Author Ivan Bwowe taking a selfie with two female FDC MPs
I.F. STONE warned us that all governments lie. He cautioned us that disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.
Diversion of public attention is one way of focusing the public to minor things like birthday celebrations. I vehemently object to this practice and purpose.
We have high inflation rate, and the government is doing nothing about it.
The Covid-19 pandemic battered economies, but even then, responses
differed, many African countries have dived deep into more debt and corruption has flourished by default.
Vaccines propelled us into recovery, but the world never predicted the Russia-Ukraine war. Food supply chains disrupted and so is the energy sector. The war impacts us even when it is happening miles away.
In Uganda, it is annoying that everything is now blamed on Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine.
We are close to blaming the 36 years of steady progress in levels of corruption on the close to three months war. The current inflation has more to do with long-term and short-time government policies marinated with incompetence than Covid19 and the war in Ukraine. This is contributing to and prolongs the suffering of ordinary citizens.
John Locke’s theory of government notes that governments exist to promote public good, protect life, liberty, and the people’s properties. Depending on how deeply you are grounded in political theories & economy. Governments are critical in creating legal and social frameworks in which the economy works i.e., the levy of taxes, income distributional, subsidies, stabilization funds, etc.
That said, weather there was Covid-19 or there is a war in Ukraine, the duty of any responsible government remains to find solutions to problems. This job is heavily paid for by the citizens. When excuses become the only solution they can offer, then they either love or benefit from the status quo or they have failed on social contract an idea that is rooted in the sophists of Greece and expounded on by great philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jacques Rousseau.
Failure to take any action is to promote the status quo. The lie told by many officials is that the current inflation rests squarely on Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine, an excuse I reject or a lie I refuse to buy. Inflation is not a new phenomenon in Uganda since independence. Political decisions have tremendously contributed towards triggering, sustaining or promoting inflation.
By a decree even H.E Idi Amin Dada understood the role of government in inflation control, focusing on reducing transport costs and combating hoarding of essential goods. Before Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine, there is evidence that inflation has been on the rise and there is no evidence to suggest that even without the war and Covid-19 we would not have found ourselves in the current situation. The independent contribution of Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine to the current levels of inflation cannot be ascertained.
Politicians lead the blame song to save face and the economists sing the chorus. Uganda’s inflation has been largely political. From December of 2014 to December 2015 inflation rose from 1.8 to 9.3.
Consistently in a year preceding general elections and a year after general elections there has been sharp inflation. There is no evidence to suggest otherwise in considering the 2021 general elections.
The poor decisions to block truck drivers at the boarders led to the rise of fuel prices and prices continue to rise without any checks on oil giants operating in Uganda.
What is more chilling however, is that the Government of Uganda is doing nothing as Ugandans sink under the weight of inflation.
Our Neighbours; Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya are also affected by Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine; however, their governments are not absent as they have come to the reschedule of the citizens.
Rwanda intervened by increasing the lending rate on top of subsidizing public transport and fuel prices, hence impacting food prices. Tanzania has increased salaries of civil servants on top of other subsidies.
Kenya recently increased the minimum wage an international national labour day gift, a phenomenon still eluding Uganda. I am not arguing that this is the ultimate solution to inflation but some interventions from the government lift some burden off the citizens. President Museveni’s long address on the economic situation had nothing to offer in the country’s policy direction to deal with the current inflation.
We cannot blame Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine for Uganda not having food banks and Uganda’s poor management of the fuel reserves as the country’s strategic national security assets. This is on poor governance.
The Author Ivan Bwowe is a lawyer by profession and former Guild President Makerere University