Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Uganda, I salute you. Today I want to challenge an utterance you made during your speech on Labour day claiming that the Parish Development Model shall create more jobs than the number of citizens in the country and you put the figure at 70 Million.
I agree with your assertion based upon two premises that must go hand in hand. Proper implementation of the PDM project and Time. Without those two being fulfilled in tandem, you are blowing wind in a basket while expecting it to turn into a balloon.
The PDM has seven pillars that need to be addressed in tandem in order to achieve the promises made and for purposes of clarity, I will quickly highlight them below;
(1) Production, Storage, Processing and Marketing;
(2) Infrastructure and Economic Services;
(3) Financial Inclusion;
(4) Social Services;
(5) Mindset change;
(6) Parish Based Management Information System
(7) Governance and Administration.
However, due to ignorance or probably a desire to achieve cheap popularity, the promoters of the initiative are focusing on Pillar 5 of Finances. Everywhere you go, talk of PDM is narrowed down to Money and this has vulgarised the entire program. Right from the time the Rt. Hon Prime Minister started traversing the country popularising this initiative while gyrating from district to district, her core message was Money is coming. Most Hon Members of Parliament also caught the bug and started reciting the same chorus.
Lately, when you hear complaints about PDM, they evolve around, not receiving money. Even when money is received it is akin to a delivery for sports betting jackpot winners. At this rate, its intended aim of creating wealth, employment and increasing household incomes will never be achieved at a macro level. The most we shall boast of are pockets of achievers who are even largely outside the intended target group of the poorest of the poor.
You so casually quoted an estimated 7 million households participating in this initiative with each creating at least ten jobs hence the derivation of the 70 Million jobs. With all due respect Sir, there is a difference between Something to do and a Job. How I wish your advisors took time to clarify more on that.
The other shortcoming in your speculative assumption is the desktop approach used that many failed business people have also engaged. They simply sit at a computer, fill in their expectations in a spreadsheet and come out smiling with grandiose summed up figures that only achieve the goal of massaging an uninformed mind. This is the other mistake your advisor(s) made.
For your information sir, I am an Agricultural Economist who also has a Masters in Business Administration and a fully fledged Agribusiness entrepreneur. So I speak from a point of not only academic knowledge-ability but also practical exposure in the agricultural space. Do not regard me as a mere social media heckler. I also participated in the pilot project of the PDM in Eastern Uganda.
Where are the shortcomings;
The fusion of the NRM party structures with the Government in its implementation. I was taken back when upon reaching Butaleja district and we had to kick off the work, instead of heading to the district officials, we had to meet the NRM district chairman. So many other activities down the chain were organised by NRM party functionaries and the district technocrats were only expected to come in during trainings. This caused some rift in the implementation and as a result greatly compromised effective output.
Clarity is required on whether this is a party or government initiative.
The Parish was designed to play the key role of project implementation. However, the current legal regime does not empower them to have the kind of responsibilities that this project requires of them. Over time, this is likely to create pockets of conflict.
While money was released to recruit Parish Chiefs allover the country for this initiative, most are severely incompetent to carry out the expected roles and on top of that lack even the basic infrastructure like offices to operate.
There are numerous questions around the voluntary Parish Development Committees that are required to shoulder the PDM implementation responsibility. There seems to be a clash with the work that sub counties do.
Technical officers and Political leaders seem to be speaking different languages especially when it comes to the selection of beneficiaries. So much influence peddling is taking place and I recall a case of a top female politician in one of the districts in the East that fought hard to be included as a PDM beneficiary.
The SACCO creation is highly bloated with beneficiaries being herded like goats to form a grouping that quickly gets to be called a SACCO, given little or no training at all on what and how they will operate and then made to sign papers with a promise to receive Money!!!! There are also cases of people paying money to middlemen in order to be listed as SACCO members with the ultimate goal of getting money.
The services these SACCOs are meant to handle are a multitude and require highly secialised skillsets if any benefit is to come out of the move. Extension services, production, bulking and marketing, accountability among others are activities the SACCOs have to engage in and not any Tom, Dick and Harry can undertake these activities.
The CAO as per the model has been made the Accounting Officer of the Parish Revolving Fund while the questionable Parish Chief is both the accounting officer and administrative head at the parish level. Considering the huge sums of money to be dispensed, we are readying ourselves for another Mabaati scandal of gargantuan proportions.
The model is conspicuously silent on the private sector participation with the assumption that the value and supply chains can be effectively handled by the PDM organisations solely. This is going to lead to unnecessary duplication of resources and unintended failures as a result of inexperience.
These among others are the reasons I want to let you know that you were misguided into thinking that the Parish Development Model will generate 70 Million new jobs.
Business & Technology Consultant