The billionisation of Uganda’s economy is now complete. Seven months from today, some two thousand or more Ugandans will contest in elections to join the Tenth Parliament.
The successful 420 new MPs will each become a billionaire and those with enough common sense will never be poor again.
For each of the 60 months of the Tenth Parliament, they will each be paid at least Ush22 million, adding up to over Ush1.3 billion by the end of the five-year contract.
In addition, immediately on being elected, each will be given some Ush150 million in cash to buy a car — which they don’t actually have to buy, since most already own cars. And at the end of the five years, they will negotiate for a departure handshake from government of no less than a hundred million shillings.
Chances are that they will be given much more than that, terming it some percentage for gratuity, which could go as high as 40 per cent of Ush1.3billion each, coming up to half a billion.
But at the very least each MP will take home by the end of the coming five years a gross of Ush1.5 billion, or half a million US dollars, if you want to think international.
It will depend on each MP’s individual common sense to decide what to do when faced with a guaranteed expected income of half a million dollars in 60 months.
What the rest of Ugandans have done is to graciously accept the good fortune of their elected leaders, and this lesson has taken only 10 years to learn.
In July 2005, when the presidential term limits were being removed from the Constitution by parliament, each MP received Ush5 million to “consult” about the motion and the public went hysterical with outrage.
Five years later, on the eve of the 2011 elections, each MP was given Ush20 million to “consult” on some agricultural programmes.
This time, the public made noise but not as loudly as before. The new MPs elected in 2011 each got Ush108 million to buy cars and the public barely noticed. Mid term in 2013, each MP got Ush5 million to “consult” on a Bill. No noise from the public.
And last week, as they prepared to go face the electorate in the countryside, each MP was given Ush100 million. Complete silence. Not even a whisper.
You must congratulate us Ugandan masses for learning to think big. Only 10 years ago, we were up in arms over MPs getting an out-of-salary “facilitation” of Ush5 million.
Today they pick up Ush100 million each outside their salary and we take it calmly. Such is the financial maturity that has been attained by the nation.
Incidentally, the Ush5 million that was driving the public nuts in 2005 is now equal to less than $1,500. At the time, it was $3,000. And the Ush100million they picked up last week that the now mature public did not complain about is equal to $30,000.
Why should citizens of a naturally wealthy country fret over such small amounts? We are soon becoming an oil exporting country and should not be heard complaining about putting a mere $30,000 in an MP’s wallet. People may not take us seriously.
Joachim Buwembo is a Knight International Fellow for development journalism. E-mail: email@example.com