By Kalule Kalungi
The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed most people who do not want to perish or stagnate to think outside the box. Our 11th Parliament was born during the pandemic and started work with the second lockdown. You can thus expect the MPs to see that there is a big elephant in the room, and look out of the box to do certain key things differently, as the leaders up to whom we look for leadership.
Some MPs in Kigezi district have in fact done something noteworthy. Realizing the high cost of treating Covid-19 and that there is no health insurance policy let alone practice in place, and that health workers who get Covid-19 while treating fellow citizens have to pay for their own treatment and often have to borrow or sell assets to treat infection from work, the MPs have set up a fund – the Rodney Fund – named after the senior pharmacists at Kabale Regional Referral Hospital – for buying medicine for health workers who get infected at work.
That is Health. Now let us move to transport. The poor MPs have been criticized and called names for the sh200m given to each of them as car allowance. Driven on a guilt trip by angry critics who include fellow MPs, the members have been making all sorts of pledges on how they will spend the money for the good of their people.
For God’s sake, the money is for buying a vehicle! And though ambulances or tractors which some prefer are also vehicles, the vehicle is presumed for human transport to work. Their transport windfall comes at a time when Uganda’s public transport (policy) is one of the most shambolic in the world. And the MPs are the ones to think and make the best plans for this country. The huge public transport elephant is squeezing the MPs in the small room they are standing in and we are praying that they see it and do something outside the box with their windfall of sh200m x 529 to their best satisfaction (utility) and that of their voters!
If wishes were vehicles..sorry, horses, these are some of the things the MPs could do: Divide 529 by 135 and you have like four MPs per district on average. Between them four of them they have sh800m. Okay, the 200m is individual but they know that you achieve more by joining forces. So what about the honourables of a district investing in a sturdy, robust brand new bus to serve their district at modest rates and running rational schedules and the trips to the city that coincide with the MPs’ travel schedules?
It would be safer, comfortably carry four times more passengers than a reckless kamunyes and certainly smarter. It is not dishonourable to use public means to and from the city – that is what MPs in richer economies like the UK do. In this model, the MPs would of course be the shareholders and owners of the bus, from which they would continue earning even after their five-year term. And since on matters of (car) allowances there are no parties, this would be a unifying venture between MPs of different parties.
And in the city, there is an even bigger elephant in a yet much smaller room –congestion on the roads that leaves nobody moving fast enough, except those with lead cars and sirens. Now MPs have a little item in their monthly package called town run, worth a million shillings.
The MPs have a cooperative society in case you didn’t know, and it could even be the richest in the country, definitely richer that the army’s Wazalendo when you consider that theirs has far fewer members with hundreds of billions. Anyway, the MPs’ SACCO could pick the member’s sh1m per month – that is 529m per month and order a fleet of buses to do town service. Since they have the power, the MPs could order the designation of bus lanes instantly, so that the ‘honourable’ buses just sail around the city unhindered by the traffic jam! And mint money for their SACCO!
Yes, the fresh members of the 11th Parliament can show the way forward out of the chronic ‘gavumenti etuyambe’ mental pandemic.
The writer is a specialist in Popular Economic Policies
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