Thursday, September 1, 2011
Government Should Review Resource Distribution In Uganda
By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
[Dip. Law (First Class)–LDC; Cert. PELD–NALI-K; LLB Student–Mak]
The over eighty years old Makerere University, Uganda’s largest and oldest higher institution of learning has, effective today, been indefinitely closed. This is according to a circular issued by the Dean of Students, Mr. C.M. Kabagambe, acting on the instructions of the University Council Chairman. The reason: lecturers and academic support staff have engaged in a prolonged strike that has left the University paralysed.
The striking lecturers and their colleagues (who laid down their tools of trade on 22nd August, 2011) are demanding, their pension arrears amounting to 16 billion shillings, last semester’s salary and a salary increment. Whereas President Museveni and government have committed themselves to meet the first two demands “in due course”, they are non-committal on the salary increment. But the University workers have rejected this, insisting on immediate positive action on their demands.
All students and staff have been asked to peacefully leave the campus within two hours. Makerere University is now closed until further notice and the members of staff have been asked to promptly hand over all government properties. This strike and subsequent closure comes on the heels of a series of other civil servants’ strikes that have hit this country since June this year.
First were the internship doctors at the national referral hospital, Mulago, who laid down their tools demanding better remuneration in form of salary and allowances increment. They also complained of harassment and mistreatment by some government officials.
Thereafter followed the teachers (especially primary school teachers), who also abandoned school children in classrooms to teach themselves, demanding 100% salary increment. They held a meeting with the President which was able to convince them to report back to duty pending redress of their grievances. Up to now nothing has been done and they have also vowed not to teach at the beginning of next term unless they are given the 100% salary increment which, government says it cannot afford.
The above situations point to the need to review the distribution of resources in this country. We should revisit and restructure civil service payments to bring them into conformity with the current severe economic situation. Currently inflation stands at 21.4% as per the Uganda Bureau of Statistics. Therefore, the welfare of salaried employees ought to be given due consideration.
However, the disequilibrium lies in the fact that politicians are taking the lion’s share of the national cake at the expense of other taxpayers and workers. Over the years, the N.R.M government deliberately and systematically concentrated money in politics, with little emphasis on civil service remuneration.
Whereas the politicians’ remuneration is largely elastic and therefore capable of regular fluctuation (like MPs’), that of salaried employees in the civil service is inelastic, dependent on the will of politicians in government who are vested with the mandate to determine and fix it.
In my opinion, the inequitable distribution of resources in this country is the most accurate cause of all the instabilities we are now witnessing. Whether this inequality is merely falsely perceived or indeed real, the way forward is to pragmatically address its causes such that everyone can be fairly contented wherever they are.