Let us Probe for issues in this campaign and reject idealistic propaganda – Frank Tumwebaze

Let us Probe for issues in this campaign and reject idealistic propaganda – Frank Tumwebaze

Beyond the cheap schemes of some candidates struggling to draw sympathy from the population by playing the martyrdom games, others engaging in unnecessary altercations with the police and enforcement agencies over simple conduct procedures for publicity stunts, the time to ask hard questions and probe for real campaign issues that concern our livelihoods from the various contenders is now.

My equally humble appeal goes also to our media partners, who by virtue of their impartial-umpire-role can help their audiences to probe with rigor the substance of the issues from each presidential candidate , ask what they stand for and how realistically their promises translate to the social economic well being of the citizenry. Let each candidate tell his or her story and put aside gimmicks of cheap propaganda. The media too, should not fall for these stage managed scenarios deliberately aimed at soliciting publicity. One prominent propaganda gimmick i saw trending last week allover social media and even being carried by some media houses, was that the Masaka UPDF mechanized brigade had pulled down posters of candidate Mbabazi and replaced them with those of president Museveni. While it could have been true that indeed some hired goons could have undertaken that operation to pull down the posters of Mbabazi and replace them with those of Museveni, involving the name of UPDF was rather absurd and cheap. But what can also be true as I suspect, is that the same camp of the man desperately craving for sympathy could have hired those same goons to do it themselves so as to portray the Museveni camp in bad light. There is much reason to suspect and believe that.

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Every day in every campaign including this very one, President Museveni’s posters get defaced especially in Kampala. We however don’t make a mountain of weird allegations about it. The Masaka posters’ story was not the only one. There was the famous ping-pong the lawyers of Mbabazi tried to create with the DPP over their own created and headline seeking story that their man was to be arrested for offenses they listed on the eve of his nomination. Fortunately Mbabazi was not arrested as they had desperately wanted and the DPP rebuked them to stop playing political gimmicks with his independent office.

The list of these schemes is endless. Ugandans can now see and know why the police are always drawn into running battles with many of these opposition actors craving for attention. To them it’s a rehearsed act. Getting arrested by police is a blessing in disguise. They defy lawful police orders to get arrested and automatically capture headlines. No wonder some of them alert in advance and transport journalists along with them to capture these made up scenes.

Frank Tumwebaze

Frank Tumwebaze

But should the campaign focus be only about these comical and diversionary propaganda schemes? Certainly not. Those aside, the fundamental question to return to and ask is; What is this election all about? There is a journey that Uganda has taken all this far. It has been a progressive journey with a lot of challenges and success stories at the same time.

From liberation of the country, minimum recovery and reconstruction of the state, self sustenance and now to real take Off, Uganda has walked a humble, challenging but yet again rewarding journey under the stewardship of President Yoweri Museveni. Even those that leave in denial about these realities know the truth deep down in their hearts. Progress Indicators in all the sectors are there to prove this. The sober narrative therefore, that Ugandans want to hear in this election from every candidate’s lips is how the gains we have achieved will first and foremost be consolidated and later on enhanced. This is what candidate Yoweri Museveni and his party NRM stand for. The “what” and the “how” should come out prominently in all these campaign conversations.

The question of “who”, is not a problem at all. Ugandans will answer it through the ballot as they have done before. Candidates must concentrate their energies on articulating what they will offer and how they will do it. Mbabazi for example joined the Besigye bandwagon and started flip flopping between many issues. He talks about fighting corruption for example as one of his priority focus. That is a Fair point to raise and i congratulate him for that. Everybody however talks about corruption but not everybody answers how it will be tackled.

The honest articulation Mbabazi ought to tell us about the corruption fight-should be on the strategy he will employ to combat the vice. What exactly will he do different that he never at any one time offered to do or document and speak about in the public when he was in government as an intelligence chief for long, defence and security minister for long and finally the leader of government business as Prime Minister? Will he create more anti corruption agencies for example or will he abolish the courts and opt for immediate executions of those suspected? He must offer an alternative story that Ugandans can chew and assess as a superior alternative proposal.

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni

Fortunately the NRM under President Museveni has a clear policy stand point on each and every issue of societal concern, corruption inclusive. The Museveni NRM administration has pursued and adopted the policy of supporting independent anti-corruption agencies which have successfully over the years unearthed cases of graft and nugatory expenditure in public institutions.

It’s through the works of these agencies and with government support (IGG, Auditor general , CIID, Commissions of inquiry ,etc) that scams like in OPM, pension, and others got unearthed. And this is a fact. The area of weakness however, that president Museveni has honestly spoken about and admitted; is on the side of successful prosecution and protection of evidence against the suspects, given the fact these offenses are done covertly by those in public offices.

That is why systematic implementation of financial management reforms like IFMIS across government, curtailing of cash transactions, sticking to budget ceilings for spending agencies under the MTEF frame work, undertaking of procurement reforms to enhance transparency in public procurements among many others have been initiated and fully supported by government.

The other sustainable solution however that offers real anti-graft proof measures is the systematic identification and placement of integrity cadres in government institutions. Integrity is about patriotism and patriotism is enhanced by having a correct ideology. A correct ideology that is pro -UGANDA and pro-Africa’s prosperity is what the NRM stands and fought for. Integrity cadres therefore, can never be found or mentored without understanding the tenets of this correct ideology. Any one working for government must have a purpose of work beyond earning a salary.

That purpose is defined by having a correct ideological orientation. This is the thinking of NRM and President Museveni in as far as fighting corruption and criminality is concerned. Genuine efforts therefore against graft must focus on improvement of the technical Sophistication of the public management systems through benchmarking and adopting of best practices and placement of right integrity personnel.

