The recently concluded 10th National Leadership Retreat, among others, adopted a resolution on doubling the annual national gross domestic product (GDP) and achieving over 11 per cent of GDP growth for the next five years. This will be an increase from an average of just over 8 per cent in the last 10 years.
Every participant at the Retreat and the citizens could have understood the resolution in their own way. But what did the mayors across the country understand what the resolution meant, as far as they are concerned? Possibly, it requires them to change accordingly and work towards achieving the targeted 11.5 per cent growth. However, the question still remains, are they ready for this ‘economic race’?
Will the mayors in their respective districts remain tight-lipped during the race or will they be active participants?
Of course, it goes without asking that the mayors are the prime athletes in this race. Therefore, as the prime persons in the race, they must be prepared to drive others towards achieving the national 11.5 per cent GDP growth.
To achieve this target, the mayors will need to put on more than one hat; one of strategists, economists, managers, technologists and planners, as well as that of being politicians. The mayor, who will fail to balance the two hats, will most likely achieve minimal results. This, therefore, requires mayors to change attitude and build their capacities.
In fact, those in charge of providing capacity building to local governments have their jobs cut out as they have to train the district mayors to become more than just politicians, but also managers.
How will the mayors support the government to achieve the targeted GDP growth?
One would also ask why the district heads should be among the first persons to change when we have many concerned stakeholders or institutions... The answer is simple; to achieve any meaningful change, it must start at the grassroots. This also requires having local economic development taking off to help achieve this target.
In fact, this is the time to enhance local economic progress by embedding development agenda in local government plans. That is why all local authorities need to lay strategies for local development to contribute towards achieving the national targeted growth of 11.5 per cent annually.
Therefore, district leaders need to rethink the structural economic changes that would improve people’s quality of life. However, to realise this economic change, there is need to reinforce the human capital through skills development.
To boost lower level economies also requires districts to design programmes that would help create income-generating activities, increase savings and investment, as well as progressive changes in socio-economic structures.
The local governments will have to deal, not only with social and political issues, but economic challenges as well. Whether at the political level or at the technical level, all need to contemplate on the models to use to contributing towards the targeted GDP growth. This, too, will help boost programmes that would enhance the economy.
Designing district development plans also needs to be refocused to ensure results. These steps are necessary to help reflect on the milestones and financial forecasts of district authorities aimed at changing the economic trend of the different localities.
It is important for the mayors to understand that the new planning order will have to be built on the bottom-up approach rather than the top-down one.
The economic trend of achieving 11.5 per cent requires the mayors to have economic strategies, which promote competitiveness, provide jobs and skills and attract infrastructure development.
The introduction of the mayors’ economic development strategy needs also to have some guiding principles that will help them achieve the set target.
This will also guide mayoral interventions in the economy by fostering sustainable investment and local development.
What if the benefits outweigh the costs? Then the mayor needs to devise means to achieve social objectives and address the causes of market failure, among other issues.
Like the councillor’s handbook or the district development plan, there should also be the mayors’ economic development strategy. This strategy should be read out during the presentation of Imihigo, indicating how the mayor would achieve the stated growth rate. Also, upgrading one’s skills is required of today’s mayor to realise the targeted national GDP growth rate.
It’s now a different game play; time has come for players to evaluate themselves before they are shamed by coaches.
If each mayor designed a development strategy, it would be easy for them to solve the economic challenges on the ground. Therefore, mayors countrywide should show the public their plans to achieving the 11.5 per cent growth rate. That’s why the elections of mayors should be based on who has the best plan for transforming the district economies.
If mayors were to be evaluated on the same standards as company CEOs, attaining the targeted economic growth rate would be easy. This is because chief executives work with clearly cut-out plans in whatever they do.
Throughout the history of management and business, the success of any company has relied on many factors, but corporate know-how of the executives is the overriding factor. Of course, like mayors, some CEOs fail, while others succeed.
Any district head who will focus on short-term, socio-economic results at the expense of the long-term performance, ignoring the quarterly or annual numbers, will most likely get minimal results.
With change in attitude in running the district operations, applying mathematics, statistical methods to economic data will characterise the best mayor.
The author is an operations manager at LG Consult Ltd (powered by RALGA), and a visiting lecturer at ULK’s Faculty of Economics and Business Studies