BABIRYE M. BABALANDA: 2024 is “do or do better” for PDM

The PDM Secretariat, which is housed within the Ministry of Local Government and is the lead implementing agency, reported that 946, 000 households had received funds as of November 10, 2023. The goal is to reach 3.5 million households among the 39% of households who are not part of the money economy.

It’s a brand new year! I welcome you, dear reader, and thank God for bringing us all the way to 2023. Despite the difficulties, there were many happy returns for which we should be grateful. 2024 brings new hope and, for some, a chance to start over.

Next month marks two years since H.E. President Yoweri Museveni officially launched the Parish Development Model (PDM), the government’s flagship wealth creation program, in Kibuku district, Eastern Uganda. PDM is now a reality in each of Uganda’s 10,694 parishes, changing the lives of direct and indirect beneficiaries. The parish/ward is positioned as the epicenter of multi-sectoral community development, planning, supervision, and accountability to deliver interventions that drive socioeconomic transformation.

The highlight of the program in 2023 is the nationwide distribution of seed capital to beneficiaries through the various SACCOs formed in their parishes and wards. According to reports, 30 districts and municipalities have received 100% disbursement, while the rest are in various stages of the process. PDM is intended to stimulate wealth creation, job creation, and household income growth. Production, Storage, Processing, and Marketing; Infrastructure and Economic Services; Financial Inclusion; Social Services; Mindset Change; Parish-Based Management Information System; Governance and Administration are the seven pillars of the Model.

The PDM Secretariat, which is housed within the Ministry of Local Government and is the lead implementing agency, reported that 946, 000 households had received funds as of November 10, 2023. The goal is to reach 3.5 million households among the 39% of households who are not part of the money economy. Depending on the enterprises chosen by these households (each represented by an agreed-upon beneficiary), there is reason to believe that the funds received have already had an impact on the economy after being invested in expanding the beneficiaries’ enterprises.

Because the enterprises are agriculture-based, beneficiaries who began receiving funds at the end of last year and are involved in fast-growing crops or livestock have harvested and reinvested the funds. PDM is already having an economic impact. Production is increasing, as evidenced by the recent festive season, during which food prices did not rise significantly. Remember that an increase in supply reduces prices. It’s encouraging to know that the PDM category is self-feeding and dumping excess onto the market, just as the PDM concept’s creators anticipated.

There were a few issues at the start of fund distribution, such as erroneous beneficiary selection and extortion, but these have mostly been resolved.

The government, led and overseen by His Excellency the President, was on high alert through our anti-graft agencies and the RDC/RCC offices in the respective jurisdictions to ensure that the program’s original goals were not derailed by a few unscrupulous actors. Many people were arrested, while others were warned, and I want to thank the frontliners who have been on the ground to keep PDM implementation sane. PDM should not be a tug of war, but rather a joy to see succeed.

The old challenges in beneficiary selection have been reduced through continuous sensitization, and the process will be more seamless and accurate with the introduction of the Parish Based Management Information System PDMIS-FIS.

PDM introduced a workload that caught some technical people off guard and drove them to despair. Parish Chiefs and Community Development Officers (CDOs), for example, appear to have grown accustomed to earning easy money while contributing little to the economy. PDM arrived as a reminder that there is always an extra task that needs to be completed. PDM also brought with it more job opportunities. Parish chiefs, as well as other relevant positions in the hierarchy, were recruited to carry out the program.

As a result, PDM was a boon to many of our people in 2023. Apart from cash (which is only one pillar), we should not overlook the other six pillars, which, when combined, virtually reimagine and reengineer how government operates for effective service delivery and societal management.

Using Social Services as an example, a parish may have 100 beneficiaries receiving one million each, which money they are to use for production and business expansion. They also require services such as health care, education, and clean water. In effect, PDM aims to bring services closer to people through the administrative unit closest to them–the parish/ward. PDM thus benefits all groups of people, even if some may not benefit from the Financial Inclusion pillar. May we see the start of Pillar 4 this year as part of the implementation of the NRM Manifesto 2021 and the National Development Plan III. It’s a concerted effort to improve Ugandans’ lives.

PDM has a “do or do better” year in 2024. It is the only full year remaining outside of the electoral politics cycle in which we can iron out any remaining or emerging challenges while also strengthening the positive scores.

Given H.E. the President’s guidance on when repayment of the funds begins, which is two years for the recovery process to begin and an additional one-year grace period (for a total of 36 months), the first beneficiaries will be eligible to begin repaying by the end of 2024.

The President wisely decided that his people needed time to use the funds and grow their businesses before being interrupted with repayment demands. Since the two-year period ends this year, our focus is now on preparing our beneficiaries to repay their loans without stress, if not willingly. This delicate exercise should not endanger the political base as we approach the year of heightened politics-2025.

I thank the leaders in the various districts and cities, including Members of Parliament (MPs), who have helped monitor PDM in their areas and encourage the rest to do the same. I thank my sister, Rt. Hon. Anita Among, the Speaker of Parliament, for allocating time for PDM issues to be debated on the floor of Parliament and for allowing MPs to go on special leave to monitor the program.

Working together, PDM will be a resounding success and source of pride for everyone!

Happy 2024 New Year! H.E. the President, Ministers, and all Ugandans!

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