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Inside NRM’s Incomplete, Unattainable Manifesto Targets

During the first Cabinet sitting, after swearing in, on June 23rd 2016 President Yoweri Museveni declared his fifth term in office as Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo — a no–games term, and outlined 15 directives to be fulfilled in 5 years.

The 15 directives, with each given a timeline, were derived from the 2016-2021 NRM Manifesto.

Last week government kicked off its annual Manifesto Week in which various ministries outline what has so far been achieved under the manifesto.

Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana outlined up to 17 of these met targets, including the revival of the national airline and commissioning of Isimba dam, announcing that more than 60% of the campaign promises had been kept.

There were however, no mention of some of the areas in the manifesto, which government seemingly is unlikely to attain. In these, government is well behind schedule, while others remain entirely untouched.

Electricity

The first directive was on reducing the cost of electricity from USD$11 cent (Shs 370 in 2016) to USD$6 (Shs 202) cents and USD$5 (Shs 168.2) cents for manufacturers. Museveni ordered measures, that may include subsidies, to be implemented by February 2017.

However, electricity distributor UMEME, with the approval of the Electricity Regulatory Authority, increased the electricity tariff by 11% in the first quarter of 2017 citing currency depreciation.

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Today the tariff for domestic consumer is Shs 760.2 (USD$ 20 cents) a unit, Shs 675.4 ($18 cents) for commercial consumers and Shs 604.9 ($16 cents) for medium industries.

The large scale industrialists, who were paying $11 cent (Shs 370 June 2016 rate) when Museveni addressed his Cabinet members in June 2016, are now paying 375.1 ($10 cent) contrary to Museveni’s desired $6 cents or Shs 227. The extra-large industries are paying Shs 318.9 ($8.4 cent) as opposed to Museveni’s anticipated $5 cent.

Oil and Gas

The President ordered in June 2016 that oil  should be flowing by 2019/2020 latest and indeed Dr Rugunda emphasized the same in his 2017 and 2018 NRM Manifesto Week launch statements.

The 2019 Manifesto statement however, makes no mention of oil though the government position on actual production shifted from 2020 to 2022.

Standard Gauge Railway

Though he didn’t give a timeline, Museveni directed that negotiations on the Standard Gauge Railway should be concluded and construction should start. The Prime Minister in May 2018 stated that the final agreement was  to be signed in July 2018 to allow commencement of construction.

However, the $2.6bn (About Shs 8tn) SGR Uganda financial agreement with Exim Bank China, technically premised on Kenya’s finalizing of Naivasha-Kisumu-Malaba section funding, is yet to be agreed and signed. Kenya is yet to finalize the funding and construction of her section.

Away from technical complications, there have been reports that government could abandon the project basing on Kenya’s “bad debt experience.”

Sources told us in March 2019 that President Museveni was briefed in December last year about the economic risk of taking the enormous loan, for a project proving to be economically unviable in neighboring Kenya.

Uganda, according to sources, is already developing modalities to start shipping heavy cargo from Tanzania’s Mwanza port via Lake Victoria to Port Bell in Kampala. Mwanza port is connected to the main Dar es Salaam port by both rail and road systems.

Government is also embarking on upgrading the old meter gauge railway.

On May 8th Kenya’s Transport and Infrastructure Minister, James Macharia and Uganda’s Works and Transport Minister, Monica Ntege, announced that further phases of the ambitious Standard Gauge Railway have been put on hold.

Middle income status

Museveni told his ministers in June 2016 that Uganda will be a middle income country by 2020, saying the foundation had already been set.

Three years after Museveni’s remarks, the head of government business, Dr Rugunda deviated from the promise, saying the “fundamentals of the economy responsible for rapid economic growth are still being systematically dealt with.”

“I would like to state that Uganda’s income per capita was USD$ 580.38 in June 2016 and today it is USD$ 666.61, still largely below the World Bank and IMF’s minimum of USD$ 1,026 for a lower middle income group. Uganda is still among the low income group just like other countries in the region including Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi. Only Kenya is in the lower middle income group,” Rugunda said.

Others

Rugunda in this year’s Manifesto week statement said rehabilitation of Mulago National Referral Hospital is nearing completion but the same week government asked for a supplementary budget of USD$ 9.5m (Shs 36bn) to complete the work.

Rugunda boasted that 62 per cent of the promises have been fulfilled and government expects to complete the rest by the end of the term in May 2021.

The 2019 Manifesto week achievements as read by the Prime Minister include: completion of 183MW Isimba dam, revival of Uganda Airlines, construction of Neo-natal and Specialized Women Hospital in Mulago, launching and opening of several factories, completion of Entebbe-Kampala Express Highway and Jinja Nile Bridge.

Those expected to be completed by the end of this year, according to Rugunda, are the 600MW Karuma dam, expansion and modernization of Entebbe International Airport. Agriculture and investment related activities are said to be on truck.

Though not included in Rugunda’s statement, government has also completed Phase IV of the national backbone internet infrastructure.

When contacted to comment on the failed and unattainable promises, NRM Manifesto Implementation Director, Willis Bashaasha admitted that things like attaining of middle income have been bothered by unforeseen economic circumstances.                                             

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