My ears experienced harrowing echoes when word reached my ears of the country’s latest expenditure plans. In the 2021-2022 Government of Uganda budget proposal, a whopping 6.9 trillion just 100 billion shy of the 7 trillion mark had been set aside for governance, security and defence spending.
It sounded like a tale of a very poor man living in a muzigo already in advanced plans of acquiring a brand new G-Class Mercedes Benz limited edition at all costs legal and if need be illegal too!
The first question I asked myself is Uganda at war and with how many countries to justify such an astounding figure in defence, security and governance spending within a single year?
Maybe the size of our security forces ballooned to over 200,000 officers and men quietly without the public finding out about it? But even then 7 trillion shillings is still out of this world for our struggling economy to spend on a non productive sector.
Maybe a new housing program to get every man or woman below officers rank a decent house in the next financial year is in progress? Or they are all going to get some sort of cars like our MPS entering the next Parliament, otherwise anything less than the above seems not to justify that crazy expenditure in my view!
Outside defence and Security on the public administration or governance side, one wonders why a third world country like Uganda choking under nearly unsustainable debt would have over 600 Presidential Advisors. Can’t they just be sent home until further notice? Will that stop this country from functioning?! Why would an economy that is still fighting it’s way out of abject poverty push for more administrative units in new cities, constituencies for members of parliament and maintain 150 plus RDCs and their Deputies all fed on meagre tax payers monies?
The Egyptian military, one of the most powerful and efficient on the continent, has among other things developed itself as an industrial power house and key contributor to the country’s GDP. Controlling nearly a third of the country’s production through its output that ranges from consumer goods to military hardware, this model could work well locally.
If our own security services given their efficiency in implementing ‘orders from above’ took on this model may be an investment of a trillion shillings a year to expand industrial military production would be justified but still not 7 trillion at once. This would mean many more jobs in the new industries for civilians and men in arms besides an expansion in GDP that we desperately need and may be more taxes coming in to pay off the astronomical debt the people running the show have landed our country into.
The other option would be to put the parish development model the government plans to roll out with all the SACCOS and Emyooga around it under the control of an efficient team from the military to ensure no penny is wasted as these community development efforts are being rolled out. Still at most an extra one trillion beyond the usual defence budget of about 2 trillion shillings maximum would cover that adequately. Maybe real tangible results would be achieved this time and we would also get to assess the real efficiency of this military as it’s been sold to us.
In regard to public administration, if RDCs became regional and we only have about 7 covering the entire country effectively, I think Uganda would still function well.
As for MPs, how about the number is limited to 3 per district as we work out a more long term solution, that would cut the number by at least 100 MPs in the short run?
When it comes to Presidential Advisors, we could have a number of 25 for the critical sectors only when it comes to running the nation the rest can find soft landing in the private sector having enjoyed the privilege of being on government payroll and it’s perks for ages.
With a more efficient public administration and governance workforce another 400 billion can be saved and redirected to debt Servicing or giving low interest credit to people engaged in real production.
The merger of some MDAs as proposed earlier this year by cabinet needs to be fast tracked and the 900 billion in savings it’s bound to realise be redistributed to encourage real production too.
Where can the money be best used?
Away from the military, Uganda’s debt now stands at over 60 trillion shillings as of April 2021 and cutting away some 4 trillion from this proposed security and governance spend to clear part of this debt would be a very smart move in my view.
Alternatively redistributing at least 60% (4 trillion) of that money to key sectors in the economy that boost food security, economic security and social security would actually go a long way in ensuring security and peace within the country besides expanding the tax base.
Buying more lethal weapons and expired teargas plus hiring more deranged LDUs to clobber Ugandans to death will never create lasting peace and security when the social economic well being and security of the wanainchi is ignored!
Through the Uganda Development Corporation, industries can be set up regionally across the country to harness the productive capacities of every region at a cost of about 100 billion a region for 6 regions which amounts to 600 billion.
Extension of power to rural areas can be fast tracked using another 400 billion from this ‘defence windfall’ to boost SMEs and social service provision while another 500 billion can be used to subsidize seeds and fertilizers for farmers.
This can also include sensitising them on commercial farming to ramp up production, besides loaning them tractors to ensure efficiency and increased output. Another 300 billion can go to building public silos with capacity of hundreds of thousands of tons in all our 6 key regions or West Nile, Central, North, South, West and the East to ensure food security in the country all year round with excess well stored away during bumper harvest.
The youth livelihood fund, the women’s empowerment fund and a fund to boost the capacity of local SMES can each take home another 500 billion given these can directly impact production.
A hybrid national youth service program can also be piloted using another 300 billion, with another 100 billion going towards social grants for the elderly.
Uganda will be a much happier, more peaceful and development oriented nation over the incoming financial year if only smarter decisions on resource deployment of this nature are taken.
The Author is a Senior Analyst at Consulting Firm Brothers Intelligence LLC