Open letter to His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Uganda

Your Excellency, How is it possible that the People’s Representatives in Parliament can approve mid-term access to Social Security Funds, and then you refuse

Your Excellency,

How is it possible that the People’s Representatives in Parliament can approve mid-term access to Social Security Funds, and then you refuse to sign the same, just like that?

It seems life is just a journey of “unfairness.” I compare this to a house help which is made to cook food, serve the masters, and only wait to eat after the masters (and their visitors) have had their fill. The right thing would be to serve the masters and the house help at the same time. The act of making someone wait as others are having their stomachs full is unfair to any hungry soul.

And so is being forced to put aside some of your money (NSSF savings), but fail to access it when you most need it. With Uganda’s short life expectancy, it makes sense (from every perspective) to let people access part of their Social Security savings, once they hit the age of 40. Access to social security savings would help them refocus and invest in things they hold dear since, at that age, they have matured and defined their purpose clearly. The rest of the funds can be accessed by the age of 60!

Please find below, the political decisions I have failed to understand.

  1. How can people who don’t own the money (NSSF savings), decide how and when to use it? In law, there are terms called “lawful,” “unlawful,” and “law of reason.” Where the law is archaic and out of touch with the current reality, the courts, (or the highest court of the land), must use the law of reason to outlaw it or get it mended.
  2. How can the owner of the property (read money) be let to die when it is just there, but s/he cannot be allowed to use it? Politics, (which I have recently learned from you, Your Excellency means ‘The Management of Society,’) is indeed very sophisticated.

To me, other than security, you should ideally accept the decisions of Parliament, (100% of the time), since it is a direct depiction of the people they represent.

But in this case, the owners of the NSSF funds, are the workers (as per the NSSF act). They have religiously been saving in the hope that they would access their money when they most need it.

And indeed, if NSSF plans to transform into a commercial bank and run competitively, it must start preparing its resilience by allowing people (who need) to access their funds as and when they need it.

Hear the cries of the workers. Many are breadwinners for prominent families and communities in the villages. In this Coronavirus times, people need salvage. Everywhere one looks, they need help.

When I did an analysis of NSSF’s ability to pay, see here, My take on the proposal to require NSSF to pay 20% to members it was clear that ‘the savers who make up 88.9% of NSSF membership control just 8% of the Fund’s Value. These are the people most affected by the COVID19 and hold just Ugx. 1 Trillion. A payout of 20% of their savings to them would not affect the economy and the Fund.

On the contrary, such a move would stimulate sufficient demand, especially for agricultural products, since the most significant expense is food, which is produced locally. The Ugandan farmers would be happy. The affected members would be happy too. And the economy would benefit due to the increased consumption of local products.’

During the election years, Uganda’s key economic parameters are affected by politics. Explicitly, the Treasury Bill rate increases as the Bank of Uganda borrows from the public. This attracts investments (by Commercial Banks) in Treasury Bills as assets. Lending to the private sector (at a very high price/interest rate) would consequently lead be a default recipe.

This year the economy has been hit by Coronavirus. And when you add the looming impact of the elections, much money will leave the cities and head to the villages (to people who prefer to keep it instead of consuming it). This will affect the health of the economy as SMEs will fail to operate fully due to a lack of working capital.

Banks, too, will be affected, and this could lead to worsening their “Asset Quality.” However, if you allowed mid-term access to the savings, it would help even things up, and spur consumption and offer the much-needed liquidity to push the private sector forward.

Times are tough indeed. Many people have lost their jobs. Others are having their loans overdue. Others cannot afford to pay rent or buy food. Many are struggling with medical bills. And many others cannot afford to pay for utilities like electricity and water at home! That is how bad it can get—having a UMEME connection but cannot make use of it due to the loss of a job.

Yet, many of these people have savings in NSSF and are aged circa 40 to 50! Without money in Kampala, your Excellency, it isn’t easy to even survive for a day.

When someone has a government job, where they get paid whether they come to work or not,  a free car and fuel, and all basics, they quickly get out of touch with reality and think that life is so easy because, to them, someone can’t fail to make Ugx 2000 per day to live by. On the contrary, the reality is, Your Excellency, it is typical for a 40-year-old who has just lost a job in Kampala, supporting a family of 5 people to fail to find Ugx 10,000 to buy a meal for his family.

Your Excellency, thanks for the face masks. Thanks for the food distribution. Thanks for the security. But there is nothing as exhausting as waiting for food relief, and no one shows up just because there is no communicated program and criteria!

I could go on and on. But Your Excellency has not timed for rumblings.  I write to you on behalf of so many workers requesting you approve mid-term access to workers’ money (NSSF savings).

For God and My Country.

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