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Budget Committee disagrees with gov’t on sector allocations

FILE PHOTO: Budget Committee Chairperson Amos Lugoloobi-middle

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Budget Committee of Parliament has clashed with the Minister of State for Planning David Bahati over what they described as unrealistic budget allocations to the Health and Agriculture sectors.

Bahati was appearing before the committee to present revised budget estimates for the coming financial year 2020/2021. A document he presented shows that the 2020/2021 National budget has been revised upwards to 45.502 trillion Shillings from 39.64 trillion Shillings indicated earlier in the Budget Framework Paper.

According to the sector allocations, the Works and Transport docket tops the table with an allocation of 5.84 trillion Shillings followed by Security with 4.503 trillion Shillings. A sum of 4 trillion Shillings is budgeted for Interest Payments, the Education sector has a budget of 3.592 trillion Shillings while the  Health sector budget stands at 2.836 trillion Shillings. The agriculture sector budget stands at 1.324 trillion Shillings.

However, Budget Committee Chairperson Amos Lugoloobi tasked Bahati to show a difference between the previous and new budget.

Nyabushozi County MP Col Fred Mwesigye expressed disappointment with the sector allocations saying that he expected Health and Agriculture sector to be the main beneficiaries of the National budget given that the country is now battling a pandemic.

Butambala County MP Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi questioned why the government was increasing its domestic revenue projection after failing to realise all revenues for the ongoing financial year.

“The resource envelop has expanded by 5.8 trillion Shillings from what we adopted in the budget Framework. We have failed to realize all revenues in financial year 2019/2020 to the extent of borrowing to finance a gap, I wonder why you would this time around increase the domestic revenue projection,” Kivumbi wondered.

Kivumbi said that the approval of the budget should be with a good portion allocated to the fight against COVID-19 but not simply carrying out a ritual. The MPs demanded reallocation of funds from the Security and other sectors to the health and the agriculture sector in the face of coronavirus.

Bahati told MPs that the biggest contributors of the country’s external financings were; the World Bank, The International Monetary Fund and the Africa Development Bank (ADB) adding that the only source of funding that is hit by COVID-19 is China.

The Minister also told legislators that no one knows what tomorrow holds in light with the pandemic and that they should not think that a budget can operate without any single domestic revenue. He added that the government was going to support industrialization by ensuring enterprise to replace part of the country’s current import bill.

He said the import substitution strategy will focus on agro-industrialization to turn Uganda from a net importer to a net export of processed agricultural products and others.

According to Bahati, a total of 2.8 trillion Shillings has been allocated to finance interventions including improvement of yields and productivity through the use of modern inputs, supporting area-based commodity value chains where they exist, speeding up titling process and strengthening physical planning for production land. There will equally be a focus on expanding agricultural insurance, improving post-harvest handling and primary processing through the provision of rural infrastructure including storage infrastructure and increasing access to long-term finance.

He also highlighted an allocation of 4.7 trillion Shillings to complete key transport infrastructure like Entebbe International Airport and construction of Kabaale Airport, developing water transport routes and capacity at Bukasa and Jinja ports, rehabilitating the old meter gauge and undertaking work on the Standard Gauge Railway.

Bahati also pointed out a total of 116 billion  Shillings for the expansion of internet coverage to support the digitization of the economy, with a view of lowering the cost of operations, transactions and improving efficiency. He said that combined, these will make Uganda’s economy resilient in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

Bahati said other interventions will be shared with Parliament covering short term measures, medium-term and long term aspects of the economy. He notes that it is important that between this time and June they study areas that will be affected by COVID-19 for suitable adjustments.

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