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By: CSBAG

The National Budget for FY 2017/18, to many citizens has come with mixed signals on where exactly government spending priorities are focused to lead the country into middle income status by 2020.

Out of the UGX 30,231.54bn total resource envelop, only UGX 14,992.02bn is available with certainty presenting a budget deficit of UGX 15,239.52bn (50.4%).

A critical analysis of Government’s priority list, makes it difficult to ascertain the aggregate returns on expenditure for specific functions as government maximizes the utilization of the already scarce resources.

Procurement of Helicopter

Under the legislature sector, one of the priority items for Financial Year (F/Y) 2017/18 – FY 2021/22 is the purchase of motor vehicles and other transport equipment to enhance the delivery of legislative functions under the stewardship of the Speaker of Parliament.

The Parliament of Uganda has a budget of UGX 442.328bn for the FY 2017/18. With a re-allocation of UGX 675 million to contribute to facilitation of purchase of motor vehicle and other transport equipment including a Helicopter Bus EC- 145-9 seater that will cost approximately UGX 19.9bn.

The justification given is to strengthen institutional capacity of Parliament to undertake its constitutional mandate effectively and efficiently.

We are cognizant of the fact that monitoring the implementation of Government programmes and projects is one of the core responsibilities of a Member of Parliament for it enables them to legislate on behalf of the citizens from an informed point of view.

However, the move to procure a helicopter for the Speaker and her Deputy must be backed with adequate proof that the motor vehicles procured for the two officials have proved inefficient, but also that there are key economic advantages and linked to an ultimate welfare change for the citizens or a section of them. In addition, key issues like the cost-benefit analysis of procuring this helicopter must be considered.

We strongly believe that with all the priorities and good work that parliament plans to do in the FY 2017/18, including the construction of new chambers for the 458 members of the 10th Parliament, this expenditure clearly boarders on wastage of resources; its maintenance and operational cost notwithstanding.

Helicopter Vs Debt service

In order to graduate into a middle-income country by 2020, Government has embarked on developing infrastructure to step up production with a vision to spur economic growth and development.

Heavy loan on-going projects and those in the pipeline are estimated to cost (U$ 7.522bn) -Karuma and Isimba HEP U$ 2.2bn; Oil Refinery U$ 0.5bn;  Airport (Albertine region) U$ 0.2bn; Kampala-Kigali products pipeline U$ 0.42bn;  Ayago Hydro Power dam U$1.9bn;  Kampala –Eldoret Products pipeline U$ 0.45bn; Kampala Jinja Express Highway U$0.8bn;  Kampala- Mpigi Express Highway U$0.402bn;  Kampala Bombo Express Highway U$ 0.3bn and  Kampala Southern Bypass U$ 0.350bn.

Domestic debt is sky rocketing yet on concessional terms and should be more worrisome compared to external borrowing.

According to Auditor General Report, 2016, Outstanding Domestic Arrears have continued to escalate for the past three years. For instance, Pension arrears increased from 1.2bn in FY 2013/14 to 5.61bn in FY 2015/16

In addition, Government had outstanding amounts in court awards, compensations and other liabilities totaling to UGX.684Bn as at 30th June 2016. Loans repayment demands huge financial requirements for debt service, yet by December 2016 the debt to DGP ratio was at 52% more than the guiding threshold of 50%, according to 2016 BOU report.

Great attention should be focused on the sustainability of debt level.

According to Auditor General Report, 2016, Several loans are facing implementation challenges and performing below 50% capacity.  In addition to accumulating interest payments annually amidst stagnated revenue to GDP at 13% arising from limited revenue base and the costly infrastructural development –according to World Bank report 2016 and negative Balance of Payments earnings for the last 4 years as highlighted by BOU report, 2016.

These are signs leading to possible future debt unsustainability which attracts high costs of borrowing in order to compensate for the high risk of default.

Therefore, we think that it is unrealistic to prioritize the procurement of a Helicopter to facilitate the Speak of Parliament and her Deputy at the expense of debt service which all Ugandans are expected to contribute to.

Helicopter Vs Road infrastructure

While Government efforts at infrastructural improvements so far are commendable, there are still areas with bad roads and require urgent attention.

For instance, the Kyankanda-Karungu-Bitsya road in Buhweju District becomes muddy and slippery during rainy season.

Transportation trucks carrying fresh agricultural produce like tea, cabbages and tomatoes to markets are challenged by the impassable roads leading to escalation of transport costs for local farmers.

Construction or frequent maintenance of road network country-wide will facilitate transportation cheaply and faster for citizens to engage in economic activities translating into more savings and improved welfare and sustainable wealth creation.

Helicopter Vs Health services

Domestic financing for HIV/ AIDS programmes is less than 25% while the rest is expected to come from donors, which puts patients at a high risk in case of donor pull out.

Most health centres in the country have been persistently experiencing stock outs for commodities and medicines required for addressing crucial health needs like malaria, family planning and HIV/AIDS.

The Country Aids Progress Report for 2015 /16 shows Uganda’s HIV infection rates that had been contained are now in are rising, meaning that the national HIV Test and Start Policy cannot be operationalized with the current paltry 100 billion which is far inadequate to provide much needed services to HIV/AIDS patients.

Helicopter Vs Food security situation

The food security situation in the country which ranges between minimal and crisis as at November 2016, with the country experiencing an average crop loss of approximately 40% for pulses (beans, groundnuts, peas) and 80% for cereals (maize, millet, rice, sorghum) from the first season harvests.

Consequently, there was a decline in the number of food secure people in the country, from 89% in December 2015 to 83% in July 2016, and an increase in the population under food security stress from 10% to 16%.

According to Minister for Agriculture, by last week the total population that is in need of relief food has increased to 1,500,000 people from 1,300,000 as at November, 2016 in the sub regions of Karamoja, Teso, Lango, Acholi, Bukedi, West Nile, Parts of Busoga, lsingiro, Bukomansimbi, and Kalungu with several deaths registered already.

We explore Government to be sensitive enough to take immediate actions on providing food relief to hunger stricken families in Uganda, and seed and planting materials for the rehabilitation of food production system for season one around end of March 2017.

With the glaring, state of affairs in the different sectors, Government should focus on urgent issues that seek to improve human welfare to enhance productivity and production in-country as a first call to increase food security situation as a priority. Once the road network is improved, a multiplier effect is inevitable as a larger number of the population will benefit. Government should address corruption tendencies if full capacity resource mobilisation drive is to be achieved.

The Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) is a Ugandan nonprofit organization that was founded in 2004 to bring together Civil Society Organazation  (CSOs) at national and district levels with the view of influencing government decisions on resource mobilization and utilization for equitable and sustainable development.

 

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