At the peak of his powers, Bank of Uganda Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile was renowned for his independent mind in a country where most public servants consider it reckless to voice an opinion contrary to the president's.
In recent years, not so much; perhaps the governor has gotten busy, dealing with the various public finance scandals that have rocked the country. The Mutebile of old was back last week, when he appeared to pour ice on Uganda's dream of being a middle-income country within the next four years.
Addressing the first economic dialogue on Vision 2040, the governor said at the current rate of growth, Uganda may need another 19 years before achieving the dream of a Gross National Income per capita of $1,036. Among the reasons Mutebile gave for dampening expectations are the underperformance of agriculture and the politicians' failure to appreciate Uganda's population challenge.
We pick these two because we have, over the years, warned against government's reveling in impressive economic growth figures without examining both the sources of that growth and the distribution of its benefits.
Mutebile's arguments on why agriculture remains key are instructive. Not only do we need to increase productivity so as to generate raw materials for industries, farmers need higher incomes so that they can afford a good standard of living, including buying the products from industries for which we are shopping investors.
For without a big market, and with the pace of regional economic integration being checked by skeptics and protectionists, Uganda is short of compelling advantages as an investment destination. The government, therefore, needs to reposition agriculture in the national economic strategy.
As The Observer reported on Friday, agriculture continues to receive more lip service than the funding and strategic thinking it desperately needs. Any money invested in supporting farmers should not be seen as a donation, but as the building blocks of a thriving economy of tomorrow.
Governor Mutebile also appeared to warn against the government's - specifically President Museveni's - intransigence on the rate of our population growth.
Again, we have consistently urged the president and his government to actively promote smaller families and scale up provision of family-planning services. Mr President, if you won't listen to us, at least listen to your Central bank governor.