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The politics behind the budget

 

BUDGET ANALYSIS: Why UDB got Shs50bn, Museveni donations Shs70bn and more

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE |  Matia Kasaija, Uganda’s Finance minister, is a jocular person for whom talking tough is always light hearted. It was no different on June 12 when he attended a post-budget reading breakfast meeting organised by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU) in Kampala.

“I am here to talk about strategic thinking,” he told his audience.

Kasaija, 73, is a Member of Parliament for Buyanja constituency and a big farmer and businessman with lots of experience after serving in different positions at private companies starting with the oil company; Shell, in early 1970s and as minister in other portfolios before.  He was possibly reading the mood of skepticism and trying to lift it a little.

He had earlier on June 08 presented the budget under the theme of `Industrialisation for job creation and shared prosperity’ but even before he had finished presenting it, critics were already tearing it into shreds as more of politics and nothing much else.

“Generally, the budget identifies very good priority areas for investment but when it comes to allocating money, they give them peanuts as opposed to some political items,” said  Ramathan Ggoobi, a senior lecturer at Makerere University Business School (MUBS) in an interview with The Independent on June 12. He listed money allocated to roads, women, and youth programmes among the political spending.

“Budget efficiency is derived from that ability to balance the priorities such that you do not have this fallacy or anomaly of saying there is unfunded or underfunded priority,” Ggoobi said.

He added that if he were in charge of finance, he would have gotten a trillion from the Shs4.6 trillion allocated to Works and Transport and added to funding of the drivers of short-term growth for this year and next year. For Ggoobi, the short-term drivers of growth include building agro-processing centres and agri-business, tourism marketing, irrigation, and development financing for small and medium enterprises.

“I would not add on other roads which are just political roads,” he said.

The Petroleum Fund resource earmarked for oil roads development amounts to Shs125.28 billion while budget support is planned at Shs34.95 billion.

Ggoobi welcomed governments increased spending to agriculture for the last two financial years “because of the noise we have been making” but said most sector programmes being funded are well-designed but too political to achieve tangible results.

The budget, for example, allocated Shs50 billion towards recapitalising Uganda Development Bank Ltd (UDB). According to Kasaija this will ease the cost of credit for the private sector. But at the same time, the budget allocated Shs70 billion to President Museveni for “donations”.  The budget priority here is very clear as the allocation to the President was opposed by many people, including MPs.

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