No Rolls for Museveni, he’s happy with a Probox
Over two weeks ago, the independent publication Daily Monitor of Kampala published a “scoop” that said the Uganda government was to scrap or dissolve over 60 semi-autonomous agencies in a major shakeup, to cut costs.
The move was expected since President Yoweri Museveni in July 2017 directed Vice President Edward Ssekandi and Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to undertake a review of government agencies in order to reduce the burden on taxpayers.
The paper’s story had a huge surprise, as it alleged that the biggest of the agencies, the 10-year-old Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), would also be reabsorbed into the Ministry of Works.
That sounded a bridge too far, and given that no other publication went with the story, many weren’t sure what to make of it.
On Monday, the government formally confirmed the decision, announcing that 71 agencies would be affected, and that the restructuring would save the country Ush1 trillion ($265 million) a year.
While there was some scepticism, a wide cross-section of Ugandans, jaded by years of corruption and waste, welcomed the announcement.
Still the spirit of the move was admirable. However, there are better options.
There are indeed too many bodies in Uganda dealing with electricity: The Uganda Electricity Generation Company, Uganda Electricity Transmission Company, Uganda Electricity Distribution Company, and the Rural Electrification Agency.
However, whether they scrap them all or merge them into a single new agency or they are swallowed back into the energy ministry, it will not solve the problem of the high cost of electricity.
Uganda is still building more dams, even though it already produces more electricity than it uses. The failure to evacuate all electricity is due to an ageing grid, and extended periods of offpeak demand.
But the EAC can have cheaper electricity all round by creating a power pool that would shift electricity to where there’s high demand, and create economies of scale.
In the early buzz of the Kenya-uganda-rwanda “Coaliton of the Willing”, this was one of the ideas that Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta, Museveni and Paul Kagame tossed about, but it has run into headwinds.
For Museveni, then, the answer is one of his pet projects: East African integration.
It’s the kind of thinking he espoused on the Uganda oil pipeline, which he always said was an East African pipeline, and it was appropriately so named. The oil is Uganda’s, yes, but the pipeline is regional. Tanzania will own a piece of it.
So with roads. Uganda can own the land, but it doesn’t need to own the roads.
Rather than ingest UNRA back into the ministry, the smart future is in creating an East African infrastructure pool. A leaner UNRA can represent Uganda at the East African infrastructure table.
An infrastructure pool buying road equipment for the region would have the muscle to get it done cheaply. The EAC could also pioneer regional infrastructure bonds, which would be much cheaper than any of the funding the partners states are getting today, because the risks would be much lower.
It won’t be easy, and the cowboys in the infrastructure sector in the region will push back.
On the present path, Museveni will still get something, yes. He will get a Toyota Probox, but he could have got a Rolls Royce.
An infrastructure pool buying road equipment for the region would have the muscle to get it cheaply.”
The EAC can have cheaper electricity all round by creating a power pool that would shift electricity to where there’s high demand