Mis-defining and Politicizing the fight against corruption therefore without offering honest workable proposals is nothing else but deceptive rhetoric which is also another form of corruption. On growth and economic stability: candidates must speak loudly and show what role their different policy proposals will play in shaping the vulnerability and resilience of an economy to macroeconomic shocks. Clear policy stand points of each candidate must be made public on how they will run the economy and avert macro economic instability. This is the real insurance required to guarantee the future of every country and as such it becomes a serious yardstick to measure qualitative leadership.

Issues of trade policy as instruments of macro-economic management must come out clearly from each candidate. Trade and financial openness for instance, support long-run growth but create vulnerabilities to external shocks.

In addressing external imbalances and the risk of sudden stops of capital flows, fiscal policy may sometimes need to be tighter, impediments to direct and equity investment should be removed, and structural and financial policies more generally reformed to remove biases in capital flows contributing to financial account vulnerabilities.  

Go Forward; Amama Mbabazi

Go Forward; Amama Mbabazi

The various candidates in this campaign must address how they intend to manage and mitigate certain adverse effects that arise from wrong monetary and fiscal policies; like inflation. Good Monetary and budgetary policy settings are always aimed at low and stable inflation and sound public finances that are conducive to long-term growth. Sometimes these policies will also help to contain shocks, but there can be trade-offs.

Monetary policy that has ensured a firm anchoring of inflation expectations will allow a stronger response to shocks and helps guard against deflationary spirals in the wake of large negative shocks. As a Ugandan voter, I would want to hear senior comrades Dr Besigye and Mbabazi speak to us convincingly on these segments of economic growth. What has been the policy stand point of the Museveni administration on the economy? In this campaign, President Museveni is pledging to Ugandans to first of all sustain the 7% growth and boost it further.

It will be achieved through continued investment of public funds in key productive sectors of the economy; namely; Security, Infrastructure development(both physical and technological), agriculture which offers employment to the majority of Uganda’s rural population, energy, tourism among others.

The principle of prosperity for all defines our mission in all this using systematic prioritization as a correct strategy of steady- gradual growth. When roads and railways are built, thousands of jobs that one wouldn’t otherwise find in the formal public sector get created in transport and other services that come along with those new highways built. When our rural population is supported to increase production and productivity and to join the money economy, the tax base is widened, export earnings get boosted and all the general fiscal conditions that would affect our macroeconomic stability get fixed.

While for example the shilling has been weakening against the dollar, for mainly other external reasons that have strengthened the dollar globally, the inflation rate domestically has been tightly controlled. Bank of Uganda’s monetary policy was largely reinforced by stable food prices on the fiscal side. Stability in food prices comes as a result of adequate production, which has been achieved by the deliberate policy of government, to invest in massive distribution of improved planting and breeding materials to the population. Talk about the immediate benefits of operation wealth creation. Good Leadership therefore is about pursuing correct policies that stimulate growth. The NRM government has managed over the years, to steadily maintain a positive rate of sustainable economic growth in terms of real GDP.

Since 1992/93, fiscal policy in Uganda has entailed very strict budgetary discipline and sensitive tax policies that are not burdensome to the emerging business outfits. Government has kept firm control over its own expenditures to ensure that it does not have to borrow from the domestic sources to finance budget deficits. Fiscal discipline has been absolutely essential for the control of inflation.

For all this long, the main macroeconomic objectives of Government that have been steadily pursued without any policy deviations have been: to ensure rapid real GDP growth, to keep consumer price inflation to five percent or below, to maintain a prudent level of foreign reserves, and to ensure that the real exchange rate is compatible with a competitive external sector. Maintaining low inflation is an especially crucial objective of economic policy because high inflation has a number of harmful effects on the economy. In particular it increases uncertainty about future economic variables and thus discourages investment. Low and stable inflation is a prerequisite for private investment in long term productive assets.

It is very difficult to make long term forecasts about the commercial viability of an investment project in conditions of high inflation, because the future prices on which the viability of the project will depend are very difficult to predict when inflation is high. It is for such reasons that the control of inflation has been and still is a central objective of macroeconomic policy, which the Museveni NRM administration has succeeded in achieving.

The talk of Besigye and company therefore about pledging to Spend more on consumption; for better service delivery, better wages for civil servants and generally better living conditions must be followed with the talk about economic strategy or else the hard won Economic gains and the shocks mitigated over the years will be recklessly wasted away.

Kizza Besigye

Kizza Besigye

It’s good for Dr Besigye to pledge shs 1m per month for a primary teacher. And with the current numbers of about 130,000 government enrolled teachers, shs 1m per month per teacher translates to shs 130billion per month and 1.6trillion per year.

While this would be a good dream for the teachers, the question here is; how will Besigye finance sustainably that huge recurrent expenditure without causing adverse effects to the economy? Will he order job cuts? Will he not pay and increase salaries of other equally deserving civil servants (doctors, nurses, police, army etc) some of whom earn much less than a primary teacher? Or will Besigye quadruple the current tax rates so as to raise the required revenues? If this becomes his strategy, still the anticipated income won’t be realized since business outfits will no longer be profitable because of the prohibitive tax rates and will close shop! Either way, his promise becomes untenable.

This is the kind of deep interrogation and probing we should apply to campaign promises of various candidates so as to appreciate and distinguish between rational and idealistic positions. Let us go beyond and unpack the slogans and weigh the substance therein. They shall see them by their fruits and not by their words. The NRM remains by far unmatched by its competitors in this race. This is why your and my vote should be given to Presidential candidate Yoweri Museveni!

Frank Tumwebaze, MP Minister in charge of the Presidency and Kampala

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