PRESIDENT Museveni has forgotten to find a solution for the ecomic question in the fight against the spread of Covid-19 during his ‘State of the Nation’ address on Wednesday evening as he sent home bodabodas and taxi drivers.
Giving new directives, Museveni suspended public transport, closed part of the markets and ordered government departments to send home some of their staff. However the president has not tackled the questions of high power and water tariffs, land lords, bank loans and other would be economic solutions which are very vital if people are to stay in their homes.
On Monday, Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko raised very patent economic solutions which the Head of State had to consider warning that the adverse economic effects shall lead to self defeat of the principle of minimizing social contact as the best way to contain the spread of the corona virus.
Hon Nsereko Suggested that Government should undertake these Five (5) solutions to avert yet another economic crisis and boost confidence if people are to stay at home.
Nsereko said, “First I warned that the 100 dollars for quarantine was very expensive and would expose the deep rooted corruption and lack of patriotism amongst some elements in our institutions. Secondly I insist, the economic effects shall lead to self defeat and increased spread of this Pandemic.”
Hon. Nsereko talked about suspension of payment of rent and evictions.
He said, this could be done by the President signing into law the landlord and tenant bill that parliament passed.
“This shall in effect cover both commercial and residential tenants. In return land lords can be exempt from payment of rental income tax this financial year. It will save 7 million tenants at both commercial and residential level from unnecessary disruption.” Kampala Central MP advised.
He also advised that charges for essential services like water and power be suspended for the next 120 days.
“In return the debts due to government companies be offset to the equivalent for example power UMEME. As for National water and sewerage corporation,It’s fully owned by government and should simply comply.” Nsereko said.
About loans, he asked Central bank to suspend all interests payable on all loans just like all governments internationally have started negotiating with their creditors. In effect all interest payments are frozen for 180 days.
In his wise counsel, this shall reduce pressure on landlords and business owners, small, medium and big and in return shall keep people on jobs and avert the catastrophe of unemployment. For example with closure of borders over 50,000 people shall loose jobs directly and indirectly.
“Government should consider the option of people partially accessing their NSSF savings by between 10 to 30 percent depending on their amounts available. This shall enable workers stay home with the comfort that they have an option to access their savings and feed their families.” Said Nsereko, adding, “The justification is that if NSSF could lend Bank Of Uganda 7 trillion by buying its treasury bills, why not lend or give those that save with it during such a crisis.”
He advised Government to avail rapid testing kits to make work of diagnosis easier and effective.
“Additionally also provide an extra allowance to the medical and health practitioners from ambulance drivers, Nurses, Doctors, Laboratory Assistants etc as a motivation to work harder , save lives but also know that we care that they put their lives on the line first.” Advised Nsereko, a lawyer by profession.
However, to everyone’s shock, President Museveni has suspended public transport and some business sending home those employed by these businesses without considering monthly loans they pay back with huge interests, without addressing rent question, high power and water tariffs as he had promised!
THE THREE NEW PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVES
Here is President Museveni’s Wednesday full address:
The remaining danger points are two or three;
Public Transport suspended
Danger point number one is still public transport, people moving in shared vehicles, people board one another in a minibus or a taxi or a bus even bodabodas although they carry less people but those two are close to one another.
And this enables people to move from one end of the country to another end. The person who went to Kisumu and came back to Iganga (who allegedly infected the 8 month old baby) did not walk on foot. He travelled by a fast means of transport.
Therefore, the government has decided to suspend for 14 days all public transport and this means, all taxis, coasters, minibuses, all buses, all passenger trains, all tukutukus (the tri-cycles) and all the bodabodas. All these have been suspended. Why, because we want to minimise movement.
Therefore, the only vehicles that will be moving will be private vehicles but should not carry more than three people, including the driver.
Even a private vehicle packed with family members is not allowed. That is why all those functions should be suspended. Family members going to villages for Easter, wait,wait! Let us first get out of this danger.
Other vehicles that will continue moving will be the trucks…the lorries delivering cargo like bananas, sweet potatoes etc.Don’t use lorries to transport people/passengers. The delivery vans, pickups will strictly carry food and other essential commodities.
Even bodabodas if they are carrying food, we have no problem. They can carry bunches of bananas, Tukutukus can carry cargo or bananas and we won’t have a problem. Because Coronavirus is spread by breathing, through the nose and the mouth,that is why we are targeting the human being.
Passengers will only move in private cars and they shouldn’t carry more than three people.
The other vehicles that will continue moving will be the ambulances of ministry of Health, the vehicles of security forces like those of the army and the police.
