Friday, 19 August 2011

How the greed of the few visited suffering on the Shilling

The Uganda shilling is the worst performing currency in the world. That is no longer news. The economic turbulance is hitting Ugandans hard. Most families especially in rural areas, hardly touch money. The urbanites that have been pretending things are OK, are now begining to see the real economonic mismanagement and its consequences. The corporates that were blinded by their salaries and benefits like health insurable cover, free airtime etc are now noticing that without food and with high fuel costs, a real problem is within the vicinity.
The lifestyles are being negatively affected. Job uncertainity is on the rise especially as the dollar becomes expensive. But even all that is not news.
The news is that the shilling is partly being weakened by the petty greed of a few privilledged chaps in government and business world.
This is their trick. When the US and other European powers tightened on money laundering, our chaps went to plan. They had been siphoning stolen money out of Uganda to European capitals with ease. But with the stringent measures in place, that became risky.
Instead, they became international business gurus mainly re-exporting imported goods.  By so doing, they managed to open business and personal accounts in several countries in the region. But when money is deposited into those accounts, its never withdrawn and injected into our economy.
Goods are re-exported not for mere profit motive but to enable them stash away money. These callous Ugandans now own fat bank accounts in countries like South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania without anyone raising suspicion because they have masqaraded as investors in those countries.
Those accounts are of course in dollars.
This explains why the Uganda shilling is the weakest in the region, infact, even in economies that are poorer than Uganda like Burundi, Somalia and  South Sudan. By  UPDF soldiers being in Somalia, Uganda is earning but its unbelievable that the Somali shilling is stronger than the Uganda shilling.
The reason is that those economies host Ugandan money. In other words, the Ugandan economic hit men are aiding other economies in the region by fishing out dollars.
Secondly, the practice in Uganda is the dollars are cashed over the counter. Several of these hitmen draw thousands of dollars in cash, stash them in their socks, pockets and bags then take it away to the neighbouring countries. They are trying to avoid the bank transfers because the  US will take note.
But the way dollars are withdrawn at Orient Bank and others, only makes one to wish Uganda had caring leaders.
Sources say the dollar flight is provoked by the fear that is taking over the hit men. They have made quick bucks but the majority of the citizens are in dire need. Social services have collapsed. They are not sure whether keeping their money in Uganda is safe. The sneaking away of money is an attempt to find a safety net in other countries.
So, while we can talk about poor balance of payment affected our economy, it could also help if the greed and selfishness of the priviledged few is checked. They are surely suffering from inadequacy of integrity and humility. Can someone out there tell them to return the money into our banks?  If not, let a serious government simply welcome any amount of dollars into the economy but tighten its removal out of the economy.

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