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CSOs react to proposed 2021/22 budget

Many say, the planned expenditure may not boost service delivery

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | Uganda’s newly proposed budget may not efficiently deliver services to the citizens, according to the Civil Society Organisations that do work on the budget.

The first weakness was pointed out by Julius Mukunda, the coordinator for the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG).

Speaking at a half day pre-budget dialogue on May 18 in Kampala, Mukunda said, the alignment of the new budget is at 61.9% less than the 70% benchmark set by the National Planning Authority.

He also stated that the inadequate financing to local governments and all other sectors will, as has been the norm, affect effective service delivery to citizens distorting government efforts to uplift the welfare of citizens.

He added that, there is need to ensure that all eligible taxpayers pay their fair share of taxes to enable government raise the much needed revenue to finance development.

This comes just a few weeks Parliament approved a Shs44.7trillion budget for the 2021/2022 financial year. This was a decrease of Shs714billion for the first time compared to the approved resource envelope of 2020/2021.

The government plans to anchor the new budget on the Third National Development Plan (NDPIII) which seeks to consolidate the development gains under 18 program areas with a central focus on increasing household income through a resource led industrialization drive.

The strategy focuses on promoting equity, an efficient public sector and a vibrant sector to support the country’s growth agenda.

Moses Mushime, an economist and advocate of the High Court, however, said since the country has limited resources, it should utilise them efficiently to achieve various development aspirations.

He, for instance, said there has been an increment to local governments – which are central in pushing service delivery to the people – but in terms of equity, they have been receiving the smallest share over the years and thus compromising their work.

“The biggest chunk of the resources have been retained at the centre,” he said.

He said there is also need to invest in sectors such as education and health to respond to the needs of a growing population.

“Currently our GDP growth is lower than population growth,” he said in reference to the COVID-19 negative impact on the economy.

Other participants said, the proposed budget service delivery to the population will depend on three main factors; how the new government will continue to manage the after effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the economy; how efficient the Uganda Revenue Authority will collect local revenue and the political environment.

However, URA’s ability to hit targets has been weak over the years, thus compromising funding for the key service delivery.

For instance, the auditor general’s report for 2019/20 indicates that while the consolidated local governments’ budget amounted to Shs4.8trillion, only Shs4.1tn was availed by the end of the financial year.

In addition, the same report noted that 356 LGs remained unfunded and needed up to Shs640.8bn for both development and operational costs.

Meanwhile, Jane Nalunga, the executive director for Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) Uganda, said hopes for Uganda to achieve robust growth could come from the oil and gas sector whose development is underway.

“Petroleum sector has very good local content…and we need to look at how we link it to other sectors like agriculture and health,” she said.

However, Gerald Namona from the ministry of finance, said there is an ongoing process to renegotiate some of Uganda’s tax agreements to help address some of the issues like curbing tax leakages especially through illicit financial flows.

He said, the government also continues to design tax and related policies that are balanced in terms of supporting the economy to thrive while at the same time aiding revenue collections to deliver services to the people.

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