By Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa/Umoja Standard.
Kampala, Uganda: A consortium of Civil Society Organizations spearheaded by Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) on Sunday advised Ugandan government to direct its FY 2023/24 resources to the essential sectors of the economy if the country is to realize economic recovery and social transformation of own citizens.
According to the proposed Budget released in December 2022, the total resource envelope for the FY 2023/24 is projected to increase from UGX 48,130.7 trillion in FY2022/23 to UGX. 49,988.7 trillion in FY2023/24 with Human Capital Development programme taking lion’s share to the amount of UGX 9,005.61 billion (18.0%), followed by Governance and Security programme at UGX 6,824.89 billion (13.7%), Integrated Transport Infrastructure and Services programme and others.
However, programs like Innovation, Technology Development and Transfer are projected to receive UGX 177.568 billion (0.36%), Mineral Development, UGX 38.5 billion (0.08%), and Community Mobilization and Mindset Change UGX 21.999 billion (0.04%) hence being the least allocated.
Speaking during a press conference at CSBAG headquarters at on Sunday, Patrick Rubangakene- the Budget Policy Specialist at CSBAG stated that govt should reduce borrowing non concessional loans and ensure prudent debt utilization.
He advised that financial and economically viable public investment projects should be approved for financing to save the country from the former.
He says, the share of public stock to GDP had increased from 46.90% (US$ 19.54billion) to 48.4% (US$20.99billion) by June 2022 and believed that it could have been driven by Uganda’s focus to borrow on non-concessional terms which ultimately increases the cost of borrowing and high cost of debt servicing and reduces discretionary spending.
He sought government to reconsider budget cuts with a focus on provision of service delivery to vulnerable groups as it targets economic recovery since most of these are realized on essential programmes.
CSOs heighted that the proposed budget did not focus on structured investment for women’s economic empowerment, Adherence National Climate Change Act, 2021 provisions on climate Financing, functionality of medical equipment in health facilities, efforts towards mainstreaming disaster risk management into development planning at all levels, prioritization of the lower secondary school curriculum, functionality of medical equipment in health facilities and others.
Addressing at the same press conference, Mariam Akiror- the Advocacy Coordinator at Action Against Hunger USA-Uganda Mission stressed that they are concerned of the fact that the entities that are responsible for ensuring food and nutrition security have received budget cuts in the FY2023/24 National Budget Framework Paper.
She cited that the Budget for Uganda National Bureau of Standards is projected to reduce from UGX. 1.110Billion in FY2022/23 to UGX. 940Million FY2023/24. ‘This is risky for us if we are talking about standards and safety, if they do not have sufficient budget then we are likely to have substandard goods in the market and agency not being able to do the enforcement due to limited budget’.
She also said that Local Government budget is projected to reduce from 245.49Bn FY2021/22 to 120.73BN in FY2023/24 Budget. ‘We all know that the typical grassroot people are under Local Government and if it does not have sufficient resources, even the monitoring of Parish Development Model, extension services is going to be hindered’.
‘We need to recognize that the storage, agro-processing and value addition budget is drastically reducing from 62.120BN FY201/22 to 25.812BN in FY2023/24”. Mariam quoted.
She therefore proposed that there should be direct strategic investment in water for production in response to climate change adaptation that will cater for food production throughout the year regardless of the tradition of the two seasons if we are to be food and nutrition secure.
She added that there should be investment in agricultural extension services, post-harvest handling, improving standards and access to affordable credit by small holder farmers that would help them ensure increment of their yields, productivity and management of their produce.
The further sought government to finalize the National Irrigation Master-plan- this is critical for farmers to grow food throughout the year especially in drought prone districts like Yumbe, Adjumani and Karamoja Sub region and the National Agriculture extension strategy.
“The issue of supporting interventions that are geared towards securing land ownership and access is a challenge to women and also the men though the biggest percentage in agricultural sector are the women”. Said Mariam.
“It is possible to secure a world free from hunger because it is man-made and the solutions to hunger are also with us”. She added.
Jane Nalunga, the Executive Director of SEATINI Uganda- a trade-based organization expressed with concern the UNBS budget cut yet there is a gap in enforcing standards saying that 54% of the products on Ugandan market are substandard yet the cost of certification is high at UGX. 1,000,000 per parameter or UGX. 500,000 for Micro, Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (MSMEs).
She went on to highlight that UNBS is understaffed in addition some boarder posts have no presence of it that has caused some of Ugandan products to be rejected on regional and international market because of poor standards- to mention the recent rejection of Ugandan maize by neighboring Kenya.
It is on this basis that Ms. Nalunga asked government to put more resources in UNBS and Uganda Export Promotion Board- because every year it runs a trade deficit (importing more than what we export) so this calls for re-organization in order to do better.
She cited a concern on trade negotiations which she says is not yet well effected because markets are negotiated, ‘there are on going negotiations where we need to be as a country to promote our interests which include the African Continental Free Trade Area, World Trade Organization and others but this has not been looked at’.
She also informed that Tourism Development program is the 3rd least funded NDP III program with a budget of UGX 89.293 billion, lower than the FY2022/23 approved budget of UGX 194,677 billion yet its one of the leading foreign exchange earners for Uganda.