By Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa/Umoja Standard.
Ntinda, Uganda: On 18th/May/2023 Parliament passed the FY2023/24 Budget whose estimates represent a 16% increase from the previous year, with a total of USD 52.73 trillion allocated. This has been attributed to projected increases in domestic resource mobilization, external borrowing, and domestic refinancing (rollover).
While addressing press at their headquarters in Ntinda, Julius Mukunda, the Executive Director of Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG got concerned of escalating public debt, which has grown from UGX 9 trillion in 2018/19 to UGX 86.6 trillion in 2023/24, representing a 180% increase. Of this debt, UGX 38.1 trillion is domestic, and UGX 48.5 trillion is external.
He noted that the proportion of domestic revenue going towards servicing debt has exceeded the benchmark of less than 12.5%, crippling the government’s capacity to provide essential services, such as maintaining the state of roads in Kampala and other parts of the country.
He went on to reveal that the increase in domestic arrears, which have risen from UGX 4.65 trillion in 2021 to UGX 7.55 trillion in 2022, despite the existence of The Strategy to Clear and Prevent Domestic Arrears June2021. He called for the government to enforce fiscal discipline by reprimanding errant accounting officers and allocate sufficient resources in the domestic arrears budget to clear the current stock of domestic arrears.
Addressing in the same press conference, Food Rights Alliance (FRA) Executive Director, Ms. Agnes Kirabo, warned that the removal of the extension grant at Local Government is a setback to the country’s agro-industrialization agenda. She emphasized the critical role of extension workers in assisting farmers and urged the government to fund them adequately to avoid a potential hunger crisis.
As well Peter Eceru, a Coordinator at the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), expressed disappointment that the budget is inadequate in addressing health matters, with a drop in allocation for blood collection, processing, and distribution. He called for increased funding for essential medicines, laboratory reagents, and SRHR commodities to prevent drug stock-outs in public health facilities.
According to allocations, wealth creation funds accounted for a combined total of UGX 146 trillion, while education received UGX 1 trillion, and health was allocated UGX 1.225 trillion. Agriculture received UGX 6 billion for agricultural research financing and UGX 17.62 billion for dairy development. Works and transport received UGX 2.475 trillion for improving the national road network, and water and environment received UGX 56 billion for improving the management of the environment and natural resources. Local government financing was allocated UGX 5,279,399,382, representing 10% of the national budget, with 78.1% being recurrent and 21.3% being development.
The CSBAG held a press conference to discuss the approved budget estimates for the financial year 2023/24. While there have been increases in budget allocations, concerns have been raised about the escalating public debt, domestic arrears, inadequate funding for health matters, and the removal of the extension grant at Local Government. The government has been urged to enforce fiscal discipline, allocate sufficient resources to clear domestic arrears, fund extension workers, and increase funding for essential medicines and laboratory reagents.