This message is not meant to criticize NRM government per se. Rather it is to help draw lessons about what not to repeat in future. It is now recognized that NRM government has performed much below expectation and the overall standard of living of Ugandans has not attained the level reached in 1970. So what has gone wrong?
1. Recruitment, promotion and reassignment have been based on loyalty, friendship and closeness to the first family and not on competence and experience. Those associated with UPC and Protestant Faith at home and abroad have by and large been left out or marginalized.
2. Ignoring agriculture, cooperatives and agro-based industries that create jobs and transform national economies in favor of services in urban areas particularly Kampala was a big mistake. Uganda is not Singapore.
3. Over-reliance on very expensive foreign experts mostly young, inexperienced and without sufficient knowledge of Uganda’s history and culture resulted in many experiments such as structural adjustment (sap) with serious adverse outcomes. For details read chapter 8: The World’s Banker by Sebastian Mallaby 2004.
4. Uganda’s liberal policy on migrants and refugees has resulted in too many foreigners taking up jobs and land at the expense of Ugandans contributing to high unemployment especially of youth now at over 80 percent and political problems.
5. Labor flexibility policy and weakening of trade unions enabled employers to hire and fire Ugandans at will and to pay at or below subsistence level.
6. Free trade in a globalizing world economy has undermined Uganda’s ‘infant’ industries most of which have gone out of business or are operating below installed capacity. For example, second-hand clothes have crippled Uganda’s textile industries. WTO rules allow protection of domestic industries against unfair competition which Uganda did not apply.
7. Keeping inflation low and stable at 5 percent has meant very high interest rates that have discouraged borrowing and investing in small and medium-sized industries that create jobs hence high unemployment.
8. Unplanned urban development e.g.in Kampala has resulted in blocking water drainage channels and clearing wetlands/swamps causing frequent floods.
9. Exporting foodstuffs traditionally produced for domestic consumption such as fish, beans and maize/corn has contributed to serious food shortages and raised prices beyond the means of many Ugandans, hence high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition that have contributed to increasing levels of insanity.
10. Focusing on mass education at primary level in an increasingly knowledge-based global economy was unwise. India is becoming a great power in large part because its education concentrated on technical and science subjects based on London’s Imperial College and MIT in USA model.
10. Denying children school lunches that improve attendance and performance especially of girls has resulted in many dropping out of school, marrying early and producing many children they cannot afford. Birth control pills have caused serious problems including losing sexual interest.
11. Leaving Uganda’s economy to market forces and private sector has led to serious difficulties. The strategic role of government must be established in next government. The five-year development plan should help in this regard.
12. Encouraging Ugandans to work abroad and send remittances home to boost foreign currency has resulted in heavy brain drain of highly qualified and experienced Ugandans leaving the country in mostly unqualified and inexperienced hands that do not care about quality of performance because they are well connected.
13. Land is Uganda’s only asset and must not be sold or leased to foreigners. Ugandans must be firm on that. Peasants should also minimize selling land to rich Ugandans who then do not use it.
14. Small scale farmers are productive, efficient, environmentally and socially friendly when assisted by government. This sector has been neglected.
15. Neglecting infrastructure such as roads, appropriate energy and institutions has undermined Uganda’s development.
16. Dividing Uganda into too many districts that are economically unviable has been a major error. They have no money and therefore cannot bring services closer to people as theoretically intended.
17. without ending corruption and sectarianism the future of Uganda will remain very bleak.
18. Cost-benefit analysis of East African Economic Community and Political Federation have not been definitively determined particularly regarding land and jobs. It is important that this be done before formal agreements are entered into. Uganda should draw lessons from European Union and NAFTA experiences.
19. Security forces must be used to protect lives and property of Ugandans and not be used as instruments of suppression against dissent to government policies.
20. Democracy at gun point should be avoided in future.