Mr Yoweri Museveni and his publicists are telling Ugandans how they have constructed the Entebbe Expressway, Karuma and Isimba dams and now the Source of The Nile bridge.
What they do not say is that all these projects are funded by loans, which will have to be paid back by Ugandans, not Mr Museveni and his NRM party. If Ugandans used a “value for money audit” to evaluate the cost of these projects, they would pick sticks and flog the politicians.
Comparative economics requires that we compare our projects with similar projects in other countries. Karuma and Isimba dams are estimated to produce 780MW at a cost of $2.8 million per megawatt, making a total of $2.2bn.
Lesotho constructed a dam of 6,000MW at a cost of $800,000 per MW, totalling to $4.8bn. Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance dam, the largest dam in Africa, produces 6,450MW costing $991,633 per MW, totalling $6.4bn.
If Uganda used the ($800,000) unit cost of Lesotho to produce the 780MW, we would only pay $624m and save $1.57 billion (this is assumed to be eaten). We would even double our production to 1,560MW and still have a balance.
If we used the higher unit cost of Ethiopia ($991,633), the 780MW would cost Ugandans only $773.4 million and save $1.4 billion (assumed eaten). If Uganda was to construct the Lesotho dam of 6,000MW using the Ugandan cost, it would cost the taxpayers about $17 billion instead of the $4.8bn the Lesotho taxpayers parted with.
If Uganda was to produce Ethiopia’s 6,450MW using the Ugandan cost, taxpayers would pay about $18.2 billion instead of the $6.4bn the Ethiopians paid. Let’s look at how much is paid in the roads.
Entebbe Expressway is 53km with four lanes. About $9 million was spent per kilometre, which brought the total cost to $476 million. Kenya’s Thika Highway is 50km long, eight lanes costing about $7.2m per kilometre, with a total cost $360 million.
If we used the assumed balance, we got from using the Lesotho cost of constructing a dam ($1,576bn), we would have another four-lane highway of 174.9 kilometres. That is the road distance from Entebbe to Bugiri.
If we used the balance from the Ethiopia cost, $1.426bn, we would have another four lane highway of 159km. That is the distance from Kampala to Kalisizo towards Mutukula. If we decided to use the Thika highway cost of eight lanes costing $7.2 million and factor in our Lesotho unit cost balance of $1.576bn, we would have a 220km eight-lane highway.
If we used the Ethiopia balance of $1.426bn, we would have a 200km eight-lane highway. These distances would cover Kampala - Gulu highway. If Kenyans were given the money spent on the 53km four-lane Entebbe Expressway of $476m, they would have constructed a 66.1km, eight-lane highway!
If they were to have a four-lane, they would have 120.2km instead of Uganda’s 53km! As Ugandans struggle with skyrocketing Yaka bills, Ethiopian domestic consumers will not pay for the power they use. The majority of Ugandans will not be able to drive on the “pay as you drive” Entebbe Expressway, while Kenyans will drive for free on the Thika highway in Kenya.
One wonders why the Shs 2.5bn Luweero-Rwenzori project is supervised at a cost of Shs 33bn. The other day, Mr Museveni opened the $125m four-lane Source of the Nile bridge ($100m loan from Japan). It is 525 metres long and 52.9m wide.
Shanghai’s Napu bridge costs $119m. It’s a six-lane highway, 8,346m long and 46m wide. Nigeria’s Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge in Lagos is a four-lane dual carriageway highway, 1,357 metres long, 8.0mx2 carriageway (width) bridge and 2.3mx 2 walkway, streetlights. It cost $79 million.
In all these countries, where the above bridges are constructed, there are reports of corruption. The difference here is how much is stolen vis-a-viz the quantity of work done.
Museveni’s told Ugandans that about 90 per cent and 67 per cent labour and supervisors respectively who worked on the project were Ugandan. Most raw materials were sourced locally. At least $25 million from Uganda’s government was to compensate those whose land the bridge was to occupy. Who owns land on River Nile?
He also talked about the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), but this too is another expensive white elephant. Railway engineers inform us that it would be much cheaper to upgrade the existing rail tracks from British standard to German standard, replace bends with longer curves (to allow for higher train speeds) and upgrade rolling stock (locomotives). This would achieve the SGR objectives of carrying heavier cargo in a shorter time over the same distance at a much reduced cost.
What is unfortunate is that most of these projects are financed by poorly negotiated loans. Generations will hustle to pay back these loans yet most of the money is eaten by the “fat cats.”
Oh Uganda, May God uphold thee.
The author is the deputy secretary general, Forum for Democratic Change.