By Belguin Prosper Lumu
Since the first lock down, Ugandans have endured pain, poverty, starvation and even death, as a result of the lockdown due to the COVID19 pandemic. The government took measures to curb the spread and Ugandans complied. For the first time, Uganda had one voice, “Let’s lockdown”. Ugandans were in sync with their President’s decision.
Eventually, as time went by, after a long time, it became clear that Uganda had to open up the economy. Everything was crumbling; however, Ugandans had done their best to hold on and keep fighting to survive economically. The poverty rates were so clear and the economy needed to be opened. All this was so clear to the extent that the President said “we shall open the economy in January whether we hit the vaccination targets or not”. He made a tough decision but for the good of Ugandans. This was a clear message that whether ministry of health wanted it or not, the economy was to be opened. Enough was enough.
Eventually, the economy was opened, and a new challenge of school fees came in. Fees spiked; however, the ministry of education did its best to avoid the escalation of fees. This weighed down the heavy pain Ugandans had. As usual, Ugandans are fighters, they are very resilient people even when odds seem against their livelihood. As everyone is thinking of getting back to work and collect the broken pieces of their businesses, Ugandans wake up to a spike of fuel.
At first, Ugandans, tend to think that this is a problem caused by ministry of finance, but in between there, the permanent secretary to the ministry of finance comes out and makes a tweet on how the spike in fuel is not related to economics (not finance ministry), this clearly meant that the cause in spike of fuel prices was a different thing. Like they say, everything that is done in the dark, comes to the light. As Ugandans thought of putting the blame on the new PS to the ministry of finance, information comes out that the fuel spikes are as a result of the poor planning at ministry of health.
Why is this poor planning?
It has come to be known that the fuel price spikes were caused by the Ministry’s decision to test truck drivers for 30 dollars. The drivers protested since they were being double tested at Kenya and Uganda. The ripple effect of this decision has led to many more losses to Ugandans, fuel prices spiked, more businesses lost, transport costs spiked and general prices of other merchandise increased, plus many more effects on businesses whose pieces Ugandans were starting to recollect.
After this has happened and damage has been done to Ugandans, the ministry of health then resolves to test truck drivers free of charge. This where it looks like a joke;
If the ministry of health says it is now going to test the truck drivers free of charge, why then did they charge them the 30 dollars in the first place?
Now that the tests are going to be free in order to curb the effects of fuel spikes, who now is paying for the 30 dollars that has been scrapped? Has Diana Atwine as PS of Ministry of Health asked for another supplementary budget or is she planning to? Because if she says that the ministry of health needs a supplementary budget to test all truck drives free of charge so that fuel prices are not affected any more, it will be clear that Ugandans as tax payers and the entire parliament that approves such decisions, will be caught between a rock and a hard place.
Lastly, does ministry of health have clear chains of command when taking some decisions? Are they aware of how many decisions they have taken and have impacted Ugandans in a completely negative way? Are they aware that the poor planning they made that led to the spike of fuel prices, caused a spike in prices of certain goods and services that even when fuel supply is restored, such prices will hardly go down?
Ugandans have sacrificed everything (in taxes), other ministries have also sacrificed their budgets (suffered budget cuts) just for the sake of servicing the ministry of health to plan for Uganda amidst the pandemic. And amidst all this, Diana Atwine as the chief planner of the ministry of health, this is the best she can come up with
This is a clear sign that probably no consultations were made with other relevant ministries prior to implementing some decisions. This scenario should be a bitter lesson for us all to learn from. Increase in fuel prices can even lead to down fall of a government in the long run when the economy collapses.
Are Ugandans a joke to the ministry of health?
On another note, for the government to show Ugandans that it cares, let it temporarily scrap taxes for fuel. This will cause a drastic fall in prices of fuel and Ugandans will get a head start in the overall economy. This advise might seem far fetched but with guidance of Ramathan Ggoobi, I know a way can be forged forward with economics that works.
Opinion by Belguin Prosper L, he is a market intelligence & strategy expert and the CEO of Young & Free International Limited, a market intelligence and lobbying company. Follow Prosper on twitter via @belguinprosper or more about him on www.belguinprosper.webs.com