Expert Analysis: Assessment Of Effects Of COVID-19 Lockdown And Interventions Gov’t Must Adopt To Reinvigorate Economy

Expert Analysis: Assessment Of Effects Of COVID-19 Lockdown And Interventions Gov’t Must Adopt To Reinvigorate Economy

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By Dr.Yigga Sirajje

Background To The Study  

With half of the planet’s population locked down, the global economy brought to a halt and the number of cases in millions, it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest crisis of our time.

To avoid a great deal of suffering in Uganda, the government, civil society and international organizations must stand together to face this crisis. The international community is responding with a multitude of ideas and innovations for stability and recovery. With all actors asking one fundamental question; how best do we protect the existing jobs and nurture an economic recovery that will quickly produce more jobs?

Bygrave & Hofer rightly pointed out that “Good science has to begin with good definitions.” A successful entrepreneur according to Schumpeter is an individual who exploits an opportunity whenever it arises. So the COVID-19 pandemic could be an opportunity in one way or another to individuals who are pro-active, innovative and forward-looking.     

Researchers like Li Xiang, 2009, Serwanga Arthur, 2010 and Nsereko Isa, 2016, acknowledge that businesses in Uganda have been failing even without major disasters like COVID-19 pandemics.

Looking at the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the economies of the world, including Uganda’s, the pandemic has affected businesses negatively. Companies have laid off workers, others have closed, there is pressure on public health, reduced taxes collected by the government, schools have been closed, increased poverty levels due to job losses as was said by Hon Amelia Kyambade and Professor Waswa Balunywa. 

According to a survey by the Economic Policy Research Center, three-quarters of the surveyed businesses in Uganda have laid off employees due to the risks presented by COVID-19 and the subsequent containment measures.

The government of Uganda acknowledged that small and medium businesses have experienced the largest effects of the risk associated with COVID-19 compared to large scale businesses as said by Hon Anite.

These effects are largely borne by vulnerable populations globally and in Uganda. Unchecked, the pandemic could erode hard-earned development gains and threaten SME business survival in Uganda. This makes it relevant for the government to support these businesses.    

Objectives

  • To assess the effects of the COVID-19 Lockdown to the Ugandan economy
  • To identify interventions that the government must adopt to reinvigorate the economy and keep people working without imposing major mandatory lockdowns that will further damage the economy. 
  • To identify key competencies that Ugandan entrepreneurs and the general public can use to survive /or succeed during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • To identify business performance measures entrepreneurs in Uganda can use during and after the lockdown  

Strategies Proposed To Government

  1. Pay all domestic arrears owed by Government to companies and individuals in Uganda as this will increase liquidity in the economy.
  2. Prepare the Uganda Development Bank to provide credit both macro and micro to business entities.
  3. Defer payroll tax payments to ease business cash flows for some months
  4. Defer rental property tax for some months for the business people to have more cash to run their businesses.  
  5. Work on the agriculture credit fund and make the funds easily accessible to the agriculturalists.  
  6. Let URA pay the outstanding VAT refunds for business firms to have more funds to help in their operations.
  7. Support the tourism sector financially – this will generally help the sector and attract more tourists hence getting revenue from the sector.
  8. Lower taxes on goods produced in Uganda  
  9. Take on researchers to identify the key competencies that entrepreneurs can use to reinvigorate their businesses during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  10. Contract Media Houses to pass on entrepreneurial training messages for the business owners to benefit.
  11. Reinforce the exchange rate due to the likely effects of currency depreciation or the anticipated reduction in the inflow of foreign currency from grants, exports, remittances and investments from abroad.
  12. The government should continue to provide relief to the households and businesses that are most affected by containment measures.
  13. Let the government carry out remote consultations with public, business owners, NGOs and commit to stay in continuous touch. These consultations will enable us to identify ways in which the government can help and contribute to the efforts of the business people to deal with the crisis, especially by adjusting or reorienting ongoing projects whenever possible.
  14. Prepare the public to live with COVID-19 as they are living with other diseases. This is because the world over there is saying there is no drug, does that mean we shall be in the lockdown forever?

Strategies Proposed To The Business Entrepreneurs And The General Public 

  1. Let Ugandans be more innovative – Research shows many businesses were formed during previous recessions. The pandemic has come with a number of opportunities that can be exploited.  We are presented with an opportunity to try out new alternatives that might be essential as the pandemic has reset the world and leveled the ground for everybody.
  2. Let Ugandans be more resilient – Businesses must improvise, adapt and overcome. Entrepreneurs who are resilient enough will go through this successfully. Solutions embedded in future projects will follow what we call a 3R approach (Recovery, Reactivation and Resilience). All project designs will focus on bringing entrepreneurs and households back into business as speedily as possible, while ensuring that inclusiveness and resilience are built into an innovative vision of sustainable transformation.
  3. Opportunity identification and exploitation: Crises are opportunities for change. We should seize this pandemic as an opportunity to show how businesses are an essential part of the social fabric, finally giving them the recognition they deserve – and, with it, the means they need to thrive and come up with new businesses.

Yigga Sirajje is a PhD Student At Makerere University Business School (MUBS) yigasirajje@gmail.com

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