“The city will be better off by improving the welfare of majority poor, “
The political fallout in Kampala that has seen the ruling NRM party lose popular support in the city in the recent general elections in an important message for politicians; Kampala has failed to work for majority poor.
Ramathan Ggoobi, a lecturer at Makerere University Business School argues in a incisive look at Kampala’s problem that the city’s administrators have largely sidelined the interests of Kampala’s poor in favour of the privileged rich minority by looking at how Jennifer Musisi spends her money.
Ggoobi gives credit to Jennifer Musisi’s administration for attending to some of poor Kampala’s challenges such as improved sanitation, roads and drainage.
But Ggoobi argues that Musisi’s achievements perhaps conceal the real problem for Kampala – the failure by the city and government to address the problem of yawning income inequality among the city’s residents.
Ggoobi says that over the past few years, Musisi’s administration has significantly increased its expenditure on operations to contain strikes, protests and removing vendors, expenditures that would have been avoided if the leaders chose to work in harmony and work for the people such as creating opportunities for majority jobless youth and impoverished single mothers.
“In the end, KCCA has inadvertently become more preoccupied with raising the welfare of the better-off residents of Kampala, at the expense of of the median resident of the 60% working as vendors, boda bodas, hawkers,” argues Ggoobi.
Rather than building storeyed markets, Ggoobi argues that KCCA need to plan and build ground-level Juakali markets that suit the shopping cultures of most Ugandans and make the plans for building the markets participatory.
Ggoobi is not alone in arguing that the government has turned its back on trying to raise the welfare of majority poor. Fred Muhumuza, a seasoned economist and social critic, wrote in a recent article published in one of Uganda’s Dailies, that the government has failed to offer opportunities for the poor Ugandans.
Muhumuza noted: “If the poor cannot generate sufficient consumption, their tax revenue will not support repayment of growing national debt.”
If the prevailing environment in Kampala that has seen government relax its approach on chasing vendors is anything to go by, it may be a sign that the government has started to understand the root cause of the problem. How it plans to further lift the lives of the vendors, remains to be seen.
Related story: The economic cost of the KCCA Conflict by Ramathan Ggoobi