background to the national budget of Uganda 2019-2020 – released june 2019


The Honourable Minister of Finance on Budget Day in the past (Photograph from monitor.co.ug)

THE National Budgets of the East African countries are going to be read out tomorrow in front of tens of millions of eager nationals.

This isn’t the 1980s when we’d sit before television stations and wait for news of the changing cost of sugar, paraffin, maize and petrol.

It is a MUST-READ even now so that you get ahead of everyone else in amending your expectations and plans for the year ahead.

In the meantime, on Twitter, keep your eyes glued for #BudgetUG19 and #UGbudget19, and follow people like @CSBAGUGANDA and @mofpedU and, of course, @skaheru for more.

managing domestic costs and children – the iPhone and pocket money deduction method


OUR CHILDREN are not infants any more.

They therefore have a much closer association today with the real world than they did ten years ago, which has a direct impact on the personal finances of their parents.

But their parents operate on a tight domestic budget, what with mortgages and school fees and groceries and whatnot.

So, thinking like all sensible people out there, we spent the first part of their childhood keeping them distracted by easily affordable childish things. But now that they won’t be distracted by ice cream and screechy toys, we have to keep devising means of lowering the operational costs of having children.

Taking a leaf from years of observing companies and the way they do things, we started picking off one item after another to cut down on, while motivating the children to perform well, to provide us with shareholder value.

First, we got the kids to learn the value of money to each of them personally – the way employees do when they start buying things like nice dinners, furniture and then maybe even cars and houses.

At some point they – the children – started earning pocket money allowances for good deeds or behaviour including attending school. That school attendance allowance was really free money because they honestly had no other choice and were eager to go anyway; but if they ever got tempted to lie in because of heavy morning rains, for instance, we didn’t have to remind them about their account balances.

Plus, our system was so clear that even if a child got admitted to hospital they had no such thing as as sympathy allowance – but they didn’t get a school attendance allowance either.

But they don’t receive cash daily. Instead, they are required to maintain a pocket money allowance record in a book against which we both sign and update almost weekly.

So every weekend, if the children wanted to spend money on treats like snacks, trinkets, toys and fast food, it came out of their own personal money. If ever they find a need to spend any money, they have to whip out their records and make a withdrawal from the parents.

That’s a lesson we learnt early on in our own lives, and when we departed from it as young adults and kept cash on our persons we suffered for it shortly into the month – mostly on Mondays.

This arrangement for the children, with time, became precarious for us: one day the eldest walked up with a large sheet of paper on which she had written mathematical workings to back her case for me to place an order for an iPhone she had seen online.

I audited her records and she passed the audit.

I didn’t have all that money handy and used only one delaying tactic – she hadn’t factored in the shipping costs. She went back and returned with a notification of how many school days she was going to attend in order to reach the desired amount.

We’ve never looked back.

Sometimes they’ll do extra bits of work that doesn’t involve domestic chores but to earn extra money so they can hit personal targets that require said money.

And then there are the penalties. If any of them misbehaved they got fined on the spot, losing some of their allowances. And, again taking a leaf from some companies observed, some domestic fixes have been tied to these allowances.

A couple of weeks ago I was pleased to hear them having a major argument over who had left the lights on in one room.

See, to cut down on electricity costs I used to run patrols around the house switching lights off while shouting about it. Somehow they’d get switched back on again.

So I started a Ushs500 deduction for every time I find a room empty but with lights on – Ushs500 off each of their allowances for the day, to create some group responsibility.

That worked perfectly. Where before they stampede off to school leaving every lightbulb burning, today the house is in quiet darkness as they go.

Most sensible companies do this.

You earn a monthly salary for doing your job. Sometimes even when you don’t do your job you still earn your monthly salary – just like the kids going to school and getting their daily allowance for just showing up.

When your eyes are set on a target you work even harder, if you’re sensible, and avoid getting into any shenanigans that could lose you any earnings.

Some companies will even arrange for furniture and electronics suppliers to come to the offices to make a pitch so you work harder to earn the money required. Like the internet does to make the iPhone so attractive to the children that they stay on their best behaviour all through.

