By David Lumu
President Yoweri Museveni will on Friday (August 5) address the country on matters of national importance, especially development, State House officials, have said.
“President Museveni will address the nation on Friday 5, 2022 at 8:00 pm,” the outgoing Presidential Press Secretary, Lindah Nabusayi, said.
She added that the address, which will be broadcast live from all TVs and radios, will tackle development issues.
This will be the third address to the nation following the July 20 and July 27 separate briefs to the country on the current social-economic issues, especially the rising commodity and fuel prices.
In the previous two briefs to the nation, Museveni explained a number of issues such as the recent rising commodity prices, fuel prices and the need for citizens to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
He noted that the short and long-term solution to rising fuel prices is for the country to switch from petrol and diesel vehicles to electric cars.
Museveni also rejected the idea of subsidies and tax cuts, noting that they will drain the country’s $4b foreign reserves without curing the mistake and consequences caused by what he described as “people trying to be like God”.
“When people try to be like God, they get bad consequences and that’s what I have come to tell you about today. With high prices of fuel, shortage and high prices of palm oil, fertilisers, ideas started coming; cut taxes! Subsidise! But do you know that there’s a difference between high commodity prices and shortage of commodities. So, which is better? Shortage or high prices?
“Taxes are meant for development. We want to build new roads and other projects and when we cut taxes or subsidise commodities, the projects are stopped and money is taken for eating and buying fuel to drive cars. If you subsidise or cut taxes, you mislead people. They get used and stop living within their means and in the end, you may transform high prices into total shortage. Like Sri Lanka; that country is fairly developed, but because of some mistakes, they are now in trouble,” he added.
Mismanagement of nature and the resultant climate change-related complications are the other things that Museveni condemned, noting that the creation story as captured in the Bible, is testament that God demarcated the world with a purpose.
“The medium and long-term answer is electric cars and using the train. We are now repairing the railway. Once people get tired of the expensive diesel and petrol, they will shift to the train. So, it is better we put emphasis on that so that we start using the train for cargo and even passengers so that we spend less on this expensive fuel,” he said.
The fuel pump price is now at at average of sh6,790 per litre.
For the country’s vehicle manufacturing plant, Kira Motors, to make more electric buses, Museveni said the engineers, led by Paul Musasizi, need sh20b.
“Electric buses and motorcycles are the answer to the current fuel crisis. The best way is to start moving away from petrol to electric cars like our Kira buses. The engineers told me they need sh20b to make more electric buses,” he said.
“So, the correct way, if we have money, instead of using it to subsidise the mistake, we rather use to correct the mistake. Electric vehicles are cleaner, cheaper, and apparently,they have got less maintenance costs. Therefore, this pressure of using the little money we have to subsidise problems, we rather use it to get out of the problem,” Museveni added.
The fuel prices, Museveni said, are not likely to go down in the near future even if the war between Ukraine and Russia ends.
“It is not likely to go down because of this fear that petroleum is going to be phased out, and therefore, we don’t have to look for new fields; we only remain with old reserves. It is good for us because we have got a lot of oil, but now, it is a problem,” he said, noting that at a recent G-7 summit, leaders resolved that there should be a switch from fuel-engineered vehicles to electric ones, a move that threw panic within the fossil oil sector globally.
Instead of spending money on these existing problems such as high commodity prices, Museveni said Ugandans should learn to live within their means and then migrate to better solutions.
“The biggest danger you have is that you can no longer have plenty. To think, that you can have plenty in this type of condition, it is like a man who was told the house is on fire, and he said, prepare a bed for me to sleep. As a freedom fighter when I see such a trend, I say, we should migrate to something else, and not subsidise this danger to create an artificial comfort for the people to think that things are normal,” he said.
On commodity prices, the President welcomed the ideas fronted by the Minister of Agriculture, Frank Tumwebaze, to support large-scale farmers to produce more grain backed by irrigation, and also help the small-scale farmers under the Parish Development Model to venture into commercial farming.
The President also implored Ugandans, especially the political elite, to avoid lies, parasitism tendencies and the problem of not having a vision, noting that some people are against value-addition for coffee yet it is important that Uganda add value to every export out of the country.
“We had a big argument about producing roasted coffee, ground coffee and packaged here in Uganda. There was a debate in Parliament where people were just telling lies. And those who were telling lies are the parasites,” he said, noting that instead of getting $30 per kilogramme of coffee, Uganda gets $3 because it exports raw coffee.
“Someone told me that Switzerland is getting about $2b from coffee which they don’t even grow, they just roast ours,” he added.