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MPs raise concern over underutilization of new markets

Lugazi market

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of the Parliament on the Committee of Public Service and Local Government have expressed concern about the non-utilization of markets constructed in the different parts of the country.

The committee chaired by the Aringa North County MP Godfrey Onzima is conducting inspection tours on the status and utilization of the new markets that were constructed under the Markets and Agricultural Trade Improvement Program-MATIP, which is implemented under the Ministry of Local Government.

Since 2010, through a loan government borrowed from the African Development Bank-AfDB, the Ministry of Local Government has facilitated the construction of at least 20 new modern markets in the different urban local councils, with intention of improving marketplace economic and social infrastructure, to increase employment.

While inspecting the new market under construction in Masaka city on Tuesday, the MPs noted with concern that some of the well-built market structures are underutilized despite the huge investments made into them.

According to records, the government has since borrowed close to USD 158.23 million (approximately 595 billion shillings) in two phases, to finance the market projects.

Onzima is afraid that the loan facility is getting due for repayment yet the benefiting urban councils are yet to start collecting money from the market infrastructures because they are not fully utilized as anticipated.

Some of the markets that are currently under-occupied include Kitooro Market in Entebbe Municipality, Lugazi Municipal Market, Mbale City, Jinja, and Gulu City markets among others.

Onzima says that the markets may instead become a heavy burden to the government after they fail to meet the intended purposes, due to failure to realize returns on investments.

He challenged the leaders to ensure that the markets are fully occupied and utilized.

The markets are being abandoned by vendors due to concerns about accessibility to the upper floors, unfavorable architectural designs, high maintenance costs, unaffordable rental fees, internal management disputes, and space allocations among other issues.

Betty Ethel Naluyima, the Wakiso District Woman Member of Parliament also Shadow Minister for Local Government noted that they observed that in some places, the vendors did not fully own the new markets.

She said that before the committee tasks the Ministry of Local Government to make the required adjustments in the designs, they challenged the district leaders to work out arrangements that can encourage the vendors to put the markets to effective utilization.

Engineer Emmanuel Mwebaze, Commissioner for Market Infrastructure Development at the Ministry of Local Government acknowledges the challenge of underutilization of the new markets, adding that they are engaging with the relevant stakeholders to provide solutions.

With the markets that are still under construction, Mwebaze says they are ensuring that the contractors avoid all architectural barriers before they can move to address the gaps in the already completed markets.

Notably, the 2021 audit report by the Auditor General also indicated that the new markets have accumulated 1.4 billion shillings in arrears due to low revenue collection, reluctance to remit taxes by people who hired out their stalls, and lockup shops, Covid-19 after effects among other impediments to revenue collection.

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