The politics of international development has shifted significantly in recent years, with important implications for the future of the poverty agenda. In the case of Uganda, the particular forms of politics that underpinned the poverty agenda were displaced during the mid-2000s by a new set of drivers conducive to a more ambitious programme of growth and structural transformation. The discovery of potentially significant levels of oil wealth, the growing influence of new donors, and the return of multi-party politics all served to embolden the President’s long-held ambitions of seeking to emulate the East Asian miracles, an ambition largely encapsulated in the new National Development Plan (NDP). The NDP process was clearly controlled by the government but also reflects the influence of new thinking and new instruments being promoted by international financial institutions seeking to retain relevance to development policy-making in the global south. The NDP agenda suggests a strategy that moves beyond the Post Washington Consensus and which could result in larger and more sustainable levels of poverty reduction over the long-term. However, the actual mechanisms through which the intended economic growth and structural transformation leads to a progressive distribution of the benefits (e.g. through employment or social protection) remain largely absent. The arrival of oil wealth over the next few years may help to resource the ambitious investments proposed within the NDP, but may also undermine more labour-intensive sectors of the economy and deepen existing governance problems. As things stand, Uganda lacks the type of developmental state required to realise the NDP agenda, suggesting that it may be some time yet before the laudable ambitions of the NDP gain traction beyond the inner circles of policy-making.
Hickey, S. Beyond the poverty agenda? Insights from the new politics of development in Uganda. CPRC Working Paper No. 221. Chronic Poverty Research Centre, London, UK (2011) 48 pp. ISBN: 978-1-908536-19-8