By Babirye M. Babalanda
Last week, President Yoweri Museveni, embarked on the second leg of his countrywide Wealth Creation tour by heading to West Nile subregion. The first leg was last month in Acholi. The President has, in every term in office, embarked on such tours. The last such tour was in 2019 when I was still his Personal Assistant in his capacity as the National Chairman of the National Resistance Movement (NRM). This one will be particularly in support of the Parish Development Model (PDM) and Emyooga; two flagship poverty eradication programmes.
I wish to thank you Ugandans for always welcoming the President and supporting his ideas on how to overcome poverty in their households and communities. A lot remains to be done and each subsequent tour aims to take us a step ahead. The pace depends on how well the masses embrace the message.
Prior to the commencement of his tour in February, I had written a circular to Resident District Commissioners (RDCs), Resident City Commissioners (RCCs), asking them to submit briefs on the status of poverty in their respective areas of jurisdiction. The President’s tour is, therefore, well-informed and updated on the situation on the ground and aims to infuse Ugandans with the zeal to shake off poverty and learn to “fish for themselves.’ He will also pick feedback from the people and understand firsthand practical challenges that exist in anti-poverty programs and propose amendments or improvements, depending on the nature of the challenges identified.
I wish to thank all Ugandans who have appreciated Government’s wealth creation programmes and joined them. For those still sitting on the fence, there is no excuse to remain outside the money economy when resources have been wired to the second lowest administrative unit (the parish) among other special initiatives tailored for particular areas and target groups. Together as Ugandans, we should be united in the war against our common enemy in this country, Poverty. Poverty knows no religion, political party, gender, ethnicity, etc. It affects us all and ties us down in deprivation, hunger, sickness, general retrogression, ignorance, despair and, some say, it affects one’s chances of going to heaven because a poor person is ever grumbling against God and envious of those making progress. Poverty is a root of crime and family disharmony. In short, the President’s drive to lead Ugandans out of poverty is to make way for us to go to Heaven!
Why shouldn’t we prosper with such a country gifted by nature with the best climate, natural resources and physically robust people?
Poverty is not a permanent state as many people would like you to believe. Poverty can be eliminated. It all depends on what someone has decided to do about it. It is indeed a state of mind. A person can decide to change their mindset and either come out of poverty or remain in impoverishment.
Previously, many programs have been initiated but many of them have not seen good success. Why? Because the leaders who should have supported them did not do so. Lack of political will by the leaders and the people having negative attitudes are important mindset issues that cause poverty in our communities.
In some instances, hard cash in form of revolving funds was advanced to some groups but the members chose to consume the funds and failed to pay back. Programs such YLP, UWEP and even Emyooga-but recoveries are ongoing. However, the unwillingness of beneficiaries to pay back without pressure is still an element of poverty and a poverty mindset. Even hard inputs are sold off, but I consider those who do such things to be enemies of progress. Nevertheless, they are our people and the President is providing leadership to make them see the mistakes they are making and the harm they do to society. He is reminding us of our individual and collective roles-with practical tips e.g the 4-acre model-on how to transform our country into a modern, all-inclusive economy.
It has consistently been observed that the grassroots do not effectively participate in development initiatives because information about programs ends at the district or even at the sub-county level. Yet the lower level people are the ones that largely drive the development activities such as farming or even artisans, and 39% of these have been the “core poor”. You lift these out of poverty and Uganda will fit well in Middle Income status. What a day that would be! And it’s achievable!
We must raise family incomes. It is my humble appeal to Ugandans to support, join and protect PDM as a vehicle to the Promised Land. All the money is for benefitting the “active poor”, not for civil servants and Government officials. Salaried officials are only charged with organizing communities to make the best of the program, as well as supervise and monitor other complementary wealth creation arrangements. Value-for-money, expansion of enterprises, profit making and value-addition is how subsistence economic (mal)practices will be defeated!
I, therefore, urge leaders in the districts and cities to lay a proper ground for the President’s tours by doing their part to prepare accurate reports on progress so far in PDM, challenges and with clear plans on how to deepen the President’s messages among the population.
Thank you, Your Excellency, for taking time off your tight schedule to be with your people on the ground. All leaders should learn from you.
For God and My Country!
The author is the Minister for the Presidency