OPINION: In the Face of Economic Hard Times, Government Shouldn’t Shy Away From the Church

By: Julius Peter Ochen

A couple of years ago, this site I attempted to invest in Uganda’s economy. I had saved 25M shillings and borrowed the same amount from an international bank.

I had spotted an opportunity to do branding for one of the government corporations in town. They so required that the service provider must be VAT registered. That was not a big deal; I thought and acted.

At the same time, a Nigerian guy also came and rented a shop opposite my house. I thought he wanted to sell milk, bread, blue band and other confectioneries, but wapi, he had different approach to our economy.

I saw him move up and down for three days with painter man and boom! International Holy Spirit Church was opened.

Well, he wasn’t my competitor after all. So I paid him fewer attentions. He bought about 25 chairs, a desk top computer, a reading stand, standby generator and two loud speakers.

It must have not cost him more than shillings 4M. And the following Sunday, he had about 11 people, with two girls singing their lungs out. The entire neighborhood was noisy. I silently told him “You can’t make it here”

As invest squall was in my indulgence, I scooped the contract, and soon it was extended from 50M to 75M and 91M and 115M in that sequence. I wandered why I took eternity to join corporate world and walk with swag.


Little did I know what loom the future! Each Sunday, I checked how the church was doing for my Nigerian friend and he too was rolling.

Soon they were 18, then 32 and the room became small. He rented the next room and broke the wall. There was also one car in their parking yard.

On completion of the contract; for vagrant reasons ranging from bad business partnerships to poor financial management, I was counting losses to the tune of shillings 28M.

I had not only lost my entire principal, but creditors were also on my nerves. Before I could discover how to deal with my new found trouble, alas! URA sent me invoice of shillings 25M in VAT, even when I did not charge my client any VAT.

And that if I want to complain, I must first pay 25% of demanded amount. So technically I was illegible to even complain. Had they served me in person, I would have beaten the messenger. I was that manic.

So I just deleted the email without thinking twice. One week later, they sent another one, which again I obliterated as if those were the solutions. Soon, they started warning me and threatening me.

The threat was increasingly become so real that each time I saw URA Logo anywhere, my spirit departs my body.

I knew I was in trouble, this time with the government. I started fearing for my liberty, thoughts of running to exile came to my mind. There was no where I could get such an amount to pay URA.

Meanwhile at the neighborhood here, the guy has not only rented two more rooms behind the shop and broken all the inner walls, but there were about 7 cars of his clients (or worshipers to be biblically correct) at the parking yard. I knew he was breaking into the economy. I wandered why I had not seen economy from that perspective.

With weekly emails flowing from URA telling me how they have started charging interest on what I owe them, I took off to exile; crossed to Congo. I told Congo authority how my liberty was under threat for merely attempting to invest in our economy. Thanks to my Kiswahili that was so soaked in Acholi accent that immigration authority couldn’t ask me to substantiate a thing.

But just as Sejjusa blamed UK winter for shortening the life of his revolutionary plan and so was Congo’s economic winter. I decided to return home and surrender to URA to simply serve my sentence. “Could be by the time I come out of jail, a regime could have changed and new opportunities steered to Ugandans” I told myself.

Since my yard stick of measuring my own progress and regress was the church entrepreneur, I checked him up the following Sunday. To my jolt, the church was not only full to capacity, but the parking yard had more than 50 cars, others parking on the road sides.

As if that was not testimony enough that things had worked out for the man, the once pedestrian man was now driving brand new Toyota Harrier. I also learned with shudder that the man had not only built for himself a decent house in Namugongo, but also completing construction of his 3000 capacity church in Kira.

Now that government is struggling to finance her own budget, with increased threats from World Bank, it’s not indecent to asked churches to obtain TIN and declared weekly income. What if we asked to remit just 15% of their weekly collections for development shake?

We could magically raise billions weekly from this source. There is certainly more need for schools, better roads and medical services than we need blessed expensive pastors driving premium cars and living in palaces amidst impoverish followers robbing themselves all savings to “plant seeds” of blessings in pastors pockets.

God bless Uganda.

The writer is public policy analyst with interest in politics
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