Charles Rwomushana, a former head of political intelligence desk in State House, says senior journalist, Andrew Mwenda, is perhaps possessed by an avarice/greed demon.
Rwomushana was referring to a recent social media debate in which Mwenda, the Independent Magazine founder, argued that corruption can spur economic development.
“There is no scientific proof that corruption is not an impediment to economic development except for moral concerns,” Mwenda said evoking a Twitter storm.
Ramathan Ggoobi, a Makerere University Business School economics lecturer and city lawyer, David F. K. Mpanga, reminded Mwenda, that the country was losing more than Shs 500bn which Mwenda downplayed saying the Shs 500bn “could be peanuts, considering that Uganda has annual budget of Shs 24 trn”.
“I think stealing Shs500b is peanuts (this is a theft rate of less than 2 per cent). In the wider scheme of things, a 2 per cent theft rate is really small. It means that you are utilising 98 per cent of the money correctly.”
“Even if one was right about the loss of Shs 500bn, one doesn’t know the other opportunity cost of not stealing it,” he added.
Peter Eigen, the Transparency International founder, who says corruption to a greater or lesser extent, poses a threat not only to the environment, human rights, democratic institutions and fundamental rights and freedoms, but undermines development and deepens poverty.
“If it is allowed to continue to provoke irrational governance, one driven by greed rather than the people’s needs, and to disrupt the development of the private sector, corruption will even deny that most fundamental of human needs – hope,” Eigen wrote in a paper published by the UK-based Observer newspaper.
Mwenda, to the contrary, argues that a study of economic history shows how hard it is to arrive to a conclusion that corruption per se undermines growth.
He said for instance, “corruption is the grease President Museveni has used to lubricate his power because it is the glue that brings Ugandan elites together”.
In 2010, Museveni told residents of Masindi that whereas corruption leads to wastage of public resources, it also has a good side to it as corrupt civil servants and politicians invest the money in other sectors of the economy.
Aga Sekalala Jr, a Kampala businessman challenged him to “show me a convicted ‘public funds thief’ who has created 100 sustainable jobs”.
Mwenda said: “… development is not a morality issue” highlighting how the US and UK developed by enslaving blacks and ‘forcing Chinese to buy its (United Kingdom) opium’.
And so as is the norm, Mwenda won the debate and took the day.
One critical tweep was, however, quick to point out: “This is what happens when a lumpen is given audience, one can’t draw the line between fixious responses and deep ones”.
Rwomushana weighs in
Rwomushana shared a photo on his social media, Facebook page, of “deprived and hungry Karamajong” wondering how these were benefiting from Mwenda’s “desirable corruption”.
“I heard Andrew Mwenda possessed by the Avarice Demon aver corruption spurs economic growth and development,” Rwomushana wrote.
“The cancer of corruption and misrule has torn to shreds the social and economic fabric of society.”
He said the NRA did not deploy the “Mother in the Trinity” to Karamoja to salvage the Karamajong citing the Trinity as “the Father in Yoweri Museveni, the Son Kainerugaba Muhoozi and the Mother in Janet Kataaha”.
He branded Gen Salim Saleh the “Angel Saleh” who “has been the most active there”.
“At some stage, the Father almost perished with Lynder Choker…in a plane mishap piloted by Hon Mike Mukula [Soroti Municipality MP]. They were there and have been there to scavenge on Karamoja resources. Gold, Cement etc.”
Rwomushana alleges their [cited above] mission like “any other evil, wicked and Satanic force is to loot/ steal, kill and destroy”.
He said the Karamajong as a people are “under military occupation and are getting decimated”.
Rwomushana says the “NRA ideology of depriving the population of their heritage, history and culture leaves the masses mere creatures”.
“Qualitative growth and development must elevate the people as a whole and not the few among the many. It’s the duty of the revolutionaries among us to smash this vampire like corruption machine that has left our once glorious masses images of their former-self.”
In his article published by Daily Monitor titled: “Mwenda’s view that corruption doesn’t affect economic growth is ill-informed”, Mr Twinoburyo, an economist and a PhD Research Fellow – University of South Africa writes:
This statement is quite fallacious and ill-informed of the existing empirical evidence.
Economic development encompasses economic growth plus social economic transformation like poverty reduction, income inequality and improved human development indicators.
A simplistic measure of economic development is GDP per capita with countries that have a GDP per capita of $ 1045 are considered as low Income countries.
While poor service delivery is a manifestation of many factors including corruption, both are indicative of institutional and regulatory weakness.
The corruption and economic growth consensus, however, remains mixed, with a few studies indicating corruption can actually spur economic growth at least in the short run.
Essentially, corruption (public) spurs private sector creation-as exhibited by the growing private infrastructure and businesses but at the cost of public infrastructure which is also a fundamental driver of growth.
Corruption breeds ironies, for example, officials of ministry of Education taking their children to private schools.
Corruption may have considerable adverse effects on economic growth, largely by reducing private investment, and perhaps by worsening the composition of public expenditure and revenue, thereby undermining public trust in the government.
This diminishes its ability to fulfil its core task of providing adequate public services and a conducive environment for private sector development.
In the long run, corruption associated growth may dwindle and wealth distribution challenges may entail the delegitimisation of the state, leading to severe political and economic instability.
Corruption in Uganda has to be dealt with head on, small or big fish, and the quick wins start with addressing the inefficiencies in public entities that are rated highest in receiving bribes.