Who supports foreign aid in Uganda?

A new paper by Harris, Milner, Findley, and Nielson finds that while the Ugandan public generally prefers foreign aid to government programs, Ugandan elites (LCs and MPs) prefer government programs:

We examine the differences in behavioral and attitudinal responses between mass and elite recipients. We generally find that citizens strongly prefer foreign aid over government programs, and elites in most contexts express a preference for government programs over foreign aid. The results for masses are stronger than for the elites, but we interpret this as evidence that citizens see aid as an escape from clientelism, whereas elites may perceive more avenues for the capture of aid resources.

 

Full paper here.

all the president’s men

…Museveni has increasingly become a drag on the ability of the country to move to the next state of consolidation. He has stabilised the political dispensation, sustained growth, tamed the army, facilitated the growth of a large and diversified private sector, a large and educated middle class and thereby laid the structural foundations for transformation. Yet his politics has remained unchanged in the face of this structural change, largely pandering to old social forces and unable to bring the new ones to the centre of his politics.

The political crisis in Uganda is therefore a product of the tension between an emerging new society and the prevailing political institutions and practices. If Museveni has successfully modernised Uganda, his biggest failure has been inability to modernise his politics.

That is Andrew Mwenda writing in the East African this week on how Museveni’s success is bringing him down. I largely agree with his analysis, but I think the role of those surrounding the president has been somewhat underplayed.

There has been a lot of hoohahing about the spilling of beans by the likes of John Nagenda, among many others, courtesy of Wikileaks. I personally enjoyed the final paragraph of Nagenda’s Saturday column (I can’t seem to find it on the New Vision website, which could use a redesign):

When I recall the whiskey-fuelled nights with various Ambassadors, Good God I shudder to imagine when and how I will be leaked!

All of this should tell us that many would-be advisors of the President are for whatever reason unwilling or unable to be frank with Museveni. Management of information to and from government, and the presidency in particular, is riddled with the same corruption and incompetence as is pervasive elsewhere. Who is the winner in this situation?

Perhaps Museveni’s success, as Andrew notes, is in many ways a major contributor to his demise. But many of those who surround him haven’t helped him “modernize his politics” either.

Why has Besigye gone to Nairobi?

Dr. Kizza Besigye was finally allowed to fly to Nairobi to seek treatment for his battering yesterday at the hands of (flower-print shirted, h/t Rosebell) plainclothes state security operatives. NTV has footage of his departure:

I am very glad Dr. Besigye was ultimately allowed to fly (@AndrewMwenda suggests maybe he needs to invest in a boat now that walking, driving and flying are forbidden), but let’s remember why he needs to go to Nairobi in the first place (apart from his brutal treatment). There are no hospitals in Uganda that come close to rivaling the best of those of Kenya or South Africa. Those who get care in Mulago or IHK are the luckiest.

Beyond the overburdened national referral hospital and private hospitals (the latter of which are impossibly expensive for most), the health sector in Uganda is in a pathetic state. Health worker absenteeism, drug leakage, and even ghost clinics are rampant. A 2007 survey found that only 6% of Uganda’s hospitals had the basic infection control elements (soap, running water, latex gloves, etc.). 1 in 8 children will not live to see their first birthday, meaning that nearly 500 of the 4000+ born each day will have died within the next five years. Maternal mortality has not improved by any statistically significant amount from 1995 to 2006, when the last Demographic and Health study was completed (Uganda DHS 2006 pg.282).

The failures of the health sector are to a large extent, a failure of governance.

Yes, it is terrible that security forces attempted to stop Besigye from seeking the medical treatment he so desperately needs and deserves. It literally added insult to a horribly unjust injury. But even more terrible is that Besigye is only one of millions of Ugandans who desperately need quality health care. And most aren’t getting it.

small victories in record keeping

While many of my photos from the summer were lost along with the laptop, I managed to salvage a few from the camera, including this one — an effort in birth certification in Arua regional hospital. Record keeping and data collection is a major challenge in Uganda. There is no national register or systematic record keeping of births and deaths. The national census, while extremely useful, is only administered every 10 years, with the next census report due in 2012 (they always fall conveniently after an election year). The absence of data makes planning a major challenge, and probably contributes significantly to corruption. It is easy to create ghost soldiers, ghost teachers, ghost medical workers, etc., when you cannot easily prove or disprove their existence. Has anyone looked into the correlation between a country’s data collection activities/capabilities and level of corruption? I’d love some data on that.

Problematizing Corruption

I just finished (finally) reading Michela Wrong’s latest book, It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle Blower. I’m not going to review the book, per se, but I do recommend it to anyone interested in East African politics, corruption, foreign aid, diplomacy, etc. More than anything, it has made me think more deeply about this problem we have called corruption.

What has really been bothering me of late is that it seems for too many people, corruption isn’t a problem. Wrong quotes a journalist saying of Kenya, “Steal a mobile in this country and you get lynched, steal $100 million and you get to run as MP”. This is also true, to some degree, in Uganda. You can easily be killed for stealing a chicken, but steal from the Global Fund and…um…well, you can just sit tight in your Bugolobi or Kololo mansion. Yes, people talk — some of them, for a while…but ultimately the story dies and the big shots soldier on. The media picks up on the next big story, perhaps even a fire or collapsing building that is actually the consequence of corruption, and the previous story is forgotten. Corruption is like a mosquito buzzing around your bed at night — bothersome, but not annoying enough to make you get up and squash, so you roll over and keep sleeping. Which is too bad, since you may very well fall ill with malaria as a result of your inaction.

