RECALL OF WORLD BANK LOAN DEALS SERIOUS BLOW TO UGANDA’S TOURISM AND WILDLIFE SECTOR
(Posted 02nd March 2014)
The announcement on Friday by the Managing Director of the World Bank, that a loan of over 90 million US Dollars lined up for Uganda, from which in particular the tourism and wildlife sector, and specifically the national Hotel and Tourism Training Institute were to benefit, has been halted dealt a heavy blow to plans to revive the hotel school, support tourism marketing activities and benefit the wildlife sector.
‘This is a very serious development for us’ said a regular source on Saturday, when discussing the issue before continuing ‘It is not that our government was not warned of a fallout over those recent bills targeting homosexuals and wearers of miniskirts. Even you wrote some weeks ago of the potential for decampaigning us as a destination and it seems the response was sharp and swift. Whatever our politicians are trying to tell us why they made these laws, it is not in conformity with the concept of human rights and the right to choose one’s partner in life, or how to express oneself through fashion. Those politicians are deluding themselves if they think they got away with it. For once we all know those laws will now be tested before the Constitutional Court of Uganda. I would not be surprised if the court overturns the laws on constitutional grounds. However, the damage is already done and all those plans for the school in Jinja, for the Uganda Tourism Board and for UWA are now all in suspense. We in tourism are again made the punch bag and suffer because of what government did, and for two decades for what government did not do, which was to facilitate tourism marketing and support the sector beyond those one off actionisms which benefits, in hindsight, is now completely disputed. The CNN campaign had not one bit of follow up, money wasted. Uganda Gifted by Nature was left hanging with no funds to actually fully implement it and rebrand ourselves, money wasted. The various attempts by then Vice President Bukenya to improve the understanding for tourism, identify sectoral needs and implement remedial measures, money wasted. The EU programme which developed a tourism policy and tourism marketing strategy, never implemented, money wasted. Friend a Gorilla by UWA, such a great idea, shredded by Otafiire’s enquiries and the dismantling of UWA at the time, money wasted. I could go on but you know very well how sad the state of our industry is. This is the third time at least the school in Jinja is shafted. First when tourism had World Bank money lined up under PAMSU and the institute was overnight sent from tourism to education. Funds were withdrawn at the time because the line ministry for that project was tourism. The second time when Education had money lined up for HTTI and again cabinet in an ill thought out action sent the institute from Education back to Tourism. Implementation of the plans halted because the funds lined up were set aside for education and not tourism. And now this is the third time as a result of those laws. I wonder what we will face in Berlin because there are some rumours that there may be protests at the Uganda stand by Germans wanting to make their point that Uganda has stepped over a red line in the sand as far as the Western world is concerned’.
Other regular sources were making it abundantly clear that they would not wish to be quoted nor wish to speak on the issue of those two laws, showing a clear trend that they fear intimidation by sycophants and other fallout would any negative comments be attributed to them, not completely out of question in view of the at times vile comments made by politicians vis a vis the gay and lesbian community and known cases where hypocrite mobs had stripped women wearing miniskirts naked without intervention by police.
It will be difficult to measure the longer term implications at this stage of the World Bank withdrawing the loan disbursal to Uganda but indications are that other bilateral development agencies, like USAID which had also lined up another phase of tourism support, Germany’s GTZ or the Nordic countries’ foreign development agencies may also withdraw funding and halt cooperation with the Uganda government to the detriment of the Ugandan people and sectoral programmes.
In view of the underfacilitation of the tourism sector by government, with what has often been described ‘pathetic budget allocations’, hardly enough to pay for recurrent expenditure like rent, salaries, utilities and perhaps a handful of key trade fair attendances, tourism may indeed stare hard times in the face, especially if active decampaigning is let loose on Uganda by gay and lesbian rights groups, and money then needed to work on those markets with sharply increased marketing budgets.
Watch this space for future news, as and when available.