On Monday, 23rd February 2015, four Ugandans were honoured with the responsibility to debate on Spectrum, Radio one FM90 the question: “Is President Museveni, and by extension the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement Organisation (NRMO), prescribing the right solutions to poverty?” and I was among. Naturally, the current ‘wealth creation drive’ was scrutinised – is it really creating wealth or is it a matter of wealth distribution closer to or the beginning of 2016 election campaigns? And whatever happened to the predecessors of the current wealth creation initiatives, Bona Bagagawale, Entandikwa, Okulembeka. I wonder why they are all described in Luganda – the language of the largest nationality in Uganda – but that is a debate for another day.
The consequence of longevity in power is that we compare the past performance of the one long ‘serving’ with his current performance. Whereas, if the one long ‘serving’ had gracefully retired after his first or second or third term in office, there would be another at the helm of the party and the Administration of the Republic of Uganda whose performance we would compare with that of the retired long ‘serving’ and other past leaders. As what happened in Tanzania, when Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere retired gracefully, for example.
I digress – back to the point – post-radio debate, well really continuing with the debate – wealth creation or wealth distribution – something that happened during the debate on radio plagues my thoughts – the inability of the one who is the ‘assistant advisor’ (whatever that means, assistant advisor?) to listen. You see I think that the assistant advisor (who will hence be described advisor) would advise better the one long ‘serving’ if he, the advisor, listened more than he gave mal-advice. The advisor’s listening skills were deficient in epic proportions. It got me thinking, no wonder so-called wealth creation programmes that are promoted by the one he advises fail one after the other. The one he advises is obviously ill advised – not so. We have to have someone to blame, if not the advisor then who?
My experience with the advisor on the radio confirmed my thesis that the reason for failure of government programmes, genuine or otherwise, is likely our obsession with outside help. Help of the kind which comes in form of outsiders (geographically and/or community-wise) with the ‘we-know-what-is-good-for-you’ attitude – the advisor seems out of touch with the realities of poor rural farmers which made him a community outsider. The ‘we-know-what-is-good-for-you’ attitude is certainly the attitude with which the wealth creation rhetoric has in the past and is now being rammed down our throats. This obsession of the ‘outsider-expert-knows’ is killing us (pan intended). Government officials, for example, are keen to be seen as open to being ‘helped’ by outsiders; particularly, in the eyes of ‘development partners’. They seek ‘outside help’ from advisors, such as the one with insufficient listening skills, to ‘help’ pinpoint what problems Uganda is facing and how Uganda can go about solving the problems.
Moreover, there is no advisor who literally does not have two hands – it is always a win-win situation for the advisor. Ideally a good advisor listens, repeats to you what you have told her, and presents to you multiple scenarios, prefixed with “on-one-hand” blah, blah and “on-the-other-hand” blah, blah. For each problem the advisor ideally gives you at least two hands (“on-one-hand” and “on-the-other-hand”). Whoever hired the advisor still has the duty of digesting all the advisor’s literal hands and then making a decision of which one to adopt. Not that I think the one long ‘serving’ and with many advisors is actually getting the advice, from whatever literally hand, that is currently being paid for by tax payers money – an example of wealth distribution in form of wasting.
Considering that in most cases the advisor will be paid for saying a version of what we have been saying all the while, it is fascinating how the advisor’s ‘new’ ideas, sometimes a bastardized version of what we told him and he did not listen well, are elevated as absolute truth. What a waste. It would be less costly if government took time to listen to our voices, we the people of Uganda. Internal listening can be facilitated by effective internal Country communication systems, which should include regular face-face-meetings within and between officials of government departments; between government officials and politicians; between government officials and ordinary persons.
It would certainly enrich the insufficient knowledge of the advisor to know that there is a connection between the state of a country’s human resource (meaning education and health care services) and its ability to create wealth. How can the advisor advise the one long ‘serving’ that education services and health care services have no impact on wealth creation; moreover, on the other hand the advisor will justify why they had to fly out ‘very important people’ to go for treatment abroad – even for such ailments as giving birth and removing fibroids – at the cost of tax payers money; another example of wealth distribution in form of waste.
If internal listening were taking place within government and within Uganda as a whole, we would not have ended up with the immoral tax regime that the government has loaded on farmers – the wealth creators. Moreover, at the same time the government is not providing them with the requisite education and health services. I beg your pardon, the ones trained to give farmers advice have been told it is not their role to do so or they must do so following the military way, something or rather? How is it that the advisor advises the one long ‘serving’ that a crippling tax burden on wealth creators is the best way to create wealth?
Members of parliament (MPs) remembered their role to assert their right to be listened to after the budget which imposed immoral taxes on wealth creators – farmers, producers, manufacturers, education and health service providers – was made, and not before the budget was made. The budget was made by an advisor it would appear; of the kind with insufficient listening skills. Or is it the case that the one with many advisors did not listen to the MPs when the budget was being made? With a budget such as the one we have now 2014/2015, inevitably there will be failed government programmes at the end of the financial year, among which the latest ‘wealth creation drive’, I predict. I wonder what name is next for the 2016 wealth creation initiative – it seems Luganda has run out of words.