President Yoweri Museveni has commended the Indian community in Uganda for their efforts and support in the restoration of the Ugandan economy.
The President made the remarks last evening at the Diwali dinner he hosted for the community at State House, Entebbe.
“I want to express happiness and satisfaction for what the Indian community has done in Uganda. After years of collapse between 1977-1986, when we got rid of the criminal regimes, many of you came back and helped us rebuild Uganda,” he said.
As a sign of the recovery of the economy, the President said, Uganda now exports more to Kenya than Kenya is exporting to Uganda.
“Uganda now has a trade balance surplus in all East African countries and we are just beginning,” he said.
President Museveni noted that despite the many bottlenecks that the government had not solved in the past, such as shortage of electricity, the Indian community and the Chinese came out in big force and helped Uganda lay a foundation for her economy.
“We had a problem of shortage of electricity but now have surplus electricity. We still have the problem of high rates but are sorting that out and soon we shall have enough and cheaper electricity,” he said.
He revealed that government would no longer authorize power stations to produce electricity at more than 8 American Cents per unit.
“All new stations, whether nuclear, hydro or geothermal, must produce power at a cost lower than 8 American Cents per unit. This will enable us provide power to manufacturers at 5 American Cents,” he said.
Apart from reducing the cost of electricity, he added, government is working on reducing the cost of transport.
“From the East to the West, North to the South, we have tarmacked roads to all border points and will start working on the railway and water transport. 20% of Uganda is under water,” he said.
President Museveni revealed that after addressing the problem of transport and electricity, government would address the problem of high cost of money in banks.
“Government will adequately capitalize the Uganda Development Bank to provide cheap money for manufacturing, agriculture and aspects of Information Communication Technologies (ICT). I can assure you that the business atmosphere will be much better in the coming years because we now have a real base for a competitive economy,” he said.
He said that other bottlenecks like corruption will soon be defeated and that government is also committed to ensuring security in urban areas and as such there shouldn’t be any panic.
“We delayed to modernize security infrastructure in urban areas because we concentrated in the rural areas to defeat rebels like the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and cattle rustlers in the north. We have now put in place all available modern gadgets and will soon have robust security in towns like we have in the country side,” he said.
On the issue of recognition of an Indian tribe in the country, the President said that the Ugandan Constitution provides for that. He explained that the Indians, just like the Nubians, have been in Uganda since the 1800s.
Regarding the sugar Bill, the President assured the business community in the country not to panic. He said that government would not allow the strong sugar industry that has just come up to be destroyed.
The Indian High Commissioner to Uganda, Mr. Ravi Shankar, thanked President Museveni for hosting the Indian community to Diwali dinner adding that the gesture is a testimony of the close ties and shared values between Uganda and India.
“The recent visit by the Prime Minister of India was a testimony of our two countries’ trusted friendship,” he said.
The envoy also commended the President for his personal efforts to resolve issues of the business sector in Uganda. “This has made Uganda a coveted and desired place for investors,” he said.
Mr. Mohana Rao of the Indian Association of Uganda commended government for policies that have made it easier for the community to participate in business. He revealed that the community has also helped Ugandans in health related activities.
“We have sent 87 Ugandan children to India for surgery and have provided free eye checkups and spectacles to over 3,000 Ugandans. We pledge to play our role in Uganda’s transformation,” he said.
Diwali is an important 5-day Hindu festival celebrated all around the world that symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil. During the celebrations, temples, homes and work places are lit brightly.