And companies offer incentives based on targets that also include cost-cutting initiatives and adherence to budgets and plans – just like my energy saving one at home.

Next…? Perhaps it’s time to move the incentives upwards to mid-management level. Don’t tell them till we’ve finalised the strategy, but the domestic staff are getting in on this soon.

first, let’s focus our irritation on the urban planners


AFTER a three-hour journey covering ten kilometres of a tarmac road last week, I was sufficiently incensed at one group of people in particular, and hereby call for our national attention to be turned straight onto them.

See, there is no way we should be suffering with this phenomenon that links specific and predictable factors to the creation of the heavy traffic that disrupts so many lives in so many ways.

We all know when it is going to rain and we all know when schools are in or out. Rain and other weather patterns are regularly made available to us by way of the internet via mobile phones and computers.

For those still living in the past, every night there are television news bulletins that even show us graphics of raindrops, as if to accommodate those within our society who are so dim-witted they cannot recognise the four letter word ‘rain’.

As for school holiday schedules, those could be harder to identify if one doesn’t have a child resident in a boarding school. But for all the irritation they cause road users, surely we should do what I do and keep checking with parents of these children to mark the dates when they will be thronging the roads to take pilao and Minute Maid juice on visitation dates, or to pick them up for holidays.

My three hour trip last week almost put me in trouble but the person I was going to meet was also delayed, and so we agreed to change our meeting time and venue.

That day school hadn’t yet broken out but I presume most parents had whipped out their extra cars a few days early in order to test their suitability for ferrying teenagers back for the holidays.

This coincided with a rainstorm of significantly heavier proportions than normal suddenly erupting mid-afternoon and trapping us in gridlocks created by the stupidity and selfishness of road-users who couldn’t see or think beyond the number plate immediately in front of them.

A really bad traffic jam – in a photo taken from bloomberg.com and, luckily, NOT in Kampala

Many others suffered worse. My friend, Matthew Lorika, got caught in the horrendous traffic en route to a business meeting along Jinja Road that he couldn’t miss otherwise a large crop upcountry would have suffered.

Assessing the heavy Jinja Road traffic and the rainstorm looming above, he ditched his car and hopped onto a boda-boda so he could get to his destination quickly, finish business and return before the downpour. The traffic was so bad that even the boda-boda got caught in it!

He made his trip and presentation of his sample for processing and export, but had to hang around for hours waiting for the rain and traffic to clear.

In those traffic jam situations I normally join everybody else in giving way to Ambulances and every time I think to myself how unlikely it is that the sufferers inside them will make it to hospital in time to recover.

And last week I considered who those occupants might be, going through many professions. Some made me smile – like if taxi drivers could ever go on one of those life-saving rides, would they thereafter be more considerate about parking in a way that blocks traffic flow? That almost had me giggling with glee at the possibility.

But not as much as the thought of what would happen if Urban Planners were caught in life-threatening situations, put into an Ambulance, and then found the traffic so bad they couldn’t make it to the hospital on time.

That got me thinking a bit more. Who are these Urban Planners, in Kampala or Uganda?

Because I haven’t studied it professionally I had to google the phrase ‘Urban Planning’ and found it defined as: “a technical and political process concerned with the development and design of land use and the built environment, including air, water, and the infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas, such as transportation, communications, and distribution networks.”

I can only presume that we have such people employed in our central and local governments because I see it is available for study at University level in Uganda. While other institutions offer related courses, Makerere University lists a ‘Bachelors Degree in Urban Planning’ as well as a ‘Masters of Science in Urban Planning and Design’!

So where are the people who study these things? Where did they find jobs? And if the people who took those jobs in places like Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) and all districts simply didn’t study for their jobs professionally, then we need the Police and Inspector General of Government and other forces to flush them out of office.

Surely the least these Urban Planners could do for us would be to announce when traffic will be heavier because of school schedules, so that we make conscious decisions to stay out of it? But no – they didn’t study any of this in school at any level, obviously.

Which makes me wonder what THEY do when caught in that traffic? Are they not irritated by it all? Or are they the ones speeding through with Ambulances and convoys with pseudo-strobe lights?

