It is imperative that anybody "dreaming" of becoming a useful chief executive of a country must have some basic knowledge of the country's political economy
By G. W. Nyombi Thembo
On top of being the Commander-in-Chief, the other most critical role of Executive President is to take lead in managing the country through a variety of domestic and international policies. This leadership requires knowledge— at least basic, as a minimum — in areas where one may not have core competencies. In medieval times leadership was principally earned through successful leadership at the battlefield as opposed to modern times where knowledge and charisma based on strategic thinking are the in thing.
By the time one thinks of being President, therefore, they should have some basic knowledge of domestic and international policies. Fiscal policy position is among the key issues voters should probe ardently from their political suitors, especially at the presidential level, as this will give the voter the opportunity to know how the candidate will set the priorities for the country as head of government. Fiscal policy has everything to do with taxation and other methods of resource mobilisation and government expenditure, hence informing the government's budget priorities and long term strategic planning. Domestic policy agenda can only be articulated through Fiscal policy. A presidential candidate can, therefore, be excused to stammer on other issues, not on fiscal policy as this is at the centre of the executive functions of a president.
Monetary policy, important as it is, is in the ambit of the central bank, but of course, we know that fiscal policy indirectly affects monetary policy and the two cross-fertilize each other in the wider scope of macroeconomic management — a critical issue at the strategic apex of managing a country. Although central banks are supposed to be independent in the execution of their mandate, the government is obligated to take leadership in espousing broader macroeconomic guiding principles to facilitate the central bank's role.
It is imperative therefore that anybody "dreaming" of becoming a useful chief executive of a country must have some basic knowledge of the country's political economy in addition to a clear understanding of the workings of the political machinery, power mechanics and international relations.
Those aspiring to be our national leaders should as a must-train themselves to understand how domestic policies are evolved, more so macroeconomic policy. One doesn't need to be an economist or a political scientist to have this basic knowledge; one just needs to educate oneself on these critical issues that matter in the governance of a country. I have interacted with a number of non-political actors in this country: doctors, engineers, teachers, common business people etc, who articulate the issues mentioned above with no difficulty at all. So, when I see somebody who says he wants to be my President stammering on the above-mentioned basics, I shiver.
The other day, one of the "sons of the soil" who has shown interest in the Number One office was asked about the fiscal policy tools he would use to change the status quo. Sadly, his answers were a spectacular show of ignorance on the matter. He took to hiding behind his usual bombastic copycat rhetoric on issues of general governance that have nothing to do with fiscal policy. This kind of screaming ignorance exhibited by some of our leaders, as I have said on many occasions, is one of the biggest democratic risks faced by our country. The street smart politicians who only survive on what has not been done without telling us what they can do and how to do it can only lead us into deeper economic and political troubles. The beauty of articulating policy alternatives is that as voters we get to sieve between sleep-walk imaginations and practical political and economic agendas.
I have heard some people talking of advisors — that these kinds of politicians can assemble a team of advisors to advise them on what to do. But can one be advised on something they have no basic knowledge about? Advisors don't advise in a vacuum; they advise on the basis of the right questions asked by the one to be advised. The right questions, in turn, can only be asked if one had the knowledge of the basics, as a minimum.
For the case of "our son of the soil", if he had advisors, we would be seeing them now and their immediate advisory services should have started with babysitting their candidate on the basis of domestic policy. Should we again imagine that these advisors will emerge as our crusader mounts the presidential throne? Remember we have been treated to the political joke of the century and a very dangerous one at that; that the issue is to remove Museveni then the leadership of the struggle will be sorted out.
Well, if the advisors are there anyway, the bad news is: by the time "Our son of the soil" will be able to grasp the basics of domestic policy other issues pertaining to international relations, security and defence will be in waiting. I have also heard some people arguing that it is no problem for an aspiring presidential candidate not to be knowledgeable on the issues we have raised above. Well, I know for certain that the people making such uneducated arguments are the ones that will never employ a driver who doesn't know how a gear lever looks like.
We shall insist: those who want to be our leaders should try as much as they can to train themselves on the critical matters of national leadership. Learning on the job at this level can be very risky for the country. We are lucky that we have grown in a period when there are reasonable peace and sanity to enable one partake personal development step by step. For those in parliament; let us see you leading a committee of parliament, then probably become a shadow minister because in all these deployments you are learning and building capacity. Our present leader, as all of us know, started on this self-development way back in his youth. By the time he was out of college, he was mature enough, though young in age, to take on national leadership. It is no wonder, therefore, that he led a very successful liberation struggle, the first of its kind in Africa.
The rush I see emanating from misleading street cheers are a risk to our democracy. If such populist crusades were to produce a national leader, the best we can have is a zombie chief executive; and you know what follows if a democracy were to be bastardised to that level. Chaos!
The writer is the chairman Governance Plus Advisory Services