By Martin Sabiiti Rwabihurwa
In his new mandate, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and NRM party have made clear the model they intend to implement to deliver economic transformation for Uganda. The Parish Development Model (PDM) has been touted as the economic messiah to deliver Uganda to the promised middle income status. In the parish development model, we will see the parish becoming an epicenter for wealth creation. Districts are now recruiting parish chiefs, an indication that there is a paradigm shift in government operations since this position had been scrapped. From policy documents, human resource alignment and budget papers, its clear the whole government machinery is geared towards unleashing the model. Everything seems to have been put in motion in anticipation of the new economic direction of Uganda. When you look at the Ministerial policy statement the Minister of Finance presented to Parliament you are left with no doubt that there is clarity in what the Government intends to do.
The Ministerial statement captured a number of key areas of the model which include; pillars, parish committee composition, results framework, strategic planning, priority commodity list, specific interventions, Financing, comparison with previous models and prior actions.
Unfortunately, the statement doesn’t say much about prior actions before the full implementation of the model. This article will highlight one key aspect that should have been part of the prior actions preceding the implementation.
The government should have started with community engagement for acceptance and ownership of this important intervention. For this model to succeed the community plays an important role since the community members are the target beneficiaries.
Community engagement should have been one of the main items under prior actions. The Economic Development Institute of the World Bank in its workshop report of 1986 held in Washington defines community engagement as an active process whereby beneficiaries influence the direction and execution of development projects rather than merely receive a share of project benefits. The report further asserts thus “Active community participation in project planning and implementation may improve project design through the use of local knowledge; increase project acceptability; produce a more equitable distribution of benefits; promote local resource mobilization; and help ensure project sustainability”
The minister surprisingly in the comparison section of his statement concentrates more on the money than other important aspects of programming. The thinking that you throw money at poor people and get them out of poverty simply doesn’t work. Free and unplanned for money cannot deliver transformation. People must have need for money in order for it to be useful to them. In 2018 President Museveni injected 5billion in Rukungiri district which was distributed to several groups to fight poverty. The reality on the ground is that none of the groups has tangible results to show for it. Most of the groups presented to benefit from this money were briefcase created within one week. A year later the President was quoted to have regretted this action. “I did that in Rukungiri last year but the people of Rukungiri were tricking me. They wasted all my money” the president lamented.
The LC system should have been used to organize monthly village meetings to discuss pertinent issues for each village. People should be able to meet monthly and discuss things like security, gender, family, development, environment, unity, food security, education and infrastructure development (Burungi bwansi). They should be able in those meetings to carry out a SWOT analysis of their village and come up with solutions. This is some sort of bottom top approach unlike the top bottom approach normally used by the government. This approach means that Government will be coming in to supplement what people are already doing than telling villagers what to do. Allow villages to organically form SACCOs for their own local savings instead of forming them for purposes of getting government money. This should go on for a year before the envisaged parish development model is implemented.
The top bottom approach will position parish chiefs is for enforcers but the bottom-top approach positions them as monitors and support supervisors.
The government of Uganda still has opportunity to redesign the model and target parishes that are already doing certain things that the model seeks to introduce. Sometime in the 90s our local parish church had difficulty paying its quota to the diocese. It became so bad that the diocese threatened to relegate us from parish status and take away the parish priest. No matter the threats we were unable to pay the quota. The Bishop decided to transfer the parish priest and bring a new one. The new priest begun by visiting people in their homes, praying for them, their gardens, their businesses etc. He was a fantastic mobilizer and a people person. During his ministry in our parish we were able to pay our quota debt and even started constructing a new church structure. Same parish, same people, same resources but different leader and different approach. The new priest didn’t come with money to pay our debts and lead us to construct a church. He provided leadership and mobilized us to do our job as parishoners.
The other important aspect of community engagement is the involvement of key players in the community. Key players like opinion leaders, Churches, business people who are already engaged in economic activities, political leaders rather than technocrats, cultural institutions, NGOs etc. All these paly different key roles that will contribute to the success of the parish model. Policy makers ought not to downplay the role of these different stakeholders.
The NRM government in its early days in power used a powerful tool called siasa to rally the country towards one focus; economic ad political recovery. The 1990s saw all Ugandans put aside their political differences for the sake of recovery from year of civil conflicts. Siasa was simply an idea of using political persuasion and engagement to rally the population towards a common goal and get things done in this country. Government policies were well explained to the population to win it over and as a result the population participated as volunteers and things moved. There has never been a better time to revert to siasa than now.
Whereas in the 20th century economics and political science were established as separate disciplines, the collapse of Bretton woods monetary order, two oil price shocks and stagflation highlighted the fact that economic and political matters are intertwined. The economy today is high on politics and much of politics is about the economy.
Sabiiti Martin Rwabihurwa
Citizen of Uganda