Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Climate Change and Population Growth are to blame for Power Shortages and Economic Woes.

Climate Change and Population Growth are to blame for Power Shortages and Economic Woes.

There is a modern-management-problem solving tool 5-WHY that is used to conduct comprehensive problem analysis. It aims at solving the problem not fixing the problem. For example, if a UMEME technician got electrocuted while working up an electric pole, the investigation team would take at least five steps back by asking the 5-Whys. Why did the technician get electrocuted? The possibilities could be he didn’t have safety wear, or the sub-station re-switched on power without notice. Then the next question would be Why was power re-switched on at the substation or why didn’t the technician have his safety wear on? The possibilities could be because there was no information at the substation indicating that a team was in the field doing some repair works. This 5-Why tool would help the investigation team to get to the root cause of the death incident by seeking answers on all possibilities, and in essence solve the problem not just fix the problem. This would form a basis for developing mitigation measures to prevent re-occurrence of such an incident.

It is this regard that we may want to be deeply reflective and analytical on the economic challenges upon us today. And unfortunately, our economic experts and technocrats have not been honest to communicate to us the root causes of the current economic turbulence that we face in Uganda. Governor Mutebile and team have indicated before, that supply shocks are to blame for the high inflation, implying we are unable to produce enough food for both the local and regional markets like South-Sudan, Rwanda and Kenya. One of the reasons blamed on the supply shocks is the prolonged dry-season mid-2010 that affected agricultural production in the country side. Unfortunately, that is as far they take it. On deeper reflection, Uganda’s current economic woes and energy/power outages are borne of the climate change and global warming phenomenon.

The State of the Environment Report for Uganda-2006/07, noted that population growth is cited as a major contributing factor to shortages of agricultural land, the loss of forests and wetlands, and poverty. Over 80 per cent of Ugandans rely directly upon land, agriculture, and fishing for their livelihoods, but environmental indicators reveal trends of degrading agricultural lands, soil erosion, deforestation, drainage of wetlands, loss of bio-diversity, reduced range land capacity, and increased pollution. So among other reasons it is clear that we won’t be able to boost our agricultural production if we do not address issues of population growth, access to land, modern farming technologies, irrigation and access to affordable credit and capital. Population growth pressures have also fanned the Climate Change and Global warming phenomenon.

The increased power costs and low power supply that economic experts predict will affect the business environment and drive up costs of production in the manufacturing and industrial sector can be traced to climate change. The long drought in 2005 affected the hydrology of Lake Victoria and thus affected the capacity of power plants to operate optimally and generate hydro power. Owen Falls Complex with installed capacity of 380MW is only able to generate 173MW because of low water levels. The shortfall in generation forced government and development partners to go for emergency power generation using heavy fuels generators managed by Aggreko, Jacobsen etc. This in effect pushed up the governments costs on subsidies and power generation. This subsidy cost, in excess of $200m per year thus presenting a tricky fiscal management challenge. It is on the basis of this bloated subsidy cost exacerbated by the depreciated shilling and high oil prices on the world market that government has been forced to scrap off these subsidies, thus worsening the already fragile economic environment that Uganda finds itself in.

We need to think of green economy and green development by tapping into green energy technologies e.g. solar energy and wind farms to power residential houses, small business, local administration centers etc. Electricity Regulatory Authority estimates the annual power demand growth to be at 10%. This high demand growth rate coupled with a high population growth of 3.2% (the third highest in the world) requires us to engage robust and pragmatic framework to tap into the rich sources of green energy in our midst. Agricultural production and farming also need to engage eco-friendly and sustainable technologies that improve production and protect the environment too. Climate Change and Global warming will not affect us tomorrow; they are already affecting us today.

Agaba Rugaba
Social Critic

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Prosperity is not for all, we can only take turns. NO! I DISAGREE

Reference is made to my colleague Dun Tukwase’s article in the Daily Monitor 11th January 2012, Page 11. “Prosperity is not for all, we can only make turns”. The author raises some issues and questions that we need to reflect upon in our quest to fight corruption and foster social-economic transformation. He exhibits an intoxicating air of cynicism that is rising amongst the youth and general citizenry at large.

The Youth parliamentarians that are demanding the release of the Ugx 46 billion allocated in the budget and their colleagues fighting corruption are both supported by our Constitution that defines the functions of parliament; 1. To pass laws for the good governance of Uganda. 2. To provide, by giving legislative sanctions taxation and acquisition of loans, the means of carrying out the work of Government. 3.To scrutinize Government policy and administration through the following (a)pre-legislative scrutiny of bills referred to the Parliamentary committees by Parliament (b) Scrutinizing of the various objects of expenditure and the sums to be spent on each, (c) Assuring transparency and accountability in the application of public funds, (d) Monitoring the implementation of Government programs and projects. 4. To debate matters of topical interest usually highlighted in the President's State of the Nation address. 5. To vet the appointment of persons nominated by the President under the Constitution or any other enactment. (Adopted from www.parlianment.go.ug).

The budget for financial year 2011/ 2012 under the theme Promoting Economic Growth, Job Creation And Improved Service Delivery, the government had five priorities amongst them is employment creation especially amongst the youth, women and small medium enterprises. Furthermore, in her budget speech, Hon Maria Kiwanuka, the Finance minister noted that one of the major constraints in our economy is lack of access to financial services especially for small and medium enterprises. To address this challenge, government allocated Ugx 44.5 billion towards Youth job creation and employment strategy. Ugx 25 billion was intended to be deposited with DFCU Bank under the Youth Entrepreneurship Venture Fund that would help youth start and expand businesses with loans ranging from Ugx 100,000 to ugx 5,000,000. Another Ugx 4.5 billion was allocated for Enterprise Uganda to conduct Youth entrepreneurial training programs, business development skills clinics etc. A further 16.5 billion was allocated for the Job stimulus program to create dedicated work spaces for youth and small scale manufacturers in established markets.

Now, considering that the economy is facing hardships and loans are expensive because of high bank interest rates, it is a major challenge for youth to acquire capital to finance their business ideas and small enterprises. We are six months into the financial year and these budget allocations and youth job creation programs haven’t kicked off! What Hon.Karuhanga and Hon.Amoding are doing is the step in the right direction – to demand government to keep its promises, implement the budget allocations and thus help youth and other small and medium enterprises access affordable credit to start-up and boost their businesses. It is unfair and dishonest to fault them on this when it is their fundamental obligation enshrined in the constitution and mandated by their constituents.

Finally, whereas I agree with my colleague that the MPs that are championing the fight against corruption may harbor personal and selfish interests, we need to put a caveat to this argument. The way our politics has been structured, we are increasingly having less public-spirited/service oriented individuals and having more personal-spirited fellows. To build and entrench his hold on political power, President Museveni has used a vast patronage system that placates the interests of various groups e.g. tribes, religious groups, individuals and businessmen. The individuals co-opted are his power brokers in the various groups and voter constituencies. It is a cancer we can only stamp out if we demand for leadership that thrives on service delivery at grass root level not soothing the interests of a few elites in ethnic groups and communities. And I pray that we applaud the Youth MPs for their efforts in this regard.

Agaba Rugaba.