Do our Urban Planners own the fuel companies that benefit so much from the time we spend idling and crawling in traffic jams?

One way or another, there is something not right, so while the IGG and Police work out how to deal with this, since as road-users we can’t check for the weather forecast or school schedules or change our selfish driving habits, I propose a bridging solution:

Let’s give Urban Planners special number plate markers like the ones of ministers, so we can see them on the road. And let’s create some reverse sirens and strobe-lighting so that when they approach we make them stay at the very back of any line of motor vehicles they meet.

If we can just pile up all our traffic irritation onto this one group of people, it will most certainly be a beginning to getting them to solve this issue. If.

dig the well before you get thirsty


From the Order of Service of Mzee Edward Kwatiraho

I LISTEN to podcasts avidly – more than I do our local radio stations. The podcasts I choose provide wit, wisdom and work…of an intellectual nature.

One of them is hosted by a Personal Development Coach called Jordan Harbinger who has taught me the phrase “Dig the Well before you get thirsty.” The origin of the phrase goes back to Zhuzi (or Zhu Xi), a Chinese scholar (1130 to 1200 Anno Domini!)

Dig the Well before you get thirsty‘ is a profound statement for many reasons and it dismays me many times when I realise that in 2019 I might be among the people who don’t follow this simple tenet eight hundred years after the death of the person who first said it!

In short, it means we should prepare for everything well in advance. You know one day you will get thirsty, so dig a well in advance. Or: don’t wait for trouble to befall you before working out a solution.

So if you have a well already dug, when the thirst comes – as it must because of biology – you will have an option nearby.

Last week at the funeral of Edward Kwatiraho, a grand old man, the father of some friends of mine, the phrase came back to me as we spoke about his illness and his last leg of the journey of life.

During an afternoon-long discussion before he left for his last medicals in India, he shared a heap of wise thoughts with a group of us. When his children and friends eulogised him they recounted lots more he had given them through his 82 years on earth – including the need to always be organised and prepared.

‘Dig the Well before you get thirsty’. And that’s why it came up during his send off, as I thought of the fact that he had to go to India for that treatment.

See, it is a fact that one day we will all die of something, most likely medical in nature.

Being aware of that fact should make us dig our medical wells as soon as possible so that when the medical thirst strikes in the form of cancer or heart disease or any of those other conditions that are enriching airlines flying to India, we can handle them right here at home.

Actually, that is going too far to start with – not the distance to India, but the handling of more complicated ailments.

As Mzee Kwatiraho’s cortege was departing for Bukinda, in Kabale, to lay him to rest I thought of that saying again. “Dig the Well before you get thirsty.”

His children had told me along the years of the preparations they had made to ensure their home in Bukinda was comfortable. In fact, Mzee Kwatiraho had moved from Kampala and was enjoying his twilight years in Bukinda in comfort till the sickness returned to ail him.

We all have that village to go back to when we are being laid to rest, and most of us only visit it once a year during one of the long holidays and festive seasons.

How many “wells” have we dug there? Focusing strictly on the medical, many of us will go to the village totally unprepared as usual for any medical emergencies that may arise.

But, more importantly, when we do fall sick while there then we stop over at an interim dispensary or clinic nearby as we make our way to Kampala to be admitted at a ‘proper’ hospital. Even where there are serious hospitals at the District centres, in the town nearest to the village, we still only stop over there.

Why? Why aren’t we kitting out our village health centres so that in case we fall sick while there we can get decent treatment and, much more importantly, when we are away for the larger part of the year, our relatives and neighbours there enjoy good treatment?

How about this year we start digging “wells” in our villages when we go this Easter or, more practically, in December? Surely we can take along some medical equipment for our local dispensaries and kit them up so they are better capable of saving lives?

‘Dig the Well before you get thirsty.’

Until then, God forbid that you get thirsty the next time you visit your village.

going to inspect aeroplane gloveboxes? avoid the wandegeya mechanic’s syndrome.


