Hey friends, in Uganda..United States…China… how are you doing? It’s 79 degrees in Kampala, 61% humidity, winds blowing south in the city. I am at New Vision, after a weird morning. First, I went to a Budget Breakfast, which was fascinating but interrupted because I had to interview someone at World Health Organization for a nutrition story, and they generously decided to squeeze me in the morning. So I started off at Hotel Africana at 6:55 AM (yes, I left my house before 6), where I met a lot of interesting Ugandans who are working at Ernst and Young. It’s funny, I had always thought of Ernest and Young as being really rooted in the U.S., but they have a significant base in Kampala, where they audit Ugandan companies. I met two tax lawyers from E+Y and an accountant, and they gave me an interesting view of the budget.
Basically, the top news story right now is the budget, which was announced yesterday. I don’t even know when the U.S. budget is launched, honestly, but everything seemed to stop in Uganda last afternoon when the budget was being read. With so many people suffering right now from food insecurity in Uganda, and many living on less than a $1 a day in eastern and northern Uganda, the choices that the government makes in its annual budgets are really life and death decisions, so you hold your breath to see which sectors get funded.
The announce of the budget is also a time when people think a lot about the economy. As you know, I’m kind of economics-obsessed, so I think a lot about the Ugandan economy, and was excited to see a lot of business and econ. news everywhere (yay). First, Uganda is suffering a wrenching 12.4 percent inflation, which means that you would need a 12.4 percent raise this year just to keep treading water. However this is a one percent decrease from last month, when inflation was at an even more frightening 13.4 percent. I know, 12.4/13.4, not a huge difference, but thank God inflation finally seems to be slowing down! Unfortunately, this is the first time in 16 years that Uganda has suffered from double-digit inflation.
Most of the inflation is coming from the heavy rise in food prices, which is ‘crunching’ (as Ugandans say) many families throughout the country. Starving might be a better verb, honestly, judging by the suffering people are experiencing in north and east. With food prices so high, people have cut back on other things they used to buy, since they now have to devote a greater percentage of their income to buying groceries. The last time Uganda suffered from such steep inflation was in 1992-1993, when a prolonged drought lead to a major increase in the price of food. Food inflation is currently at 23.8%, so food is almost 25 percent more expensive than it was last year. Yikes! Economists say the increase in food prices is from greater demand for Uganda crops from southern Sudan and the DR Congo, and bad….
Why was my morning weird? Well, I went to the Rwandan embassy to do some reporting for a story, and had made an appointment with the press person for the embassy. When I got there, the receptionist told me I had no appointment, had never communicated with the press person, and probably hallucinated my cell phone conversation! I am serious! I was far out there too, I took a boda-boda to Kitante Primary School then walked to their neighbor, the Rwandan embassy. Then she told me I was clearly mistaken and should visit the Ethiopian embassy! Augh! Then, as I am 5 minutes away from NV, my Rwandan contact called and told me he had been in a meeting. See, receptionist lady, we did have a real phone conversation! I’m not insane.
Then I came back to NV, met some of the summer interns (yay), had lunch (posho and beans), and worked on lining up sources for stories I am working on.
Hope you are all doing great,
Siibe bulungi (good day in Luganda),