For Online E-newspaper
The East African : Jan 19th 2015
18 The EastAfrican OPINION JANUARY 17-23,2015 LAST WORD You can ban witchdocto≥s, but how do you end belief in witchc≥aft? Can Tanzanian authoriJoachim Buwembo How Ugandan o∞cials became wo≥ld leade≥s in the kickback game A story is often told in Uganda’s business community of a district chairman who refused to accept a bribe from a contrac- tor to swing a public tender his way. The building contractor had offered the traditional 10 per cent and the chairman spat at him. He raised the offer to 39 per cent of the whole tender value, then 50, but the chairman would not budge. Finally in desperation, he raised the chairman’s cut to 75 per cent, but even this was rejected. Demoralised, he asked the chairman what he had against him. “Nothing,” answered the chairman. “But why should I accept a mere 75 per cent when I can take 100 per cent?” Once upon a time, our commission rate for public works tenders stood at 10 per cent like in many parts of the world. Then the rates started going up until they reached 100 per cent, the level at which project money is disbursed and nothing is done. A number of such scams have made headlines. But we have now exceeded the levels of the district chairman who saw no logic in accepting “a mere” 75 per cent when he could take 100 per cent. Taking 100 per cent is becoming rather old fashioned. Instead of taking fractions of the contract value, we have now invented a new formula that enables officials take multiples, not fractions and even do the work. So, if a certain stretch of road costs a hundred million shillings to fix, an official will pocket two hundred million, thereby making a “profit” of 200 per cent. Or if a railway costs two million dollars per kilometre to build, officials will cost it at nine to pocket seven million per kilometre, making a “profit”’ of 350 per cent. So you can no longer accuse us of thinking small. We think bigger than the Americans and Chinese and all those other big economies. Which gives me faith that Uganda will soon overtake them if we continue thinking this big. For example, today our national budget is about five billion dollars. We just need to apply the same formula we use in costing infrastructure projects and our budget shall automatically grow to fifteen billion. Then as usual we shall borrow from the donors to finance part of it. By applying the same formula next year, we can grow the government budget to forty-five billion dollars, higher than the GDP at twenty something billion. Now which other country can beat that? So we are set to re-write the text- book of economics. Before you laugh, remember how banking developed. A bunch of blacksmiths had strong safes and people started entrusting their money to them for safekeeping. The blacksmiths soon figured out that the depositors did not collect their money quickly, so they started lending it out for a profit, called interest. Then when people started avoiding carrying large sums of money for making transactions, the safe-makers started writing papers to suppliers indicating that the buyer had enough money set aside to pay for the goods. The suppliers accepted the piece of paper, later called a cheque, and handed over the goods. The supplier Illustration: John Nyagah also opened an account with the blacksmith and did not have to carry away the entire amount. That is when the early bankers realised they could create money that did not exist by issuing cheques worth much more money than they actually held in deposits. Uganda is now set to take the world’s economics to the next level. ties eradicate an embedded belief in witchcraft? The country has banned witchdoctors from practising their craft in an attempt to stem a surge in murders of albinos, whose body parts are sold for witchcraft. The ban follows the kidnapping of a four-year-old girl by men armed with machetes, who took her from her home in the northern Mwanza region. Attacks against albinos are said to be on the rise because Tanzania’s October 2015 presidential election is on the horizon, encouraging political campaigners to turn to influential “sorcerers” for support. At least 74 albinos have been murdered in Tanzania since 2000, according to United Nations experts. The ban does not cover traditional healers who use herbs to help heal the sick. Kim Jong-Un, world’s most feared film critic? North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is unhappy about the forthcoming film version of the book Fifty Shades of Grey and is convinced that it is a satire on his regime. “Sadism, dominance, the colour grey... Our leader is convinced that this film is both a personal and political attack on him. In fact, he loves wearing the colour grey so much that his nickname among the staff is Mr Grey. The coincidences are just too great.” a North Korean insider revealed. In addition, says the insider, “Kim Jong-un was also a huge fan of the book, and is worried that it just can’t be adapted for the big screen.” Hollywood is bracing itself for the possibility of another cyber-attack. Yes, I’ve been on leave for 24 years. So? An Indian civil servant has been fired after 24 years of absenteeism! A.K Verma, an executive engineer at the Central Public Works Department, was fired after last appearing for work in December 1990. “He went on seeking extensions of leave, which were not sanctioned, and defied directions to report to work,” the government said in a statement. Even after an inquiry found him guilty of “wilful absence from duty” in 1992, it took another 22 years and the intervention of a Cabinet minister to remove him. India’s labour laws make it hard to sack staff for any reason other than criminal misconduct. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states have recently changed the law to make it easier to hire and fire staff, in a move welcomed by industry leaders but opposed by labour unions. So being LGBT means d≥iving on the w≥ong side of the ≥oad? Russia has banned trans- sexual and transgender people from getting driving licences. The ban is included on a list of “mental disorders” barring people from qualifying to be on the road. The list also includes; fetishism, exhibitionism and voyeurism, “pathological” gambling and compulsive stealing. President Vladimir Putin’s government claims the new “medical controls” will reduce road accidents. Valery Evtushenko at the Russian Psychiatric Association voiced concern about the driving restrictions, saying some people would avoid seeking psychiatric help, fearing a driving ban. Mikhail Strakhov told the BBC Russian Service that the definition of “personality disorders” was too vague and some disorders would not affect a person’s ability to drive a car safely.
Jan 12th 2015
Jan 26th 2015