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 Ofwono Opondo

The Parish Development Model and Emerging Ominous Signs

To succeed beyond previous similar programs, the PDM must from the start be subjected to a high standard of rigorous, sustained and independent evaluation before it’s too late to make the necessary adjustments, otherwise it flops.
posted onJuly 11, 2022

By Ofwono Opondo

President Yoweri Museveni means and has all along meant well with every development initiative that targets the general population seeking to uplift them from social and economic doldrums into shared prosperity.

The president is clearly unimpressed by the rate of socio-economic transformation where seven million households still live outside the money economy, working only for the stomach yet reeling in hunger, poverty and want. Also, in spite of many efforts, Uganda still lags behind in the export of finished goods that would fetch far higher value and revenue.

The Parish Development Model (PDM) is in a sense, a flagship ‘Leap Forward’ project to unleash a massive rural labour force into production, productivity, creativity, innovation and commercialization to catch up on lost time, efforts and opportunities.

Hence, in the NRM 2021 election manifesto, Museveni proposed the PDM as another new vehicle, which has got everyone from top government officials drumming support for the program, which in itself is good. The last three weeks saw Ministers, MPs and NRM party cadres spend huge amounts of time and resources mobilizing for the uptake of PDM that has kick-started in all the twelve thousand parishes countrywide.

Each parish is to get Shs100 million in budget support this financial year and run over the next four years as revolving fund.

To succeed beyond previous similar programs, the PDM must from the start be subjected to a high standard of rigorous, sustained and independent evaluation before it’s too late to make the necessary adjustments, otherwise, it flops.

From this mobilization drive it’s emerging that government may not be in position to implement its grand design as there is a level of covert opposition, apprehension and subversion that officials may be unwilling to report or publicly admit because after all they are getting their travel allowances.

Officials and the intended beneficiaries are already devising ways to circumvent, undermine, or exploit the PDM master plan, rules, regulations and procedures.

Some openly say that the PDM money is political tokenism for electoral support to president Museveni, and as such are anxiously waiting to receive it and simply swallow it up. The ability to detect their lies, tricks, cheats and manipulation, as well as calculated charm to disguise or otherwise outwit the system is going to be key in scoring even the modest success of the PDM.

While the PDM is being built around village SACCOs, it ought to provide sufficient incentives for members and others in similar line of trade and production to cooperate beyond the seed money they borrow. This should include storage and quality to eliminate substandard and deliberately contaminated products by unscrupulous dealers along the chain which has blighted Uganda’s reputation in the export market.

It requires accurate data that the parish chief may not generate, store or process and deliver for the overall success of the program.

Yet obfuscation, in which people lie to survive has become part of the NRM and government system as information is sometimes distorted, figures cooked, and policies that clash with personal interests are ignored up to the highest levels of government. Individual initiative and critical thinking are no longer valued leading to a state of mental siege.     

The NRM party and government is staking its prestige with PDM as the new bullet for mass socio-economic transformation as it enters four decades at the helm of Uganda which calls for a stronger innovative shift in doing business otherwise it gets screwed up hard in 2026.

Many within the NRM and government may not like this, but unfortunately, it’s the path being paved. The vicious backstabbing and partisan political jockeying in districts and parishes are becoming intense by the day as the timeline to receive the seed money approaches, with some leaders invoking their indisputable roles in the NRM to browbeat competition.

Many senior government officials, some who scantly understand, PDM, are playing the officialdom, simply whipping up support from other leaders for PDM in its current form because their chains of interests extend to the villages. Many are trimming their sails to benefit from the winds blowing from Kampala while ignoring the experiences of the intended beneficiaries.

From previous experiences, some of these programs, often introduced in haste, means that not adequate preparations including successful piloting are done to inform the courses of action, and consequently, while massive resources are pumped in, rarely does the country get the full desired results.

Usually, there’re many unintended consequences of half-baked, poorly planned and executed socio-economic policies for the population unable or unwilling to adopt modern business practices, and many of them become unable to earn their keep because they are weak, old, or not liked by the person holding the ladle at the serving table.

The promised high production and productivity could bring catastrophe in terms of waste because of inadequate or poor storage facilities, transportation, and marketing among other issues that disappoint producers, which ought to be addressed simultaneously, otherwise, grains, fruits, and dairy products main remain rotting uncollected in fields, at home and even along the roads.

The writer is the executive director of the Uganda Media Centre

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