10 December 2012

Uganda: Direct More Effort to Infrastructure

A series of events in recent weeks have highlighted how far we have to go to build the Uganda we want.

At the beginning of October we celebrated our 50th Independence Anniversary.

For those of us who shared in the optimism of post-independence Uganda, fell into despondency at the crushing of those dreams in the 1970s and then dared to dream again in the last 26 years, we will be the last to deny that progress has been made in almost every sphere of life.

The destruction of institutions, infrastructure and extinguishing of hope is a place we do not want to return or even tempt its return as a nation.

In order to do that, we need to stay focused on economic growth and also ensure the benefits of this growth are spread equitably among our citizens.

On November 6, the President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, gave a lecture; "From economic growth to economic transformation".

He outlined the experiences of China, South Korea and Brazil in vaulting into the middle income nations of the world but more importantly, transforming them from impoverished, unsophisticated, commodity producers into diversified economies.

The key drivers of this transformation have been infrastructure development and provision of universal quality education.

Quality education is critical to the long term sustainability of any long term growth ambitions we harbour.

But as a person involved in the economy and representing thousands of businesses around the country, infrastructure development has to be top of our list of demands of this or any government.

Better infrastructure will lower the cost of doing business and open up markets or supplies that were previously inaccessible. All this will lead to more economic activity that the Government can tax to pay for its social service obligations.

Our hearts bleed when we see the billions of shillings being pilfered by our public officials, billions whose benefits would have been spread out to millions of Ugandans instead of a handful of officials, if we had graded a rural road or built a market or fitted a health center.

The membership of the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce of Industry (UNCCI) have been the biggest beneficiaries of the last 26 years of liberal economics as a result we have reduced the country's donor dependency with the increased taxes we pay as our businesses have grown.

But we also know we can do more with a more enabling environment. The increased power supply that came with turning on the Bujagali power dam has been greeted with relief by our members.

We would be more ecstatic if, the controversy surrounding the Karuma dam would be resolved expediently to allow construction to start, the railway can be fully functional, the southern route to the sea via Tanzania can operationalized and our aviation policy can be more enabling for national and regional air travel to flourish.

We recognise that infrastructure, in and of itself, is not enough but urgent and necessary improvements in this sector will have immediate benefits compared to any other interventions government may have up its sleeve.

Writer is the Chairperson, Uganda National Chamber of Commerce of Industry

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