Mwenda critiques Museveni’s pads


Many people have asked me why I have not written a critique of Museveni’s campaign promises the way I did for Besigye’s. As an old man, I am supposed to use the same stick on all my children.

My critique of Besigye’s promises to increase salaries for primary and secondary school teachers, police officers and doctors were premised purely on “affordability test”. I argued that Uganda is too poor to afford this.

Besigye’s supporters said they can raise the money from saving money off political patronage and corruption. Again I went to the budget and found that the savings from trimming cabinet, cutting down on districts, reducing parliament, firing all RDCs, presidential advisors and assistants will not raise the money to pay for Besigye’s promises.

So I will restrict my critique of Museveni’s promises entirely to the “affordability test.” I must say from the beginning that I share the direction of Besigye’s promises (his intentions) but I fault him on affordability. In fact I would have preferred to pay primary school teachers Shs 3.4m each (that is the living wage according to a 1995 World Bank study on Uganda now adjusted to inflation.

On the other hand I disagree with the direction of Museveni’s promises because some of them seek to create a nanny state in Uganda. But since the standard we are employing here is the “affordability test”, I am left with nothing but to restrict this critique to the statistics of these promises.

With my thoughtful indefatigable son Ian Ortega, we went shopping for answers. Here is the list of Museveni’s promises.

1- Increase funding of NAADS from the current Shs 200 billion to one trillion

2- Raise funding for microfinance projects from Shs 44 billion to Shs 500 billion

3- Set up a Shs 7 billion women fund and a Shs 33 billion youth fund

4- Provide exercise books, mathematical sets, pens and pencils to students in upper primary school classes. I took this to mean P6 and P7.

5- Provide free sanitary pads for girls in secondary schools

6- Settle Shs 500 billion debt out of the original Shs 1.5 trillion for the veterans program

Uganda’s total revenue is Shs 12.3 trillion this financial year. Its total budget is Shs 18.4 trillion. The difference between the two is called the “fiscal deficit”, which will be funded by domestic borrowing (Shs 1.4 trillion) and foreign borrowing (Shs 4.7 trillion). If we estimate a growth rate of 5% and inflation rate of 5%, Uganda will have a budget of Shs 21 trillion next financial year.

The extra increase in revenue plus adjustment to inflation will be about Shs 3.0 trillion – enough to pay for all of Museveni’s promises.

For example, let us look at free sanitary pads. The cheapest sanitary pad in Uganda costs Shs 2,500. It has four pads in a pack.

On average, a girl menstruates for four days every month – so one pad-pack is enough.

And students are at school for three months every term – so every female student needs three packs a term, nine packs in a year.

Total cost of pads per female student per year is Shs 2,500 multiplied by nine which equals to Shs 22,500 per female pupil per year.

We also assumed that girls in the age of menstruation are those in P7 and P6. In 2014, 608,000 registered for Primary Leaving Exams (PLE), 78% were in UPE schools, which is 468,000.

With 50% being girls, that gives us an idea that even accounting for a possible increase in pupils, we have about 240,000 girls in P7 this year and we assumed about 300,000 in P6.

That gives us 540,000 female pupils in UPE. The total extra cost of this promise on the budget per year is Shs 12.2 billion – which is affordable. And this does not consider the discount of such huge bulk purchases that can give you up to 30% discount.

Museveni also promised to buy exercise books, mathematical sets, pens and pencils to students in upper primary school classes. We took this to mean P6 and P7. We assumed that every pupil will be given a dozen of 96 page books, 3 pens and pencils, and 1 mathematical set per year.

A dozen of 96 page books costs Shs 7,500, one pencil costs Shs 200, pen costs Shs 500 and a set- Shs 1500. That’s a total of Shs 11,100 per pupil per year. Therefore, government will be spending a total of Shs 14 billion per year on upper classes to fulfill this promise.

The rest are bulk promises that can be met within Uganda’s current resource envelope. Therefore, although I believe that government of Uganda should not provide these goods to pupils (surely they can be met by parents), Museveni passes the affordability test with flying colours.

Besigye fails it with an F. I will do the statistics of Besigye’s promises next time. Therefore, Besigye has his heart in the right direction.

But his mind has lied to him. Museveni has invested almost no heart in his campaign promises. But his political and fiscal mind is prudent.

Andrew Mwenda, the author, is a senior journalist and founder of The Independent Magazine

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