By Okwi Constantine
Former MP Aspirant Kibale County, Pallisa District
From sectoral, multi-sectoral, territorial, to local approaches, the parish development model fits well in well intended and conventionally acclaimed models of rural development. However, in the Pearl of Africa, Uganda, there are a number of illnesses have already afflicted the model. If not effectively treated, it could as well end in the story of a beautiful gal who went to fetch her water with a perforated bucket. Thus;
1) Inequity in per capita effect.
While Uganda has 10,595 parishes in 146 districts, these parishes are not of the same size in geographical coverage and population numbers. It thus means that those districts with many parishes, but low population density will have a higher per capita contribution compared to those with a high population density. For example, in Eastern Uganda with 37 districts, Kween, with a population of 112,300 people in 101 parishes shall receive Ugx. 10,100,000,000 (if 100m, not 40m if approved) in parish revolving fund, translating to a per capita allocation of Ugx. 89,938 per person. In Ngora district with a population of 170,000 people in 73 parishes, Ugx. 7,300,000,000 shall be received in parish revolving fund. This translates to a per capita allocation of Ugx. 42,941 per person. Jinja district with a population of 522,300 people in 60 parishes shall receive Ugx. 6,000,000,000 in parish revolving fund, translating to a paltry Ugx. 11,488 per person. A comprehensive write up would uncover similar disparities across regions of Uganda. Unless another intervention is modeled, the Parish Model may be saddled by this congenital defect.
2) Public indifference
Since the advent of multipartyism in Uganda, most government economic interventions have been perceived by the public as direct non conditional transfers to individuals and households for supporting the NRM Party, by keeping it in power. The reverse of this perverse accountability is that the people just posture for the sake of accessing the funds, without diligent selection and appraisal of investment ideas. Consequently, the level of business fatality shall be high, making it difficult for the revolving fund to make rounds necessary to haul the 68% Ugandans in subsistence economy to the money economy. Ugandans are still reeling with the bitter experience of Youth Livelihood Program, operation Wealth Creation, Women Entrepreneurship Fund and Emyooga, to list bit a few. For the Parish Development Model to excel, cronyism and patronage, that have characterized past initiatives have to be eliminated first.
3) Corruption, the pervasive, ever ready monster lurking.
There have already been tales of extortion, bribery and nepotism in the recruitment of parish chiefs. We are going to welcome children of corruption into offices and they shall have no morals in discharging their duties and responsibility. The revolving fund shall be propelled by wheels of corruption, such that the poor shall remain poor and graduate further in this line. If this monster is not caged first, the parish development model shall suffer.
Researchers are frantically trying to determine a master model for accommodating the parish model, emyooga, operation wealth creation, the local government plans and other government initiatives. For example, emyooga is providing finance to groups in select trades, operation wealth creation is providing agricultural inputs to ramp up agricultural production with objective of converting subsistence to commercial operations and parish development model is literally an agricultural initiative. This is likely to cause expensive contradictions, that need to be preemptively handled.
5) Hastily announced
At the moment, one is excused deducing that the model is already a failure. The model was to roll out with effect from 1st July 2021. To date, even the recruitment of Parish Chiefs, the officers in charge is not yet completed. This prompted the Permanent Secretary, Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to direct districts to expedite recruitment before 30th October 2021. These delays may be occasioned by insufficient time government allotted to refining this idea. Ultimately, if this is not checked, the model shall be cast into the valley of dead initiatives.