Cuba provides more medical personnel to the developing world than all the G8 countries combined, according to reports.
PIC: President Yoweri Museveni delivering his address during the Labour Day national celebrations in Sembabule district on Tuesday. (All photos by Maria Nakyeyune)
INTERNATIONAL LABOUR DAY
SEMBABULE - President Yoweri Museveni has strongly defended Government's idea to import doctors from Cuba, saying he decided to call them in after "some of our own behaved badly".
Museveni, speaking during the national celebrations for the International Labour Day in Sembabule district on Tuesday, said the "selfish" medics with "crooked behaviour" that incited their colleagues to strike - hence abandoning patients - forced him to think of an option.
"During that period of blackmail, I said 'If necessary, I will import doctors from Cuba to discipline these doctors with crooked behaviour'," he told the nation.
Cuba has a reputation for having one of the best health systems in the world.
The Caribbean island nation, onced ruled by Fidel Castro and later his brother Raul, provides more medical personnel to the developing world than all the G8 countries combined, according to reports.
The issue of importing Cuban doctors has been a divisive one, with critics vehemently voicing their resistance to it - predominantly from the financial viewpoint.
Earlier on Tuesday, NOTU chairman general Usher Wilson Owere, speaking on behalf of the workers' union, struck a tone of opposition to the idea of bringing in medics from Cuba.
Owere said they had seen no need for Government to import doctors yet Uganda had her own. And his argument: what the local medics need is to have their salaries enhanced.
'I get sh3.6m for salary'
But in a spirited and emphatic defence of the decision, the President referred to the striking doctors as "selfish and unprofessional people" and "enemies" of the people of Uganda.
"You cannot lecture me about working for Uganda. I don't want to hear that nonsense. We, the freedom fighters, have been working for Uganda for about 55 years now - for either low pay or no pay."
Museveni said while he gets a salary of sh3.6m per month - far less than what many public servants get - he remains with authority as the head-of-state.
"I have authority although I have a low pay. I am the President of Uganda. So, don't bring those nonsensical arguments."
During the celebrations held at a rain-battered district grounds, the five Ugandan athletes who won medals at the recent 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia were the first to be awarded each a medal once the medal ceremony got underway.
Joshua Cheptegei (two gold), Stella Chesang (gold), Solomon Mutai (silver), Mercyline Chelangat (bronze) and Juma Miiro (bronze) ensured that Uganda finished 15th overall at the Gold Coast. As many as 71 nations took part in the Games.
Several other people also received Labour Day medals in different categories.
Creators and drivers of jobs
Meanwhile, on top of reiterating his case for the private sectors of commercial agriculture, industry, services and ICT as being the creators of jobs, President Museveni said public service is equally key.
However, the two sectors should work in tandem to generate the volume of jobs required to steer Uganda to the often-emphasised middle-income status.
"The private sector cannot create jobs if the public problems are not solved first," Museveni said, adding that you cannot detach labour from peace and policy.
"When you talk of labour, first remember peace. After peace, the other crucial factor is policy. At one time, we had policy decisions which undermined labour.
"Wrong policies can kill labour," said the Ugandan statesman, drawing reference to the Economic War in the early '70s waged by then-President Idi Amin that led to the expulsion of Asians from Uganda.
He also made reference to the 'Nakivubo Announcement' to underline just how wrong policies can hurt labour.
"After peace and policy, the third crucial factor of creating jobs is creating a good atmoshpere for business to thrive and prosper. One element of making business to thrive is infrastructure.
"If infrasctural costs are high, businesses will run away with jobs," Museveni added.
The President toured exhibition stalls at the venue, during which he commissioned the Sembabule district women SACCOS
'Roads and electricity first'
On NOTU's demands on salary increment, the President's stance was that his government is first working on the roads and electricity.
But he expressed his willingness to meet with the workers' body to discuss the matter.
"Salaries must be talked about in the context of the whole effort - not in isolation.
"We can discuss the issue of salaries in a disciplined way (...) I will call you for a meeting and explain to you what we plan and why."
Of corruption, science teachers and the stats
There were also two points that stuck out in the President's delivery in Semababule.
One was on corruption. Because corruption hurts jobs, Museveni sent out a resounding warning to particularly the political class and administrators (public sector).
"You must banish the practice of asking money (bribes) from the private sector. Don't ask for any favour from the private sector. It should be taboo by the political class and the administrators."
The other issue was on the divisive talk on prioritising science teachers and science disciplines. The President said science teachers are hard to replace - whereas their arts counterparts are not.
"If the history teacher goes away from the school, it may be easier to replace him. But if it is a science teacher, it is difficult to replace them.
"In terms of retention, we are more desperate to retain science teachers."
Subsistence agriculture still popular - the stats