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Moving subsistence households to the money economy: Why Uganda’s Parish Development Model (PDM) is far from achieving intended results

As an extension of the government’s approach to sustainable and inclusive development as envisaged under the National Development Plan III (2020-2025), approved January 30th, 2020 by the Parliament of Uganda, the Parish Development Model (PDM) Programme was launched by the President of Uganda on the 26th February, 2022 in Kibuku Secondary School, Kibuku District in Bukedi sub region.

The model has a seven-pillar foundation intended to uplift 39% of households from subsistence to the money economy. The Programme is aimed at benefiting 10,594 parishes with the parish being the key Administrative Unit for its implementation. The pillars according to MoFPED (2021) include; Production, Storage, Processing and Marketing, Infrastructure and Economic Services, Financial Inclusion, Social Services, Mindset change and Cross cutting issues, Parish Based Management Information Systems and finally Governance and Administration.

Following parliamentary approval and criticism by the President of the earlier proposed 17 million per Parish in the FY 2021/2022, the 2022/23 budget allocated UGX 1 trillion towards the implementation of the PDM, resulting into UGX 100 million per Parish (MoICT & NG, 2021). Each parish SACCO will be allocated UGX 100M as a revolving fund reserved for the purchase of agricultural inputs by households still in subsistence farming practices.

As a developing economy, this is a great initiative by government, in ensuring the common person ‘omuntu wa wansi’ is uplifted from poverty to the much-contested middle income class (at individual level). However, more still has to be done to ensure the intended objectives are achieved.

The PDM status was further amplified by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) where the Executive Director explained to the country that Uganda is not yet ready to roll out the PDM. He explained that UBOS has not yet received and analyzed all the required data from the parishes to guide the implementation of the initiative, to the extent that some areas had not started data collection. Districts like Kampala and Wakiso had collected only 1% of the required data due to financial constraints.

Challenges that may affect the efficiency of the Parish Development Model (PDM) Programme.

Over the years, Uganda has adopted a number of Poverty Alleviation Programmes and policies including PEAP in 1997, Rural Farmers Scheme (early 1990’s), Entandikwa in the run up to 1996, Bona Bagaggawale (2007), Youth Capital Venture which later morphed into Youth Livelihood Programme, Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), NAADS, NUSAF, Emyooga and the most recent PDM. All these unfortunately accomplished borderline to disputable performances, being clones or disguises of the former projects and with government auditors having found a number of them mismanaged. To date, poverty statistics are still alarming in the country, with Uganda being ranked 24th among the poorest nations in the world (Global Finance, 2021), with GDP (PPP) per capita at only $2,574. A World Bank study done in 2020 revealed that more than a third of Ugandans live on less than $1.90 and one in every five people live in extreme poverty. (World Bank, 2020)

With the economic outlook due to the Covid-19 pandemic still uncertain, the following challenges (regrettably habituated) could predispose the PDM to the same fate as the other Poverty Alleviation Programmes initiated before it.

The following must be addressed if the PDM is to achieve desired results:

  • Inadequate Planning; There was a need to ascertain parish needs depending on the population size, infrastructure needs, differences in financial literacy rates, not forgetting thorough piloting and sensitization, with would be beneficiaries expecting to receive cash yet the Programme offers in-kind support and questions lingering over capacity of implementers. These inconsistencies could lead to under or over allocation of resources which will eventually affect the success of the program.
  • PDM projects are imposed on people other than involving them in identifying projects. The program is mainly focused on financing Agricultural projects as profitable ventures for most Ugandans there by neglecting other projects. The implementors should involve the beneficiaries in assessing the profitability of the chosen projects instead of imposing the project on them. For example, the residents of Namayingo district who are mostly fish mongers need more funds of at least 5 million due to high cost of fishing gear for their fishing activity. There are also highlanders yet government concentrated on the mainlanders where government is providing coffee, cereals, animals that don’t benefit the highlanders, as raised by Peter Okeeyo – MP Bukooli Islands. As government mobilizes and popularizes the PDM Program through ministers, the people should also be involved in the planning process as they are the beneficiaries of this Program.
  • Corruption; the continuous embezzlement of funds intended to finance government programmes just like this Model tend to fail the programmes. There is nobody at the center who has demonstrated any commitment to confront the cancer of corruption”- Godber Tumushabe (Expert in Governance & Strategic Studies). The reluctance of the government towards this problem may affect the seven pillars on which the program is to roll out and the whole Program is dependent on these funds.
  • Inadequacy of Funds. The Government has got to borrow funds in order to finance these projects which in turn will increase the public debt that is already weighing on the citizens. Having risen to 73.8 trillion shillings (BOU, Oct 2021) impairing Uganda’s fiscal position. Increase of the debt will directly affect the cost of living of the citizens who are the target for the PDM. This will lead to an increase in the cost of the project inform of interest rates, taxes which could let down the objective of the whole program.
  • Lack of Functional Government Structures. The District Service Commission was meant to finalize the Parish Chief recruitment process by 30th September, 2021. 80% the members of the District Service Commission did not comply with the deadline and also recruited Parish Chiefs contravening qualifications provided by Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED). This in turn caused delays in the approval process by the Public Service Commission which led to the halt of the disbursement of the 100m by the MoFPED. In order to achieve the intended goals of the PDM, the government should finalize the implementation guidelines as well as creation of enterprise groups which are going to benefit from the money. The government should establish fully-functional implementation structures at the grassroots to undertake the recruitment process.” Local government structures are on paper but not on ground”- Dr. Fred Muhumuza (Economist).
  • Politicizing of projects; most projects in Uganda are conceptualized more as political projects where they come in during the election period for example the Entandikwa Initiative. Often times these are misconstrued as re-election schemes due gross political divide. The case in point in Namutumba district where technocrats deliberately excluded some parishes from benefiting from the project due to errors within their bank accounts and TINs!
  • Slow and Long procurement processes. Government procurement processes have a reputation of for delay as nothing moves as fast as it should be. The regulations and mandated procedures bottleneck efforts to complete projects on time and resource limitations only intensify the jam. This affects the implementation and development of project output such as distribution of agricultural supplies on which the model is based.

In conclusion therefore, unless government ensures transparency and accountability as benchmarks for rolling out the Parish Development Model and fine-tuning implementation, poverty eradication schemes in Uganda will remain a strategy that needs to be re-thought.

By: Nalubega Petronellah.

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