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Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Green Shoots" of Economic Development in Uganda: are they sustainable?

When economic data showed signs of future recovery from the credit crisis in the US this spring, many economist started talking about "green shoots" of economic growth (similar to green shoot of spring plants appearing after the winter). As we drove to Mbarra today I started thinking about similar evidence of future growth in Uganda. I have been on this road four of the last five years and there has been drastic change in just the last year. During the trip today I noticed a large increase in the truck traffic compared to past years. Not only has the truck traffic increased, the type and size of truck has also changed. The trucks are now larger and more modern. This is definitely a sign on increased economic activity. However there has been a huge cost associated with the truck traffic. The condition of the road has been greatly impacted by the heavier loads carried by these trucks. To put it simply a large section of the road is barely usable. Work to repair the road has started and there was much debate among our Ugandan colleagues concerning the pace of the road work and its chances for success. The impact of the increased trade activity started me thinking about the difficult balance between economic growth and its potential impact. While the increased truck activity is a great sign it also has caused some serious short term problems and potential long term problems (increased pollution, the impact on small communities and trading posts along the road as speed of traffic increases, possible impact on wildlife etc.). This is obviously a good example of the type of topics we are studying and I would like everyone to look for other "green shoots" of economic development and comment on their sustainability. Focus on whether or not the green shoots of growth you observe will develop into "mature plants" that build a foundation for the future. Make sure to mention whether the political and/or cultural aspects of Uganda may help of hinder your signs of growth in there development and recommendations you have to help them fully mature.

1 comment:

  1. Lately, I have heard that China has the golden response to the economic crisis. They have the biggest stimulus bill and already have credit flowing.

    It is hard to develop a foundation for the future. If it was an easy process, many developing countries today would have done it and this finanical crisis is not making the process of development any easier.

    If more trucks are travelling in Uganda, I can assume that more business interactions are taking place. This can lead to development, but as already mentioned, this travel leads to environmental degradation. More travel leads to more air pollution, which hinders sustainable development in the future. I have noticed the quality of cars and trucks here. It seems as though they are older models, not eco-friendly models. This means that as travel increases, more and more pollution will fill the air and cause more problems. I recommend that Uganda takes steps today that will not hinder them in the future. We can see how environmental degradtion today hinders events in the future. Also, I have noticed that Uganda lacks internal industries. It seems as though this country imports most of their goods. Even on the newspaper day, we see how the newspapers here import everything from ink to paper to technology. This is not sustainable. I recommend that Uganda turns to domentic industies and tries to create these to make different aspects of life sustainable. For example, if they had a paper industry here, then paper would be cheaper, easing the production of newspaper, pushing down the prices of these newspapers. Thus, more Ugandans would be able to buy these newspapers and play a better role in being a global, engaged citizen.