KAMUNTU SHIFTED TO WATER WHILE MUTAGAMBE TAKES TOURISM
(Report filed from the Constance Ephelia Resort, Port Glaud, Mahe)
In what has been described as a game of musical chair shuffling has Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, since the formation of the government after the general elections in March last year Minister for Tourism, been moved to the Ministry of Water and Environment, while in a reverse move Maria Mutagamba took on the tourism portfolio.
While some regular observers were said to be baffled by this move, claiming tourism ought to have a longer serving minister in charge who can get acquainted and make an impact, others blame the quiet style of the Professor and his tendency to ponder decisions for over long on the move, saying they need a more active individual.
Neither portfolio, though important for the respective sectors, enjoys top recognition within the more established ministries and in cabinet, where education, health, transport, defense and agriculture are the key beneficiaries of the annual budget in terms of percentage allocation of resources.
Ministers are appointed by the President, who takes regional considerations as well as political allegiance and loyalty into account when making his choices but the fact that a so called Presidential Initiative on Tourism is located under State House and has not been shifted to either the tourist board or the ministry itself has had tongues wagging about funding as well as true intent and purpose, with no clear answers available from any reliable source, all tongue tied apparently over upsetting the equilibrium or the boss or both.
In the past have such initiatives been advanced and operated under the office of the Vice President, but then no clear outcomes were defined nor an action plan established along which to implement a range of proposed measures to make the tourism sector more attractive to investments and more important, how to enable the Uganda Tourist Board to market the country, impossible right now with the resource allocation they have been getting.
Figures presented by the outgoing Minister Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu on the occasion of handing over his office earlier today to Maria Mutagamba, where therefore taken with a grain of doubt, as there is also a glaring lack of data from the official government statistics offices, correlated with arrivals at land borders and airports and recorded park entrances of foreign nonresident visitors, all factors to be taken into account when speaking of tourists rather than cross border travelers who come for a bit of trade. Here opinions about real tourists and their spending therefore vary greatly amongst the who is who in the tourism industry in Uganda and it can only be hoped that better data collection, processing and interpretation, hand in hand with the Bank of Ugandas statistics on the flow of funds from direct exchanges at forex bureaus to transfers of funds to the local tourism industry, will one day provide the correct details. Tourism Satellite Accounting as per UNWTO recommendations comes to mind, something long suggested, urgently asked but never seriously implemented. Watch this space and best wishes of course go to Maria Mutagamba, Ugandas new Minister of Tourism and a fond farewell to Prof. Ephraim and best of luck in his new portfolio at Water and Environment.