President Museveni on investments: We’re dealing with ‘hardware’ bottlenecks, remaining with attitude change

By David Rupiny

President Yoweri Museveni has said while the government is dealing with what he terms as “hardware” bottlenecks to ease of doing business in Uganda, the biggest problem now remains some public servants’ negative “attitude of it doesn’t concern me”.

Closing the three-day Presidential Investors’ Roundtable (PIRT) review meeting at State House, Entebbe, Thursday, President Museveni told public servants to drop negative attitudes and serve the country diligently.

The President said government, in order to ease doing business, has achieved a lot by providing roads, ICT backbone, education and skills development, healthcare and security, amongst others, leading to a good rate of economic growth.

He told political leaders and supervisors to task, direct and set timelines for public servants in writing against which their performance is weighed and sanctions instituted if need be.

The PIRT competitiveness and ease of doing business review session.

PIRT is a high level forum the President chairs which brings together a select group of domestic and foreign investors and public servants to advise government on incentives, policies and areas that improve competitiveness and help in attracting investments.

The PIRT process started in 2004 and is now in its sixth phase, with focus on tourism, competitiveness and ease of doing business, minerals value addition, oil and gas, transport and logistics and agricultural value addition.

The President challenged technocrats to research and consult in order to find modern and innovative ways of doing things, warning that the “attitude of not bothering will have to be crushed” by tasking public servants in writing and getting rid of those who fall short.

President Museveni said investors should not aim at getting the most from their investments and leaving peanuts for the country. He said it is unfair for an investor to take the lion’s share of the return on investment and leave a small chunk for the country.

The President said whatever policies are put in place to boost investments and ease doing business should be win-win, adding that such policies should be friendly to both the investor and Ugandans.

On the corona virus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, President Museveni said the government must protect the citizens, stressing that there is no short-cut about it, a veiled reference to the move by government to bar citizens from countries hit hard by the virus from visiting Uganda.

Amos Wekesa (right) and his deputy, Joan Kantu Else.

The President was responding to a plea from Amos Wekesa, the Chair of the Technical Working Group on Tourism, for the government to mitigate the risks of corona virus pandemic to tourism in Uganda. According to Wekesa, many tourists are cancelling their bookings and asking for refunds, a situation that is sending shockwaves in the sector including job cuts.

“For corona virus, we’re very sorry about this. We know you (tourism sector) will suffer, but we cannot help you. Let the money be lost but lives saved,” said the President.

President Museveni directed the finance minister, Matia Kasaija, to meet with players in the tourism sector to work out a “rescue and stimulus mechanism” in order to ameliorate the situation.

The President reiterated his call to Ugandans to be alert and take proper care of their hygiene in order to fight the disease.

He also directed that tax on exportation of tobacco leaf be introduced, like the one on hides and skins exports.

The President congratulated members of the Presidential Investors’ Roundtable for the commendable job they are doing, calling them “our free consultants”.

Paul Zhang, Chair of Tian Tang Group (centre) and

Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija, said they will look into proposals to review imposition of value added tax on, amongst others, primary processing, packaging materials, upcountry accommodation in national parks and removal of tax on home-use gas.

Matia Kasaija, Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

State Minister for Privatisation and Investment, Evelyne Anite, challenged public servants to have the zeal and commitment exhibited by the President in driving Uganda forward, adding that there is a need for performance-based review of public officials’ work.

“Let’s deliver, up our game and not let our country down. Let’s not mess the country for our young people,” said Anite.

Baroness Lynda Chalker

Baroness Lynda Chalker, a promoter of investments in Uganda, challenged political leaders and public officials to walk the talk by making quick decisions in the implementation of PIRT recommendations.

The Chair of Private Sector Foundation of Uganda, Elly Karuhanga, said a Prime Minister-Private Sector Forum is being created. He said the forum will be held every three months to address private sector issues contained in memoranda with ministries, adding that they will have a scorecard for the private sector.

Said Karuhanga: “We’ve resolved to make our country a better place, create jobs for our young people and help in fighting corruption”.

Dr Emely Kugonza (centre), Chair of Board of Directors of Uganda Investment Authority.

The Chair of Board of Directors of Uganda Investment Authority, Emely Kugonza, said through the PIRT a number of reforms aimed at improving Uganda’s competitiveness and ease of doing business have been generated and implemented.

Members of the PIRT Secretariat headed by the UIA Ag. Director General, Lawrence Byensi (second right)

The PIRT Secretariat, run by Uganda Investment Authority, presented a matrix of achievements and pending issues.