Parliament will be exercising financial prudence by looking at this matter expeditiously in order for the country to be saved from whooping surcharges
By Henry Mayega
A daily of March 8, 2019, ran a story titled, “Museveni writes to Kadaga on Lubowa Hospital Project,” in which the President requested the Speaker “to ensure expeditious handling of the $397m promissory note for the construction of an international specialised hospital.
The President justified the construction adding that the consideration of his request should be lawfully handled and it should, ideally, be seen as a way of cutting back on the badly needed foreign exchange spent on Ugandans for treatment abroad (at an annual figure he put at a whopping $73m and that by the way does not include private sponsorship), the need to boost the national Health system as well as flinging the doors open for medical tourism and reduce brain drain.
First, the President should be supported because having such an acclaimed international hospital and the best in sub-Saharan Africa (with the exception of South Africa) attracting medical tourism would, in the long run, burgeon our foreign exchange earnings unknown to some illiberal altercators with a cognitive deficit. The reason for this is simple to discern; foreigners would flock the hospital for that badly needed treatment at, I believe, convenient prices. Fortunately, the Ugandan voter knows the folly of such misplaced obstruction.
I have lived outside our country and I know how expensive medical treatment can be.
Secondly, it is wrong for us to, as some, especially from our esteemed Opposition, to dwell in fool's paradise and oppose blatantly the President's noble request. Some like Louis Mbwatekamwa who was quoted in the same daily saying, “venturing in this facility…will be like a poor man who cannot afford to buy food at home… chooses to guarantee friends on expensive alcohol and food.
Well, the President is not talking about alcohol, which could be your favourite drink; he is talking about a facility of strategic value in terms of upping the wellbeing of the people he leads including the Mbwatekamwas.
Thirdly, once constructed, that facility would be a major regional referral saving us, as the President says, from huge public foreign exchange expenditure on both travel and treatment. Many medical referrals have been directed to India, South Africa, Kenya and sometimes to the west. That is the financial haemorrhage the president wants us to cure.
Surprisingly, in a really patriotic spirit, the Yoweri Museveni administration has not discriminated Opposition oligarchs when deciding access to such treatment abroad. A host of them have benefitted from that magnanimity because the President was elected to serve all not some.
Finasi, the Italian co. (together with Roko Construction Co.) that are championing this venture will run this hospital for eight years before it reverts to the people of Uganda. That in my view will be an addition to Uganda's health system which has already seen significant upgrading. For instance, a large number of referral hospitals have been refurbished including Mulago and scores of others. To some with logs in their eyes these refurbishments are not visible.
Fourthly, the Parliament of Uganda will have done their patriotic and oversight duty of our consultative democracy by endorsing the President's request in good time. It will have acted in accordance with the provisions of Vision 2040 as well as the National Development Plan both of which emphasize the upping of Uganda's health system to simultaneously improve the quality of our national human resources.
Therefore, Parliament will be exercising financial prudence by looking at this matter expeditiously in order for the country to be saved from whooping surcharges in foreign courts due to unnecessary delays.
The facility will be an addition to the already constructed health centres that have assuaged pressure on the country's referral hospitals.
The President who carries his audiences with him in his able arguments and brilliant illustrations rather than demagoguery has access to lots of information which our infamous alternators do not have, that informs his actions. And so, the $73m publically spent treating Ugandans does not after all include private sponsorships. Put together, we could be talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.
That is the untenable situation the President wants rolled back. The promissory note Louis Mbwatekamwa wants to be explained is just a diversionary argument that should not deter parliamentary action. It is simply a government guarantee to Finasi, the initial proprietors without immediate substantial financial commitments.
The writer is the Deputy Head of Mission of Uganda Embassy in Beijing, China