Economic experts have likened Uganda’s way of managing the economy to that of uncoordinated troop movement, which ultimately leads to catastrophic failure.
While debating the linkage between Uganda’s national development plan (NDP) to the 2018/19 National Budget Framework paper at Imperial Royale hotel last week, experts unanimously said that there is lack of integrated inter-agency coordination and planning, with each ministry and agency working on its own.
It is no wonder, Buliisa MP Stephen Birahwa said that government sought for $132 million funding for the construction of a new bridge on River Nile from the Japanese government through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
A few years later, the same government sought for funding from China for the construction of a railway bridge on the same river.
“It is as if we couldn’t have both on the same bridge”.
Similarly, Prof Julius Kiiza an academic from Makerere University wondered why new roads are constantly dug up to lay telecommunications cables and water pipes.
The country will spend Shs 29.2 trillion in FY 2018/19, with the Works and Transport sector taking Shs 4.7 trillion (21.4%). Shs 2.7 trillion will go into paying interest on borrowed money. Agriculture where majority Ugandans are will get Shs 832 billion (3.8%).
Prof Kiiza, said the country needed a new thinking, where industrialisation is at the centre stage.
“No country has ever succeeded in financing its economy when it has remained agrarian,” said Kiiza.
“We need an incorruptible head of state who is nationalistic; a civil service extremely clean and to make people know that public resources are for public service not private gain,” Kiiza said.
Kiiza said Ugandans needed to rethink the country’s ideology and know that the jua-kali economy [informal] is not ready for full liberalisation.
Kiiza said Uganda was so successful in the 1960s that it drew delegations from now developed nations like Singapore to come and see what the country was doing well.
MP Birahwa said lack of planning and coordination is costing taxpayers dearly. He said for instance, on Entebbe expressway, government has had to carry compensation several times – first for the road, power lines, and now expansion of the old Entebbe road.
This, he said, should have been done once if there was coordination. He said Ugandan policymakers need to rethink where they spend their money and tighten their belts to make sure the country develops.
“We have just had a campaign term and government is committing to salary enhancement as opposed to a salary review commission. Enhancing salaries without significant resource envelop is problematic.”
Birahwa said the country was not spending much on the key sectors, saying the country needed to do more vocational training. He proposed a specialised vocational training for the next five years for each region if Uganda is to realise her national development plan.
Bakunda Julius, the director of (Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group) CSBAG said absorption capacity was a major challenge to many ministries, departments and agencies.
“At the end of the financial year, you see MDAs saying we’ve unable to spend and they return money,” he said.
The 2016/17 household survey by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) showed more Ugandans are falling into poverty.