By Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia
The year 2020, was probably the most challenging year for the Ruparelia Group since its founding more than 30 years ago.
As one of Uganda’s biggest employers and the most prominent players in real estate, education and hospitality sectors, having to shut down our doors to thousands of our staff and our customers is one of the hardest things we had to do in 2020.
Regardless, we took it all in good measure, because we knew it was the right thing to do and we knew the rest of Uganda and the world, had to make these little sacrifices for us to be able to manage the ravaging effects of the Covid-19 disease.
As a group, we reached deep within ourselves for some innovations such as online learning across all our educational institutions, put in place extra health and safety standards at our buildings and hotels and adopted home working for some of the non-essential staff. Most importantly, we still kept thousands of jobs.
The lessons learned in 2020 will forever remain with us.
As a group, we would like to thank the government, under the leadership of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, whose steadfast, yet, empathetic and hands-on style of management, spared Uganda, the brunt of the first wave of Covid-19.
We would also like to thank the government, for the various initiatives such as the credit relief measures announced in April 2020, the tax administration measures announced by Uganda Revenue Authority etc. that eased some pain for the private sector.
We, of course can’t forget the very many individuals and business entities, who heeded the call of the president to raise more than Shs 17 billion in cash and Shs 3 billion in kind to aid government Covid-19 relief efforts.
Last, but not least- as a group, I wish to thank all our staff, customers, our parents and students and our suppliers who have supported the Ruparelia Group, through the years but this time around, went an extra mile. We do not take this for granted. Well, 2020 is done, and we all did what we could to stay alive and keep our loved ones alive too.
The pain we went through in 2020, should not be in vain, especially at a time, there is light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of a vaccine. To date, there are five approved vaccines. We understand that Uganda, like most of the developing world, will begin to get our shots in the second quarter of 2021. Much as this is excellent news, a vaccine won’t be useful if you are dead by then.
Uganda survived the first wave by primarily observing the SoPs, and I believe we can survive the second wave too by continuing to cooperate with the government to follow the SoPs as we wait for the vaccine.
Observing SoPs is also essential for the reopening of the economy almost fully, saving jobs and raising the necessary tax revenue to keep many of the government programmes running.
It is also my prayer, that government, extends, into 2021 and possibly 2022, many of the credit relief and tax administration measures it had put in place at the peak of the first wave, to aid quicker economic recovery.
On my behalf and behalf of the entire Ruparelia Group, I wish you all a Happy and Safe 2021!
The author is the founder and Chairman of the Ruparelia Group. He is also the Honorary Consul of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal to Uganda.