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WB says communal land costing govt billions

The system of communal ownership of land should be addressed to minimize losses that government incurs in terms of compensations, especially when it is implementing huge infrastructure projects whose construction has a specific timeframe, a senior economist with the World Bank has advised.

“The issues of land need to be addressed. Land disputes cause about 11 per cent losses in the agricultural sector. In other areas, it goes up to 25 per cent,” said Racheal Sebudde, a Word Bank economist.

“Let us formalise communal land [ownership] and accelerate registration of land. Land is making the cost of infrastructure very high. If we don’t use that land, it is dead capital,” she noted.

Sebudde’s remarks follow the ongoing inquiry into the Uganda National Roads Authority which was fleeced of billions of shillings to fake claimants for the land along the Entebbe Express highway. She was addressing CEOs about the country report from the World Bank at Lake Victoria Serena resort.

She explained that government loses money through compensations since the rightful landowners are not easily identified. Sebudde also questioned government’s decision to carve out 25 new districts from the existing 112, which will see the number shoot up to 137. She observed that administrative unit costs are to increase, which will worsen the debt burden and pile pressure on the taxpayer.

Meanwhile, parliament has approved the new districts and will receive funding in the next financial year. Uganda’s external debt is now estimated at $5.805 billion, placing it among the highly-indebted countries in the region.

Consequently, the finance ministry has warned that splitting the country into more administrative units is a costly venture since funds are not available. The secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi, told The Observer recently that for the new districts to run, government would need to borrow Shs 1.455 trillion.

“We must fight this creation of districts and municipalities. And the private sector and civil society is complacent about it,” he said.

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