Some of the government vehicles doing essential work, vehicles for sanitary services like the ones of KCCA collecting garbage those will be allowed to do the work.
So this is the additional measure we have taken to make people postpone the unsafe journeys from one point to another point.
Once we deal with the public transport, then the other remaining big problem are the markets.
The markets bring together a lot of people. I thank everybody, I have heard that they have tried to do everything possible to improve, they have cleaned up, people are washing hands, but you remember we said, in order to avoid this problem, be four meters from one another.
Now, on markets, how do we maintain the four meters when there are so many people? That is why for now, I wouldn’t want to close the markets but to carry out some changes.
Therefore, the markets should only sell foodstuffs. Here i mean, Matooke, sweet potatoes, cassava, Rice, Beans, cowpeas, G.nuts, beef, chicken, fruits, vegetables, etc.
Trading in non food items in Ugandan markets is from now suspended. The selling of clothes, necklaces, mobile phones, sandles, shoes, etc is now hold on.
You will come back but let us create space, stay at home, let only the people who sell food stay in the markets.
We think that by removing the non food items and sellers from the markets, it will reduce the numbers.
Once we deal with public transport and deal with the markets to some extent, the other area of human concentration are the government offices.
That is why, each ministry should work out a plan of the essential staff that need to remain on duty. Take for example, the Uganda Revenue Authority. These must remain on duty.
Because our goods are still coming from outside Uganda. Some officials need to clear those goods and collect taxes. So the administration of URA must make crucial decisions and see how many people are needed to be on duty on a rotational basis.
So in government departments, you can’t say everybody go home because then, the economy will shutdown.
Each department should work out the essential staff to remain on duty.
Even in the districts, the district officials can identify bodabodas who can deliver food and other cargo to wherever it is needed.
This crisis will teach us other methods of doing business because here we are not saying that don’t do business, but do business without too much human movement and especially using shared means of transport.
However even if you have not shared means of transport, like for instance going to the supermarket, if you have your vehicle, how many people can be allowed in a supermarket at the same time?
This isn’t like other markets, this is a high class type. If there is too much overcrowding there, people entering leaving, it may become a problem.
So that is why, even for all these groups, it is better to be used by few people. The bodabodas can change. Instead of carrying people which cause risk, they can start carrying things from the supermarkets and markets to different locations. It is really orientive. The way of doing business without exposure.
In Kampala, companies will be identified and licenced to start doing the delivery business using bodabodas. But I don’t want corruption and bribery and I would like to know whether there will be any limit, because that is the main point.
So be careful in blocking some bodabodas and allowing others. Let them work provided they are not carrying people.
Park all Gov’t cars
Now finally, now that we have got cases in other parts of Uganda other than Kampala and Entebbe, we have a system of getting samples from suspected people all the way to Entebbe for testing.
There are teams even near the villages who do the monitoring. These informed trained people can be found at the hubs which normally are the Health centre IV’s. I hear there are over 100 hubs in Uganda.
Now there you have people who know how to take samples. And when samples are taken, they know how to send them to Entebbe using Posta buses. These buses should not carry people. They only carry mails and now these samples.
The teams in the country may need transport to go to the villages where they hear danger. That is why therefore, I am directing all government vehicles in the district should to be centralised except the ones of the army and police.
But vehicles for Agriculture, vehicle for social control, the vehicle for magistrates, any government vehicle should put at the district headquarters under the command of the district health officer assisted may be by a police officer or an army personnel, So that when they get information about any case, they directly go and pick the victim.
This excuse of we can’t go because we don’t have a vehicle, those vehicles will be there. We are going to struggle to make sure there is enough fuel for them.
Therefore countrymen, there is a verse in the Bible, from the Book of Isaiah 26:20 “You go in the house, lock yourself in, shut the door and wait for the anger of the Lord to pass.”
So please you people, when Isaiah was writing, it must be like 4000 years ago. So what we are dealing with are not new things, they have been there in the past and handled.
The other day I was telling you about the smallpox epidemic, which my grandparents and great grand parents were telling us about. I was lucky to find my great grandmother alive. She died in 1957.
So she was a young woman when there was that epidemic in1893. My relative Kashokora who was from Mzee Amos’ mother’s side was affected by the small pox but she survived it.
However there were others who were not affected at all although they were living in that area. Remember there was no vaccine, there was nothing else, how they survived was through avoidancestors. That is how smallpox ended. So cooperate.
The eight people who are being treated, the first ones, are doing well. Temperatures have come down. The other one, whose temperature is still up,we are still studying the situation.