President Yoweri Museveni says his government will now focus on import substitution and export promotion in the next few years.
Speaking at celebrations to mark the 31st National Resistance Movement anniversary in Masindi today, Museveni said time is now for Uganda to turn from an importing country to an exporting one.
The president says Uganda imports goods and services worth $7 billion most of which, can be produced or manufactured locally. Museveni cited items like furniture, shoes, juices, and textiles which Ugandans have the potential of producing locally.
Uganda is considered a net-import country, meaning it imports more than it exports. According to Museveni, the country exports only about $5 billion worth of goods compared to $7 billion spent on imports. The implication is that much needed foreign exchange that could be used to increase the national reserves is used to import items that could actually be made locally.
The president says in order to boost import substitution the government will increase funding for the innovation fund, Uganda Development Bank and saccos.
He singles out furniture manufacturers, especially those in Nsambya, Kubiri and Kireka in Kampala, whom he promised to provide with common-user machinery, workshops and showrooms in order to build their capacities.
Museveni said focus will also be on increasing exports in order to bring in more foreign exchange. He added that Uganda should only be importing ‘big’ items like airplanes and machine guns not shoes or furniture from China.
“Imagine importing furniture from China?”, he said.
On oil, Museveni says although there has been delay in starting production, the government and the oil companies are now in agreement on recoverable oil, refinery, oil pipeline and sharing of the oil resources.
Museveni says there is also going to be 10-percent cut on all ministry budgets to fund construction of the so-called oil roads and other infrastructure. He says the new roads would be used to transport equipment and parts for oil infrastructure like oil pipeline, refinery and oil and gas facilities.
Museveni says the Tororo-Mbale-Soroti-Lira-Kamdini-Pakwach road will be strengthened to help in transportation of heavy oil equipment and vehicles.
In addition, the old railway line from Tororo-Mbale-Soroti-Lira-Gulu-Pakwach will also be renovated to facilitate transportation of heavy oil equipment and parts.
From Pakwach the equipment and parts would be transported by water to wherever they would be needed. Roads linking to the crude oil pipeline are to also be constructed to enable transportation of parts to wherever they would be needed.
The president says he wants no arguments on the budget cuts, singling out civil servants whom he says should cut back on unnecessary travels abroad. President Museveni says once oil revenues starts flowing Uganda will be able to deal with many of its challenges.
He says at low global oil prices Uganda will still earn $2.5 billion and during boom times the country would earn over $4 billion enabling the country to “stop the begging nonsense.”
On Operation Wealth Creation, Museveni says the initiative is not to deal with all problems in the agriculture sector but to specifically make more rural households food secure and enter into the money economy. In urban areas, Museveni says emphasis will be on promoting artisans, savings, peri-urban agriculture and small-scale processing.
Museveni lashed out at those who think he is their servant voted into power to serve them.
"I hear some people calling me their servant, am not your employee. I'm a freedom fighter...I fight for my beliefs", he said.
Museveni also used the celebrations to launch a newspaper, Public Lens that seeks to promote the agenda of the ruling party, National Resistance Movement (NRM).
According to Museveni, the paper will help NRM to speak to the public. Richard Todwong, the NRM deputy secretary general, says the Public Lens will help the party to communicate facts and document the achievements of the NRM government.
He dispelled fears that the paper will compete with the government owned New Vision. "The New vision is doing some good work but this is for the party. It's going to help the party document the achievements as per the Manifesto pledges," he said.
Todwong also said the paper will be more detailed than the 'snap' news in other newspapers. The newspaper will be published monthly.