"The high cost of living in Uganda at the moment is alarming"May 30th, 2011
With rocketing food and fuel prices, Ugandans are calling on their government to take action to ease living conditions. Diana Phoebe, a 24-year-old aspiring Commonwealth Correspondent, reports on the costs to the economy and country of a brewing crisis.
It has been a month since opposition leaders in Uganda came up with a demonstration termed “walk to work” over the increasing prices of fuel, food and so many other goods.
After the elections earlier this year, the Ugandan shilling went down as the dollar shot up, and this was mainly because so much money was injected into the economy during the election period.
The situation has become alarming because so many things have become more expensive and less accessible to the common man since our money is losing value.
Annual food inflation alone increased to 23.7% in March, and there has already been a steady rise in prices in the last six months.
According to records compiled by the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics, this is not the worst inflation that Ugandans have faced. Back in 2009, it shot up to a record of 14.9% due to the global financial crisis. But this time people have expressed concerns about the situation and thus the “walk to work campaign” began.
As a result of the high inflation companies that have been affected have been cutting back on their staff. Shortages in fuel and increases in fuel prices mean that more people are being affected. The costs of goods and services have all risen.
So the opposition leaders decided that a peaceful demonstration termed “the walk to work campaign” would be done every Monday and Thursday until the government can control the inflation rate. This did not go well and resulted into a lot of chaos, with the government deploying the police force and the army.
Many leaders have been imprisoned with the government claiming that opposition leaders have been inciting negative feelings and causing unrest.
On the other hand, many Ugandans are now aware of their rights to speak out. This right is provided by the state through the constitution that guarantees freedom of speech. So this time many Ugandans are supporting what the opposition is doing because they want the government to listen to their pleas.
However, speaking on behalf of the government three weeks back, Information and National Guidance Minister Kabakumba Masiko said current inflation is largely generated by external factors which the government cannot control.
“The increase in fuel prices is primarily attributed to the ongoing conflicts and political uncertainty in the Middle East,” she said.
She added that the primary responsibility of the head of the family was to feed and take care of the family, saying that it was not a responsibility of the government. This showed that government has no intention to intervene, and was a huge blow to the many Ugandans who are striving to live with high food and fuel prices.
Many of us can see that the government may not have the upper hand in controlling the high international prices of fuel. But, instead of waiting for the next time that this terrible crisis hits Uganda, the government should invest in agricultural and industrial sector to reduce on high food prices and famine.
The government can also cut down on high spending, such as the President’s swearing in ceremony that was originally 3 billion shillings, and recently reduced to 2.8 billion. Many people feel that this money could be channeled to other investments to avoid economic instability.
Our neighbours, the Kenyans, also recently threatened to start a “walk to work” campaign. But they marched for just one day and their government cut prices on diesel and kerosene. We hope that our government will pick a leaf out of their book and do something.
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