On March 30th, 2020, President Y. K. Museveni announced a 14-day’s lockdown of the country, thereby closing businesses and restricting movements of people as a social distancing strategy. On 14th April 2020, the President extended the lockdown period by another 21 days to May 6th, 2020. We are all waiting for the next Presidential directive. Will He extend the lockdown or lift it? Life has been disrupted, and many businesses may never recover from this. We all want to know what is next?
During the lockdown, all small and medium-sized businesses deemed non-critical have been closed. Few businesses have been operating like banks and other critical government institutions.
The lockdown and curfew hours are not unique to Uganda.
Many countries have been under lockdown as a social distancing strategy aimed at “flattening the curve”, to reduce the fast spread of the virus and avoid overwhelming the country’s health systems.
The challenge is that many of us are in darkness. We are locked down in our homes and do not know what next? The most at risk are the poor who live within rich neighborhoods. The people who are distributing free government relief food may never visit such places! But that is not the main worry here. Many government employees have their salaries guaranteed by the taxpayers. However, no one knows the fate of micro, small and medium enterprises and other private businesses which have not been operating. These companies have major costs that eat into shareholder capital directly – office rental costs; staff costs; and other committed fixed costs. Some companies had contracts on retainer like cleaning companies, which have lost such revenues.
The government has not officially pronounced itself on any relief to small businesses and individuals. Without effective demand and consumption, the economy risks total collapse. The government must come up with a stimulus plan, to help individuals and small businesses. America has recently passed a US $ 2 Trillion relief bill, to incentivize individuals, small businesses, large businesses, and children. Under the bill, each person shall receive the US $1,200 to help them cope up with the tough times. This money is expected to spur spending. The money shall ultimately end up in the hands of American farmers since the majority of the products to be demanded during this crisis time is food.
It is my prayer that the next Presidential address should provide answers to the following questions:
- What Uganda’s lockdown strategy?
- What does the lockdown cost Uganda’s economy daily? And how do we plan to navigate it? Of course, it is no brainer to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, considering what has happened in the United States, Europe, and China. But these countries are collecting and analyzing daily data to inform the next steps.
- What kind of data is the country collecting and analyzing to inform any re-opening strategy?
- What if the covid19 problem does not stop? What happens? What are the government’s plans to get the economy moving?
- What conditions must be true for the lockdown to be lifted?
- What measures shall be put in place to stop the imported #covid19 cases by the track drivers?
It is not good to put people on a bus, blindfold them and start driving.
They have their hearts pumping at every stage of the day. This is because they do not have clarity on the journey. When someone does not know where they are being taken, they worry too much. Providing clarifications to the above questions helps give clarity of the country’s plans as the “why” question in everyone’s mind gets answered.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved