Does government have what it takes to implement it?
Can Uganda soar with such rapid population growth?
The government this week launched an ambitious five-year National Development Plan, which some experts acknowledged makes excellent reading but doubt whether it will be implemented.
According to this plan, by 2015 Uganda shall be a middle-income country with an average per capita income of $850 (Shs 1.7 million); have well paved roads, modern airports, a thriving railway transport system, an effective city bus service, and an economy growing at 8% per annum.
“It is a very good document which unlike others before it prioritises core projects. My only fear is corruption which could affect its implementation,” said Prof. Augustus Nuwagaba, a poverty scholar, who participated in the drafting of the plan.
Dr. Abel Rwendeire, the deputy chairperson of the National Planning Authority, concurred with Nuwagaba that many good policies had failed because of poor monitoring and evaluation.
“We are going to be very serious on monitoring and evaluation. We are going to track every expenditure and have set performance indicators,” he assured journalists during a press briefing after the launch.
Donors applauded the plan but cautioned on accountability and transparency.
“The NDP’s successful implementation will in many ways hinge on the government’s ability to ensure compliance with internal government reporting requirements,” Theophane Nikyema, the UNDP Resident Coordinator said in a speech on behalf of the local development partners’ group.
Another point of debate is how the country is going to achieve lofty standards in the face of rapid population growth. The plan estimates that by 2015, Uganda shall have a population of 37 million and the United Nations Development Programme has warned that unless Uganda’s high population growth rate of 3.2% is checked, the country’s resources will be strained.
“This [high population growth rate] has serious implications for livelihoods, food security, maternal and child mortality and the environment. Providing social services such as education and healthcare to a rapidly growing population is already putting enormous strains on both households and the national budget,” Nikyema said.
Government estimates that the plan shall be implemented at a cost of Shs 54 trillion––an average of 10 trillion per year––45% of which shall be contributed by the private sector under public-private partnerships.
Officiating at the launch, President Museveni said this plan shall consolidate past achievements while accelerating growth in all sectors of the economy. He blamed the country’s inability to develop a similar plan in the past on donors who gave poor advice to government.
“They told us to control inflation, build some infrastructure and the rest will be done by the private sector,” he said.
Museveni added that the plan shall be the cornerstone of all government planning and polices. Prof. Adedeji Adebayo, the former executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, who delivered the keynote speech, said by releasing the plan, “Uganda had dared to dream.” He warned that this plan shall not be implemented through workshops but fieldwork.
“African governments have been victims of planning without facts. Uganda must not fall in this trap,” he said.
The overall strategy of the plan, whose theme is Growth, Employment and Socio-Economic Transformation for Prosperity, shall be to link economic growth and poverty eradication. All the policies to be pursued in this period, according to the plan, shall be focused towards achieving accelerated and sustainable growth.
“Increasing incomes beyond the subsistence level and stimulating growth requires sustained orientation of government expenditure and interventions towards the effective resolutions of the most binding constraints,” it says.
The plan identifies seven major constraints that have hindered economic development and they include a weak public sector management and administration where over 70% have either obsolete, absent or weak policy frameworks.
Other constraints include inadequate financing, inadequate quantity and quality of human resources, poor physical infrastructure, cultural practices and gender biases, low application of science and technology, and limited access to critical production inputs such as raw materials.
“The cost of 50kg of cement in Uganda is about $15 (Shs 30,000) compared to $3 (Shs 6,000) in Malaysia and about $10 (Shs 20,000) in Kenya,” the report notes.
The report sets ambitious objectives, with one of the most eye-catching being generation of at least 3,000MW of electricity by 2015 to stimulate industrial development. Currently, the country generates some 500 MW, and when Bujagali hydro power comes on line as expected in 2011, the wattage shall rise to 750MW. Government hopes to develop other hydro power projects, including Karuma and Nyagak, in the near future.
According to the implementation timeframe of the plan, starting next financial year, 2010/2011, refurbishment work estimated at Shs 27 billion should have commenced at Entebbe Airport to make it “Class A”, and the construction of Karuma hydro-power station is supposed to begin with an initial injection of Shs 33 billion.
Government is also pledging to restock the Jinja Petroleum Reserves at a cost of Shs 39 billion and the one at Nakasongola at Shs 45 billion. Within five years, government hopes to upgrade 1,100 kilometres of national roads from gravel to bitumen and reconstruct 1,200 kilometres of paved roads. Some reconstruction of major highways has already started.
As for the oil, starting next financial year, Shs 3 billion will be set aside for refinery development, while Shs 282 billion will be set aside for oil exploration and database management. The National Museum, which today is in a sorry state, is set for a Shs 35 billion modernisation bonanza in the second year of the NDP implementation.
Good as the document is, skepticism arises from the fact that in the early 1990s, government came up with Vision 2020, which like this five-year plan was a comprehensive plan, which has never been implemented.
Other polices that have come [and gone] without much impact include the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture, Entandikwa scheme, and the current Bonna Bagaggawale (Prosperity for All), which is not underpinned by any known policy framework.