Every year Civil Society Organizations under the umbrella of CSBAG convene to discuss the National Budget through the Post Budget Digest. CSBAG with its partners Food Rights Alliance, OXFAM, PELUM, FORD FOUNDATION, ISER, DGF, Trocaire, organized the Post Budget Digest at the UMA Conference Hall, Lugogo. The theme for this year’s Post Budget Digest was “Addressing inequality for improved service delivery: will the FY 2018/19 Budget deliver?” this would further the understanding of the priorities for the respective financial year and build citizens’ capacity and knowledge on the budget. The Post Budget Digest brought together, Policy makers, political leaders, CSOs, Development partners and Farmers. The event convened over 300 participants in their respective category.
It was reported during the dialogue that parliament had considered at least 15 Civil Society Organizations budget proposals of the 76 were incorporated in the budget for the FY 2018/19, and CSOs engaged with three technical working groups and twelve parliamentary committees during the development of the budget for FY2108/19. The Post Budget Digest recognized the positive growth prospects of 5.8% in the FY2017/18 which is a good basis for take-off for the FY2018/19, with domestic revenue of UGX 19.4 Trillion the highest to ever be recorded. One of the key opportunities for the current budget is that the tax exemption on some domestic goods and services that can bolster the economy. Among the hurdles for the budget Julius Mukunda the Executive Director of CSBAG noted that Interest payment of UGX 2.5 Trillion is now competing social sector expenditure with health, education, agriculture among other national priorities, money borrowed from external funders is not spent on the critical social sectors.
The government spending on social and high spending sectors in the country (Health, Education, and Agriculture) is still very low and inadequate; on the contrary government is spending money on recurrent components, and too much money is spent on consumption and not service delivery systems so as to support economic growth in Uganda. In the Key note address Mr Ashaba Hannington- Assistant Commissioner Projects and Public Investment Management Department- Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Developments recorded that the 5.8% economic growth was highest Uganda has ever registered since FY 2011/12. It was noted that the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development was to repair the tax policy to eliminate some of the VAT policy gaps and strengthen revenue administration and widen the revenue base is critical for growth of National GDP. However Interest payments in the budget are taking up majority of our budget, which will cause crowding out effect on the private sector yet the budget, is based on industrialization for job creation.
From the discussions of the Macroeconomic overview of the FY2018/19 Budget Hon. Biraahwa Mukitare Adyeeri Stephen note that there is need to discuss the figures of the budget as they were presented to parliament through the budget speech. The issues of Social Protection raised a number of concerns in parliament as they were inadequately funded. To complement the development of the economy it was noted that climate was and has been the biggest driver for growth in the country. Through cities, densities are created which facilitate markets thus leading to industrialization in the country, but how true is this in the country? Are the masses/citizens being listened to in regard to the Budget? But on the contrary being listened to and taken serious are two different things if people want to push the agenda of the National Budget. Many of the citizens speak about and give their opinions about the budget, but who responds to their concerns? We need to look at the country’s targets so that planning and implementation is done towards the set targets, how far we are with the implementation of the VISION 2040, tracking of the VISION 2040 can only be tracked with the NRM manifesto which is a political tool.
The input sector of the country has greatly failed the development of agriculture in the country. Majority of the small holder farmers at the grass root are struggling with agriculture simply because they lack access to agricultural inputs. With OWC NAADS, NARO among others, farmers will require knowing what to grow where, and this will require soil analysis, however the recruited extension workers do they have capacity to conduct the soil analysis.
As one of the recommendations, government needs to balance investing in infrastructure & social sectors, they will be point in time where all roads have been completed thoroughly, but with no environment to invest in simply because they ignored to adequately invest in the social sectors of the country.
By Frank Ntwatwa