By Cyprian Musoke, Raymond Baguma and Abdulkarim Ssengendo
President Yoweri Museveni has said that Uganda will never again suffer the problem of power shortage given the current speed of dam construction that is in turn spurring economic growth.
Addressing the nation during the celebrations to mark the 51st independence anniversary in Rukungiri , Museveni said that with increased tax, Uganda is now able to fund its infrastructural projects without relying on foreign aid.
"In 1962 Uganda had small enclave of modernity surrounded by a sea of poverty. This was growing steadily until 1971 when Idi Amin came on the scene, bringing the economy under serious assault by killing the elite, expelling the Asian entrepreneurs. By 1986 it had shrunk," he said.
The economy that was worth sh5b in 1986 is now Ush64 trillion (US$24.5b).
"This is still small by world standards but since we started in 1986 it has increased many folds. Since 1986 we have been growing at a rate of 6.5% per annum. In 2011/12 we slumped which delayed many projects but they have now resumed growing and last year we grew by 5.8%. This was brought about by more investments by the private sector and more direct foreign investment inflows," he said.
These, he added, were mainly in the transport sector, telecommunications, industry, services and agriculture, with the latter at the lowest-1.4%. "Ugandans should put more energy into modern agriculture because it is where the weakness of our growth is. Although we are self-sufficient in food we can do much more with commercial agriculture," he said.
He said that with the current road and dam constructions currently taking place, the annual growth rate is projected by economists to go over 10% per annum in the next five years.
"in the last seven years it was 6.5%, without enough electricity and good road network. Given the investments now to ensure no electricity shortage again, we shall never have this problem again. …We are now able to do our roads and electricity projects for ourselves," he said. He listed a number of roads that the government has earmarked for construction.
He said by 1986 major towns like Rukungiri, Ntungamo, Kabale, Kisoro had no power but they all now have. "It is now happening in all parts of the country thanks to the energy fund. When we prioritise roads and electricity don't think that we have forgotten other sectors. One by one makes a bundle," he said.
Sh2,300b has been invested in roads this year, and he thanked the teachers who were asking for payrise for agreeing to wait. "It's not that we didn't have this money but there are so many things to do and we can't do all of them at the same time. Each thing has its right time," he said.
He mentioned emerging challenges as the commercialisation of agriculture, job creation, and value addition.
"By doing roads and power we are solving these problems because our children who have studied will be able to get jobs since factories will come," he said while advising parents to tell their children to study courses that are relevant to the job market like IT, computer science, and nursing.
On the oil sector, Museveni said he has been in discussions on the impeding construction of the oil refinery. "We have finished extraction agreements and when we finish the refinery this will help speed up our infrastructure plans," he said.