Ok, maybe that’s a lame analogy, but you get the point. If corruption is not seen as a “problem” to those it affects the most, how can we ever end it? Like malaria actually. Why do you think people have used mosquito nets as fishing nets and for bridal gowns instead of using them to prevent malaria? Clearly how one uses a mosquito net is a conscious choice, and people are responding to incentives in deciding how best to use a net (which they are sometimes given for free). Reducing the prevalence of malaria, like reducing corruption, will not happen by shoving solutions down people’s throats, and it may even make the problem worse (as Andrew Mwenda will argue has occurred with anti-corruption agencies in Uganda, such as the IGG). We need to start thinking differently about how corruption works and thrives in different environments. I do not think there is a one-size-fits-all solution.

I will conclude with one of my favorite bits from Wrong’s book, in the Epilogue, page 327:

One of the many lessons of John Githongo’s story is that the key to fighting graft in Africa does not lie in fresh legislation or new institutions. To use the seemingly counter-intuitive phrase of Danny Kaufmann, expert on sleaze: ‘You don’t fight corruption by fighting corruption.’ Most African states already have the gamut of tools required to do the job. A Prevention of Corruption Act has actually been on the Kenyan statute book since 1956. ‘You don’t need any more bodies, you don’t need any more laws, you just need good people and the will,’ says Hussein Were. In Kenya, as in many other countries, the KACC [Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission] is part of the grand corrupters’ game, providing them with another bureaucratic wall behind which to shield, another scapegoat to blame for lack of progress. Rather than dreaming up sexy-sounding short cuts, donors should be pouring their money into the boring old institutions African regimes have deliberately starved of cash over the years: the police force, judicial system and civil service.

See Wrong’s interview with Transparency International here.

Christmas Came Early for Uganda Police

It seems Uganda’s Ministry of Works and Transport is tired of taking all the heat for the country’s shabby roads and high road accident rate. Daily Monitor writes today:

All motor vehicles in the country must be compulsorily tested for road worthiness, the Ministry of Works and Transport has revealed.

In a new law that seeks to reduce road carnage, the ministry has proposed strict electronic testing of private vehicles at least once every year while public vehicles will be scrutinised twice a year.

“The system we are using currently to inspect vehicles is inadequate and out of fashion but this new system will be like an x-ray, and no vehicle without an inspection certificate will be allowed on the road,” Works Minister John Nasasira said.

Um, excuse me? An x-ray? We don’t even have working x-rays in the hospitals! Ok, well at least they don’t all work all the time. In any case, I highly suspect that bad drivers and bad roads account for the majority of road traffic accidents/deaths, not the vehicles themselves. Oh, and seatbelts. This drives me nuts. Parents, BUCKLE YOUR CHILD’S SEATBELT. You are wearing your seatbelt, make your child do the same. There is no excuse for putting your safety above theirs. If they don’t like wearing them, tough! They are children. They are your responsibility.

But I digress. Back to the “x-ray” inspection….

The police should be overjoyed at this new initiative. Now, along with lack of third-party insurance, logbooks/paperwork or driver’s permit (among other offenses), the police have another way to get some “lunch.” Here is how it will go*:

Officer: [Steps into road blowing whistle and waving. Positions himself such that driver can only stop, unless he hits the officer and/or swerves wildly while simultaneously pretending not to see him]

Driver: Yes, good afternoon officer.

Officer: Good afternoon. Can I see your driver’s permit?

Driver: Sure, here.

Officer: And inspection certificate?

Driver: Well, you see officer, after waiting two hours to get my vehicle tested, the power went out and the vehicle x-ray machine stopped working. And when it came on again, inspectors had gone for lunch. So I wasn’t able to get the certificate.

Officer: Hmm. But now, eh, you must have that inspection certificate. I don’t know what we do… [pause] I don’t want to take you to the station. [pause] You will pay a big fine if we go to the station.

Driver: Yes officer.

Officer: So. What do we do? [pause, tries to ascertain if he must be more direct]. I don’t want to take you to the station. [pause] You could give me something for lunch…

Driver: [pulls out wallet, slips a 10k note on the seat].

Officer: Ok then. Nice day.

End scene.

I still fail to understand why one must go to the station for a simple offense. Just give us a ticket! As it is, there is no incentive for either the police officer or the driver to abide by the law — if you do, you will go the station, fill out paper work, and pay a huge fine. If you don’t, the driver can part with 20k instead of 150k, right then and there, and the poorly paid officer can get a little bonus. Of course, not all not all officers and drivers will take the moral low ground. But I have a sneaking suspicion the majority do (I even know of someone who had to go to the ATM with the officer because he didn’t have the amount required for “lunch”!!!). And why not, when those poor officers get paid pennies (ok, shillings) to stand in the scorching sun for hours at a time? Oh, and Nasasira, please stop deflecting blame and do your job. I don’t care about decentralisation or KCC. You are the minister and you are responsible.

* As to whether I have ever encountered a similar situation, I will take the fifth.