Uganda Airlines Plane
Image taken from https://www.ch-aviation.com/

A FEW Mondays ago we were laughing at a newspaper story titled, ‘MPs to visit manufacturers of Uganda Airlines planes in Canada’.

My laughter started right at the headline, then dissipated after the first paragraph when I realised that this was, indeed, the case.

The Committee Chair, Eng. Sekitooleko Kafeero, was even quoted as saying they were going to “assess if the passenger planes meet the specifications laid out in the manufacturing contract with government at the time of procurement” and to “assess value for money before the planes are delivered to Uganda”.

He even said that his honourable colleagues would be checking “if the designs conform to the industry standards and evidence of due care to the passengers.”

Confused Nick Young

Don’t be speechless.

One Coca-Cola Beverages Africa unit in Uganda last year invested US$8million in a new manufacturing line and has this year put another US$13million in another. That company invests about US$10million a year in equipment, all of which adheres to the oft-used phrase ‘state-of-the-art’. These investments are highly significant for the company, it’s staff, and the government.

See, as a result of the investments the company will churn out more products and thus aim at higher profits at the end of the year; the staff will therefore earn more money in bonuses and salaries assured over the years; and the government will collect more in taxes.

The significance of that equipment that company procures cannot be underplayed in any way.

Now, the cost of the aeroplanes might be higher than the cost of the manufacturing lines and other equipment the beverage company buys, but I do not recall any instance in which a company official had to fly out to the country of manufacture to ‘inspect production’.

In fact, at all the private companies I have been employed at, the need has never arisen for the ‘political leaders’ of the company to conduct technical inspections at manufacturing companies.

Inspection does happen, but if it is necessary it is conducted by the technical staff. And here I write “if it does happen” because most of these private companies make arrangements for the acceptance of all equipment – and goods and products – ONLY when they have been received and found to be working.

Perhaps our Members of Parliament on this Committee who are heading out to inspect aeroplane manufacture are being super-patriotic and extra-zealous. We should give them a round of applause.

They are going out there to ensure that everything that should be done during the process of manufacture is actually done. All wheels in the right place; steering wheel fixed firm; hosepipe functional and clean…it actually reminds me of my days going to Wandegeya garages and fuel stations to ‘service the car’.

My peers and I spent many Saturdays sitting around in dusty, oil-stained garage yards claiming we were servicing vehicles while chatting idly by as the mechanics busied themselves around.

Few of us ever ascertained whether the ‘brand new’ second-hand part the mechanic brought in and showed you was actually the one that went into the motor vehicle.

At their level, those Wandegeya mechanics worked out how to keep our minds at peace and any suspicions at bay. At points they would declare in dismay at the doomed situation they found on opening the bonnet, before telling you they would do their best to fix it.

After the work was done at a much lower cost than initially feared, we would pay up with relief and even tip the guys some extra for “saving” us money.

Kumbe…

Tricked

The more advanced mechanics started making it comfortable for us to sit around on the side at a distance that ensured we didn’t interfere with their work or get to see too much. They provided chairs and sodas or more, and we’d immerse ourselves in other pursuits till the cars were done.

That memory alone should help the Members of Parliament who are going on this trip. Don’t get to Canada and get the mechanic’s treatment – being bamboozled by plush hotels and nearby bars, restaurants and shopping malls, or great company that keeps you in conversation by the side away from checking that the aeroplane glove box is properly lined.

And as they prepare to go there should be another consideration: The Committee has 29 members and would be accompanied by at least one clerk – so 30 people would travel on this inspection. Average travel allowance (government) being US$700 a night, let’s estimate this to be at US$500 because Parliament is frugal.

That would be, for seven nights (two days travel either way with three days being enough to walk round a plane and poke about its innards), a total of US$105,000 if the entire Committee were to undertake this trip. That is without counting out-of-pocket, lunch and dinner, and warm clothing allowances or the cost of air tickets paid to ANOTHER airline altogether.

Without quibbling over what percentage that is of the cost of one aircraft, might the honourable legislators want to consider keeping that money and using it to fly on the actual planes themselves when the airline starts service, so they Buy Uganda to Build Uganda?