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Most interest groups are after easy money

By Vision Reporter

Added 28th November 2004 03:00 AM

Although there are calls for trimming the size of Parliament, it is interesting that a number of interest groups are increasingly demanding to be granted parliamentary seats.

Although there are calls for trimming the size of Parliament, it is interesting that a number of interest groups are increasingly demanding to be granted parliamentary seats.

John Kakande

Although there are calls for trimming the size of Parliament, it is interesting that a number of interest groups are increasingly demanding to be granted parliamentary seats.

The latest such group is the Uganda Reach the Aged Association (URAA). Other groups include taxi drivers, children and an organisation calling itself the Association of the Uneducated.

The increasing demands from interest groups for parliamentary seats, which I believe are quite ridiculous, show a common view that for one to get rich quickly, one has to join politics and become a minister, an MP, a district executive, RDC or councillor.

It is not surprising that the cost of public administration has been rising over the years. There is also misconception in the civil society that to influence legislation and national policy, you must have parliamentary seats.

I agree with the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) that the representation for youth, workers and the army is unnecessary and should be scrapped as the country reverts to multiparty democracy. Affirmative action seats are only justified for women and persons with disabilities, but not workers and the youth.

There is no evidence that representation in Parliament per se has enabled any interest group to influence legislation or policy. For instance the workers have had representatives since the National Resistance Council days but labour laws remain the most archaic in the country!

One of the workers’ MPs, Charles Bakkabulindi is the chairperson of the Movement Parliamentary Caucus, which is quite an influential group in the Movement politics, but workers’ MPs have not persuaded government to set the minimum wage.

I do not even recall that workers’ MPs have even convinced government to raise the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) threshold from sh130,000.

They have not pressured government to force all employers to recognise the workers’ right to join or form trade unions. Instead there was a ban until recently on trade unions not to hold meetings! And the Workers’ MPs never thought it worth their while to protested this!

The performance of most Youth MPs has also been mediocre, yet the youth and workers MPs are the highest paid in Parliament because their ‘constituencies’ are considered to be geographically bigger than the constituencies represented by the directly elected and indirectly elected district women MPs.

The representation of youth and workers in Parliament is not worthwhile. Worldwide, trade unions have produced some of the most fiery and successful politicians such as Kenya’s Tom Mboya and former Zambian president Frederick Chiluba. Why should they be treated as a marginalised group deserving affirmative action seats?

Interest groups do not need parliamentary seats to influence legislation and national policy. They only need to be well organised and assertive. Government and MPs cannot ignore them if they are well-organised.

The Evangelical churches (Born-Again Christians) have become politically influential because they have a large following, international connections and money, which they can use to make or break a politician. They cannot be ignored anymore.

In Zambia and Malawi, it was the civil society organisations that successfully spearheaded the campaign against the kisanja. This is because it is an organised and assertive civil society that can demand for political accountability from politicians and guarantee democracy in Uganda.

The problem with the civil society organisations in Uganda is that majority are briefcase organisations without any grassroot following.

Most interest groups are after easy money

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