The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: President Museveni's New Year Message

Fellow Ugandans,

I extend greetings to all of you.

I congratulate you on finishing the past year and wish you good luck in the new one. The projection for this financial year is that our economy will grow by 6.2%. Last financial year, our economy survived the global economic crisis, which had been running for several years.

This decent rate of growth shows us what can be achieved if you bear in mind that we only had adequate electricity in the last two years when Bujagaali was commissioned. Otherwise, since 2005, we have been having either electricity shortages or very expensive electricity because we were using very costly imported diesel or Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO).

Apart from expensive electricity, there has also been expensive travel costs ? transport costs on account of poor infrastructure or the under utilization of the infrastructure where it is good. This under utilization has been, mainly, on account of administrative inefficiency or just corruption both in Uganda and the neighbouring countries near the coast.

I must salute H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta because in the short time he has been in office, he has already reduced the days it takes a container from Mombasa to Kampala from 24 days to only three days. The Kenya government is also investing in a modern railway (standard gauge). We are going to do the same in respect of the railway ? build a standard gauge railway system to Gulu-Nimule and to Kasese-Kabaale.

On the issue of road transport, as you can all see, there is a vast amount of work of tarmacking many roads or re-tarmacking the old ones. Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara is either finished or about to be finished. Mbarara-Ntungamo-Kabale-Katuna is being worked on. Bwaise-Kafu has been rehabilitated. Kafu-Karuma-Gulu is either being worked on or they are about to start working on certain sections.

Mbale-Tororo and Mbale-Soroti is being worked on. Arua-Oraba and Gulu-Atiak-Bibia are being tarmacked. Mbarara-Isingiro and Ishaka-Kagamba are being tarmacked, Fort-Portal-Bundibugyo has been tarmacked, Kampala-Mityana has been completed. Kabale-Kisoro-Bunagana-Cyanika has been completed.

Only the other day, I launched the tarmacking of Moroto-Nakapiripirit. There is a very long list of roads that we are about to start tarmacking, including Mpigi-Sembabule, Mukono-Katosi and many, many others whose list has been previously published.

Those three: the electricity, the railway and the roads, are so crucial that if you do not deal with them, the economy will never be transformed. Why? This is because, as I have told you repeatedly, they influence greatly the costs of production, the costs of doing business, in an economy. With these three undone, it is impossible to industrialize and attract other businesses (services).

Why had we not dealt with the three decisively before? We have tried very much to deal with these three. However, when we over-depended on aid, we could not deal with them decisively because that aid was never enough and the little that came in, never came on time. We could, therefore, never make a decisive impact on these three.

With a little bit of our own money, our tax collection having gone from five billion shillings in 1986 to 9,000 billion shillings today, we are able to tackle some of these three, provided we discipline ourselves in terms of expenditure ? limit consumption and emphasize productive investment. We now have many road projects for tarmacking. This has never happened before ever.

The roads being worked on or about to be tarmacked total to 3,012km. To give an example, which I am sure all of you who drive vehicles must be aware of, if you drive a station wagon four-wheel drive from Kampala to Mbarara (283km) at the speed of 80km -120km per hour, you will use 50 litres one way to Mbarara if the road is smooth as it is beginning to be.

If, on the other hand, the road is bad, you may go up to 60 litres for the same distance. In terms of money, this would mean an extra 35,000 shillings per trip ? 70,000 shillings for the round trip ? to Mbarara from Kampala and back. This is just a simple illustration of how poor infrastructure quickly translates into higher costs for everybody ? producers and consumers. This figure does not include the damage of the vehicle.

While the government is winning the struggle for infrastructure, the entirety of the people of Uganda must, universally, immerse themselves in the struggle for the creation of wealth at the household level. All the rural households that have land must do so through commercialized agriculture. We have been talking about this ever since 1995.

The idea of a four acres minimum plan for those homesteads that have land: an acre of coffee, an acre of fruits (oranges, mangoes or pine-apples), an acre of bananas for food and an acre of elephant grass as animal pasture for mini-diary establishments. In the backyard of homes, you should rear pigs and poultry. If all the leaders could focus on this, the rural economy would change.

Working with soldiers, we have been able to distribute five million seedlings of coffee, one million seedlings of tea and 350,000 seedlings of fruits, in just three months. Let all leaders oversee the money we have been putting in Naads. We recently said that Naads should be scaled down so that all the money that has been going for salaries of Naads workers be stopped so that we concentrate on providing planting and breeding materials.

The slogan in the coming year must be "development and wealth creating (maendeleo na maali)". Each homestead must have wealth in the modern sense with commercial activities for money and food security.

I thank all of you and wish you a happy and prosperous new year two thousand and fourteen.

31st December 2013,

Rwakitura

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