For every Ugandan, the State of Nation Address a simple reminder that the Budget is around the corner and in the days of old, this meant stocking food and other basics in anticipation of price hikes. It reminded some to take showers and put on their best outfit, only the chosen few suspected to have great memory were granted the opportunity to sit close enough to the radio or peek at the T.V to witness this annual event which usually bred thousands of self appointed analysts who for the next couple of weeks desiphered its contents and hatched endless conspiracies. Gone are the good old days but the hype that surrounds this address has in a section of the population never gone a notch lower. For most urban dwellers and elites, this day is marked out on calendars with all media houses registering record highs in viewership and sales. The 2018 edition was no exception.
In his address, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni acknowledged the positive journey Uganda has taken since 1986 in breaking free from dependence on foreign funding to sustain economic growth. With Uganda's economy projected to grow at a rate of 5.8 percent in the next financial year and 7 percent for FY 2019/2020, way above the global average of 3.9 percent, the President expressed his lack of surprise when a Havard based Institute recently predicted Uganda to be one of the fastest growing economies on the planet by 2026. This growth,he said, is attributed to growth in the ICT,Industry,service and agricultural sectors at rates of 7.9, 6.2, 7.3 and 3.2 percent respectively.
Despite employing the lion's share of the population, the President noted with dismay that the continued practice of subsistence farming in which 68 percent of the population is engaged is responsible for the slow growth in the sector and pointed out twenty seven irrigation schemes across the country in which a lot of efforts will be put in the coming financial year to be able to roll out global irrigation schemes. He went ahead to encourage industrialists to to set up plants assembling and manufacturing solar powered water pumps, produce fertilizers blended with nitrogen, potassium and phosphates with these not only creating thousands of jobs but also bringing down the number of imports as is the grand vision behind industrialization. This is no more to be viewed as a long term vision with our dams soon to be generating 2,216 megawatts once Isimba, Karuma and the other mini-hydro power projects are completed which will not only translate into more but also cheaper electricity. As always, the president emphasised the need to empower the youths with skills as well as availing them with funds to start projects that will make job creators of them with 4,525 girls already engaged in knitting, shoe making, tailoring, baking, tailoring and embroidery, all of whom were engaged after last year's State of the Nation Address. Products of the group projects though currently only meet demand in the local markets will with time be exported.
The president also pointed out the failure of privatisation of banks to solve the problem of high interest rates the solution to which he said was to enhance micro-finance and recapitalize Uganda Development Bank so as to avail loans to manufacturers, processors and commercial agriculturalists at interest rates of 12 percent per annum.
The NRM government has always made transport a priority, the President noted, and he went a head to state that more investment in the works sector was to be expected in the forthcoming budget. With success registered in multiple ongoing projects that has seen worldclass tarmac roads criss-cross the country, what better way to boost tourism, trade and service delivery in the country. He decried medical tourism and foreign travel that annually cost Uganda billions of dollars, encouraging the set up and refurbishment of health and recreational facilities, equipped and staffed as well as those sought after abroad. Further, the revival of the defunct Uganda Airlines would be a big step towards reducing the cost and monopoly of foreign owned airlines whose profits are repatriated to their nations of origin.