On one of the local radio stations last week, a caller made a very interesting comment, that Uganda is the only country in the world where food and fuel prices increase spectacularly but people remain quiet. Although this statement might appear sarcastic, it carries a load of facts that need to be further interrogated.
Between October 2010 and March 2011, the price of a liter of petrol shot up by about 15%. This has consequently sparked a sharp rise in the cost of living. Food prices and transportation costs are now soaring to unprecedented levels yet people’s incomes remain the same or have even gone lower. The cost of a strip of paracetamol tablets in a retail commercial drug shop has risen from 5,00/= to 1,500/= which demonstrates a 150% price increase – and this goes for most of the essentials such as clothing, house rent etc. All these mostly hurt the common men and women who are struggling through spells of unemployment, job insecurity, low incomes, disease, high taxes among others.
Even though this could be viewed from the economic global down turn perspective, recent times have seen several developing countries making discernible steps to protect their citizens from problems that affect their everyday basic life. At the peak of high fuel prices about two or so years ago, countries in Africa and South America intervened with price-based policies to control both the direct and indirect effects that go with these drifts. As a learning point, our government needs to swiftly emulate such practices in order to salvage the current situation.
Interesting to note, spiraling commodity prices have occurred during the months which are said to have witnessed the most unprecedented influx of political ‘black money’ during election campaigns. Of course no one has established the exact ‘billions’ of cash that political parties pushed in their respective campaigns for both the good and bad reasons – but it is quite certain that this ‘black money’ pooled together and diligently pushed in the sagging sectors could have significantly reversed the current hard hitting trend of events. Amidst questions surrounding the astuteness of spending immensely on election campaigns while leaving government offices/operations and the economy to stall, I would like to implore the government to hastily re-assert itself in the promotion of a welfare state in both the short and long term perspectives. This is definitely going to call for a deeper analytical framework of public policies to ensure that government action is heavily underpinned by a practical agenda of guaranteeing welfare for all of its citizens – this is what democracy and good governance mean.
Democracy should be viewed as that vested interest on the part of government to foster and facilitate social and economic welfare for the majority of its citizens. In other words democracy should be seen to generate a sense of social and economic security for the people. Democracy should not be seen as an inalienable right for just a few but for everyone.
Whereas people should feel free to speak about the current thorny situation of a multiplicity of economic and social encumbrances, government on the other hand should demonstrate the capacity to asses and make regular interventions to warranty ‘client-satisfaction’. Leading (or even ruling) hungry, poor, discontented and hopeless people can be an enormous task. Our leaders and representatives should therefore strive relentlessly hard to ensure that they preside over a peaceful, prosperous and happy citizenry.