This paper explores how political actors, processes, debates and
institutions influence the reduction and reproduction of chronic poverty
in Uganda. Uganda provides a particularly appropriate case study for
such work, particularly as the country's recent success in poverty
reduction has been significantly related to 'getting the politics
right'. However, findings here suggest that there is a great deal of
ambiguity concerning the politics of staying poor in Uganda. The policy
debates and interventions that might challenge chronic poverty are
steadily moving from the margins of the poverty agenda towards the
mainstream. For example, the current review of the Poverty Eradication
Action Plan (Uganda's home-grown PRSP) has identified social protection
as one of the key cross-cutting themes. However, arguments for targeting
the poorest groups and regions currently lack political persuasiveness,
as such programmes have tended to become been highly politicised and
subject to both national clientelism and local elite capture. There is a
'politics of inclusion' in Uganda that stretches to most groups of the
chronically poor, although this has yet to be transformed into a
'politics of justice', in part because the institutional
representatives of Uganda's chronically poor are currently marginal in
terms of command over resources and policy influence. On a broader note,
little effort has been made amongst development actors in Uganda to
articulate the type of 'pro-poor' or redistributive growth that is
likely to be required to alleviate chronic poverty. It might be argued
that this reflects a 'global' politics of staying poor in Uganda, with
the neoliberal policy hegemony playing an important role in shaping the
possibility of reducing chronic poverty.
Many amongst the political elite perceive the rising inequality in
Uganda as a potential threat to them, although only over the long-run.
Many also see the poverty reduction agenda as externally imposed and
profligate with resources, suggesting that if poverty reduction is to
stay on the political agenda in Uganda for long enough to impact on
chronic poverty, national ownership of the poverty agenda must be
broadened and deepened beyond the current 'champions'. Ongoing
political conflict in northern Uganda and the perennial threat of
regional instability emains the greatest threat to both the chronically
poor and the poverty reduction agenda. In addition, the debate over
presidential succession and the potential move towards multi-partyism
appears to have triggered an intensification of neopatrimonial political
practice, posing a significant threat to the poverty reduction agenda.
However, the paper also finds that the policies and programmes likely to
challenge chronic poverty can be usefully aligned with the most
progressive aspects of political actors and policies in Uganda. These
include certain civil society actors, participatory poverty assessments,
the local government development programme and social sector ministries.
The Politics of Staying Poor in Uganda [Draft], presented at Staying Poor: Chronic Poverty and Development Policy, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, 7-9 April 2003. Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, 53 pp.
The Politics of Staying Poor in Uganda [Draft].