Reading this Monitor story, I couldn’t help but smile. Especially since, of all things, the President decided to use food as a reference. If only he’d glanced at his garage(s), hangar and even his wardrobe beforehand, I’m sure he’d not have said what he said. Let’s check out the afore-mentioned locations, shall we?
Garages: A couple of luxury Toyota Cygnuses, a fleet of Mitsubishi and Toyota pick up trucks and a couple more SUVs (mainly Mitsubishi Pajeros and Toyota Landcruisers). Plus a handful of support vehicles and outrider motorbikes. Does our beautiful country manufacture any of these vehicles’ spare parts? Or the lubricants needed when they’re being serviced? Are they running on fuel from the Lake Albert region already?
Hangar: Gulfstream G550. Are the Katwe boys actually manufacturing spare parts for this sleek jet. Heck – I’m sure even the servicing is done far away from our borders.
Wardrobe: I’m willing to bet a reasonable amount of cash that most of His Excellency’s suits are not of the locally tailored kind.
And so on and so forth (used to hear this a lot in class back in the day :-)). I would love to know whether his wife’s book was actually printed in Uganda.
The funny thing is what he said is absolutely true – if we were not importing stuff, we wouldn’t be so worked up about our struggling shilling. But not importing stuff means we’d basically have to live stone-age lifestyles. No modern technology like current telecom & ICT, entertainment would exclusively be village wrestling, buildings would be mud & wattle and there’d be no cars! NO cars!?!? I for one wouldn’t like to live that kind of life.
So what would the non-import alternative be? Making everything ourselves of course. Brilliant. Until you realise that to make stuff, you need to have certain essential factors of production. The most important of these, imho, are electricity and transport. The government that His Excellency leads (and has been leading for almost half the time since independence) has utterly failed in regard to putting the two in place. I recall the frustration of trying to complete a certain urgent project just after completing university (self-employed then) and yet I only had power on average three days out of seven. Its better not to even talk about the transport systems here. Another important factor is abundant skilled labour. That too is asking too much of our broken education system where cramming for good grades and cheating is the order of the day.
Ultimately, even with everything in place, there are things that we’d not be able to make and we’d still have to import them. A strong dollar will therefore always inflict pain on mere mortals like me and you even if our President is not affected. But, being the President, I’d imagine even if he doesn’t feel the pain personally, he should feel the pain of his people. That’s what leadership is all about.