But will model help millions of Ugandans get out of poverty?
Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | David Bahati, the Minister of State for Finance in charge of planning is excited about the Parish Development Model—the latest NRM programme aimed at lifting millions of rural-based Ugandans out of poverty.
Local governance experts say there is nothing new but Bahati says they are actually wrong. Bahati told a high level dialogue organised in Kampala on May 6 that the “coming years are going to be exciting for Ugandans and the Ugandan economy.” This was exactly a week before President Yoweri Museveni was sworn-in for his sixth straight elective term of office.
“We now want the whole of government to go to the parish,” Bahati told a recent high level policy dialogue on the economy which was organized by the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), a Kampala-based policy think tank.
This model, he said, is aimed at shifting the whole of government’s development efforts to the parish level in its effort to lift about 3.2 million households who are still holed up in the subsistence economy into the money economy.
“Out of the 8.5 million households we have in Uganda, about 3.2 million households live in the subsistence economy meaning that two out of every five households live in the subsistence economy,” he said.
Bahati said the Parish Development Model whose implementation starts at the beginning of the 2021/22 financial year is one of the key strategies for expanding the country’s economic base and intensifying the fight against poverty in the next financial year.
“By lifting these households from the subsistence economy, then we increase the tax base, we increase our revenue mobilization strategy and the general quality of life which is the ultimate goal of the government.”
Bahati says the new model will focus on production, value addition, marketing and mindset change, community statistical data strengthening, infrastructure development and financial inclusion where the government will start another revolving fund.
He says the government also intends to revive cooperatives and credit to enhance productivity of the 18 commodities that the government has identified as having a ready market and high potential for processing. These include; coffee, cotton, cocoa, cassava, tea, vegetable oils, maize, rice, sugarcane, fish, dairy products, beef, bananas, beans, avocado, shea nut, cashew nut and macadamia nuts.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, the Parish Model is a strategy that will organise and deliver public and private sector interventions for wealth creation and employment generation at the parish level as the economic planning unit.
The project intends to localize Vision 2040 as well as the National Development Plan III for effective measurement and management of government development programmes. The proponents of the new model argue that the parish model would mean that the centre of government activities leave the sub-county and become concentrated at the parish level.
Matia Kasaija, the Minister of Finance said should the programme succeed, “the current situation where two out of every five Ugandans live hand to mouth will be eradicated.”
“The government is convinced that nothing can better guarantee inclusive growth and employment for Ugandans than equitable participation of more Ugandans in the monetized economy,” he said while reading the Ministerial Statement on the Fund.
The programme will see each of the 10,594 parishes get Shs 39 million in a revolving fund. The parish model; like the others before it is intended to lift Ugandans out of the subsistence economy into the money economy, but this time around, new parish chiefs will manage the Fund.
“People will be having access to capital at the parish level; those who have what to do will be getting training and we shall be identifying them and training them in mindset change and other things that will help them jump out of the subsistence economy,” Bahati said.
Haruna Kasolo, the State Minister for Micro Finance also noted that the existing poverty alleviation programmes have been scattered across ministries making it impossible to track their performance. Kasolo thinks the Parish Model will plug these holes.
“If you need to follow up on the Youth Livelihoods Fund, you go to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and if you need a report on Operation Wealth Creation, you go to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. That makes assessing impact very difficult.”
“That is why we have changed the approach so that these funds can be consolidated in one pool in every parish so that people who are into different economic activities can go and have access to cheap credit in that SACCO at the parish to finance their activities.”
However, when the Shs490 billion for implementing the Parish Model was first tabled before the Parliamentary Budget Committee, the MPs declined to approve it.
The MPs asked Kasaija to provide criteria of identifying the list of members of households per parish and the criteria that the government would use to identify the beneficiaries.
“They have to show us the research they have done, they must give us the data on how many households there are in a parish, how the money is going to benefit the households and the interventions,” Patrick Isiagi, the MP for Kachumbala County in the eastern district of Bukedea said on April 13, the day the Finance Minister and his technical staff appeared in Parliament to defend the Parish Model Fund.
Although Bahati and his technocrats had asked for close to Shs490 billion to implement the development model, Parliament approved only Shs 200bn for the coming financial year to kick-start the implementation of the model.
There are 10,594 parishes across the country but Bahati said, the government will start by recruiting over 5,000 parish chiefs as well as embark on strengthening and training parish development committees.