Malaysia aims to join 20 rich countries and Uganda wants life presidency

On November 18, I arrived in Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak – one of the 13 states that make up the Malaysian federation.

I was in Kuching to attend the annual World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) at the Borneo Convention Centre. This event usually attracts about 3,000 participants from all over the world to discuss halal travel, food, business, Islamic banking, etc.

Malaysian Prime Minister Hajji Mohammad Najib presided over the opening ceremony also attended by six heads of state or their representatives.

I think the reason they took us to Kuching, a two-hour flight from Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, was to expose this beautiful and attractive beach city to the world. And beautiful it is: clean, well-planned and with modest prices. But of course most attractive to me was not the architecture, but the focus of the country’s leaders.

Malaysia is ranked the 6th most competitive economy in Asia after Singapore, Qatar, Israel, United Arab Emirates and Japan. It is the 23rd most competitive country in the world. There are 195 countries in the world, including Palestine.

With 31 million people, Malaysia is ranked the 35th largest economy in the world with GDP of approximately $922 billion and $27,267 GDP per capital. Only 3.4 per cent of its people are unemployed.

In fact, in Sarawak where I was, they were pleading with Indonesia to give them more workers in their palm oil industry.

Just 11 per cent of the population is in agriculture, 36 per cent in industry and 53 per cent in the services industry. Their exports include vehicles, agricultural products, technology, etc. In his address to the World Islamic Economic Forum delegates, Najib said their target as a country is to join the club of the 20 wealthiest nations in the world.

Mind you, this is a $922 billion-economy.  Uganda’s is $27 billion. Our population is now nearing 40 million people and Malaysia has 31 million people. What is their target that their prime minister is driving toward? To ensure that Malaysia, which got independence in 1957, joins the top 20 richest countries in the world.

And what is the immediate target of our leaders in Uganda? To ensure that the Constitution is changed and a provision that stops people above 75 years from standing for president is removed!

Those are the comparisons that keep running in my head each time I travel out of the country. There have been more cabinet meetings to discuss how the article that stops Gen Museveni from contesting for president in 2021 can be removed than on any other issue.

A cabinet sub-committee headed by Dr Ruhakana Rugunda was appointed to push for the removal of age limits. Top ruling NRM leaders were grouped into sub-regional committees to canvass support for this constitutional change.

And the loyal Dr Rugunda has just concluded touring Kigezi sub-region begging people to allow Mzee Museveni his childhood dream of dying in office.

I have been told by a senior minister that Museveni recently convened some members of his cabinet at State House Entebbe and analyzed how each NRM MP will vote.

Currently, parliament has about 450 MPs. Museveni needs about 300 MPs to be present and vote yes for his life-president project. At the moment, he is sure of about 305 MPs, according to those who have seen his security analysis list.

What he is not sure is whether public pressure won’t diminish his numbers. That is why he is even slow on pushing parliament to process this satanic Constitution Amendment (No 2) Bill. He had initially wanted it passed by the end of November. We are now in December and the way I see things, this matter will be discussed next year.

That is how we are ending the year 2017. Of course there are other major undertakings by Museveni and his group such as the oil pipeline, oil refinery, power dams, airport expansion, railway and roads.  But all these are affected by political decisions.

Currently, our public debt is more than $10 billion without the refinery and pipeline money. All the major infrastructure projects are funded by borrowed money because the revenue we locally collect is now being used as pocket money to rent support.

It is the reason power generated using local revenue in Jinja is sold at just about three US cents while that from private supplier Aga Khan is sold at about 13 US cents.

Financing Museveni’s stay in power has become very expensive and the discipline of his family members with whom he is running the state is worsening by the day.

That is why he can’t sack his in-law Sam Kutesa who is accused of soliciting bribes of half a million dollars and found it easy to sack Henry Kabafunzaki for soliciting a Shs 5 million bribe.


The author is Kira Municipality MP and opposition chief whip in parliament.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd