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Last week NTV hosted their 3rd Economic Summit. It was graced by the Right Honorable Prime Minister and the Minster of Finance. I don’t remember want the Right Honorable Prime Minister said but I suppose he said all the right things (pun intended) about the government and the economy. Then it was the turn of the Honorable Minster of Finance to give the keynote address. He too said all the right things and assured us the economy was on the right track. If all went well, we were slated for a 6.1% growth this financial year 2018/19.

It was then our turn as panelists to discuss the Honorable Minister of Finance’s presentation. It is easy to criticize government, but then it is no child’s play having to balance competing interests in one of the poorest economies in the world.  An economy is a big ship and steering it safely through stormy waters is not as simple as we want to believe. This is what we now all seem to have found out after 30 odd years of this and that program.

Growth and development are evolutionary processes. We have realized that if we want to grow the economy we must create jobs and increase productivity. Incrementalism is the way. We must ask the right questions and provide in the same measure, solutions that try to address these problems of the day.

That is where I came in with my two cents in response to the Minister’s very positive address. There is that not so small problem of more than 70% of the population living off agriculture which in turn produces only about 25% of our GDP according to the statistics gurus. If this is true, then the key question for us is how do we ramp up (aggregate) demand for goods and services so that these 70% can also participate in the economy effectively? That is the million dollar question Sub Saharan countries seem to be failing to answer. In a globalizing world, how do you pick up and carry all the your people if you want to see your economy grow and develop? How can we add another 2 or 3 percentage points to the projected growth so that there is indeed an impact on all and sundry?

I did hazard a few suggestions and do hope the Minister and his colleagues will do something about them. First is the not so small problem of the public sector borrowing requirement. If government has no fiscal discipline, then it will continue to drag down the capacity of the private sector to create those jobs we so sorely desire by keeping the cost of money high. That fact has already been reflected in the 2018 Cost of Doing Business Report. From 122 we slipped to 127 in the league of nations.

Second is the failure to correct the public sector pay problem. The public sector is critical to growth and if it continues to remain inefficient, it dumbs down government programs because public officials largely remain rent seekers. It is possible to pay a living wage and create a vibrant civil service. Why the government does not wish to address this problem, I have no idea.

My third suggestion of the day was to unlock frozen resources that are held up in the financial system as unclaimed assets. The financial system is clogged with lots of funds that are going uninvested. For these resources, it is time to create an Unclaimed Assets Authority and channel these resources into investment. These resources are sitting idly and unsweated in the financial system. It is about time we stopped looking to China and mobilized our own funds for our infrastructure programs.

As we think, we are. If we really have the will to change the status quo, then we can do a lot of great things for ourselves. But then again, who wants change?

Samuel Sejjaaka is Country Team Leader at Abacus Business School. Twitter @samuesejjaaka