers because collectively they are the engine of development, transformation and progress of the country. Keeping them in poverty while making politicians and a few people connected to power excessively rich by giving them jobs earning them huge incomes, is undermining the country in the 21st Century.

The President has been behind building a middle class. However, the members of this class a grossly underpaid and spend their time trying to make their ends meet rather that contribute to the development, transformation and progress of the country. They are even turning to corruption to make ends meet, thereby undermining his now silent “Zero Tolerance Corruption (ZTC).

If we are true to the crusade of combating corruption, we must involve the middle-class people we so strenuously built. Let’s take them away from the temptation to steal public funds by giving them meaningful incomes. It is good government is almost implementing the amalgamation of its departments and ministries.

That should release some money that should go to improve the salaries of productive government public servants. But this should be accompanied by removing unprofessional, unqualifies workers from jobs that should be occupied by the right people. We cannot transform the country if we considerations suchas kinship, politics and power retention ahead of the transformation of the country and expect to transform the country.

In short, let’s value Ugandans and be honest with them. Let’s not leave them but fully integrate them in the project of Development, Transformation and Progress of Uganda. Motivation is critical to getting everyone involved in the project.

The project should be genuine should be done with every Ugandan not for them. Otherwise, transformation will remain a myth, not a reality. Then the leaders, governors and rulers will continue to move in one direction to prosperity while the rest of the people will continue to move in the opposite direction of continuous impoverishment.

For God and My Country.

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