Kampala. Donors have said the recent political events in Uganda are serious concerns that undermine the core components of strong independent institutions – such as the Judiciary – and rule of law.
Speaking during presentation of the 2019/20 budget compositions in Kampala, Ms Jennie Brarugh, the head of Department for International Development, who spoke on behalf of development partners, said: “As partners, we continue to emphasise the importance of strong institutional foundations and respect for political freedoms in underpinning sustained growth and development that Uganda strives to achieve,” she said with out giving specifics.
However, Ms Brarugh noted that they would continue to work together with government to maximise the impact of aid on development with the desire for sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
The concerns come amid heightened calls to the international community by a section of Ugandans to cut aid to key government sectors such as the military due to alleged abuse of human rights, corruption and misappropriation.
During a recent press conference, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi’s lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, said he would, together with other human rights activists, lobby the US and other European countries to cut military funding to Uganda because government has alleged been using such assistance to perpetuate abuse of its citizens.
This came amid claims of torture of MPs including Mr Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, the Kyadondo North MP and Mr Francis Zaake both of whom are currently in the US and India, respectively for specialised treatment.
At the same meeting Finance minister Matia Kasaija asked development partners not to shift away from maintaining their financial support to Uganda’s development needs.
“We urge our development partners … not to shift away from agreed on principles to support the country,” he said, noting that institutions such as the World Bank continue to be instrumental in a number of sectors such as health, education and human capital development.”
According to Ms Brarugh a number of partners have heavily invested in the development of Uganda, committing close to $10b in development assistance over the last decade.
Government is currently undertaking the process to design the 2019/20 budget, which will be financed through a mix of domestic revenues, grants and borrowing.
The budget will also be guided by the Domestic Revenue Strategy, which seeks to increase Uganda’s tax to gross domestic product ratio to 16 per cent by 2020.
“Given our current commitments … addressing deficit should be achieved through efficient savings, recollection within sector and external financing,” Mr Kasaija said.
Mr Gideon Badagawa, the Private Sector Foundation Uganda executive director, who spoke on behalf of the private sector, said they had noted a slow pace in executing business-related bills and regulations, which continue to gather dust either before Cabinet or Parliament.
For instance, he said, the Local Content Bill, Coffee Bill, NSSF Amendment Bill, Pension Bill, and National Health Insurance Bill and Landlord Tenants Bill are yet to be acted upon despite their importance in streamlining the private sector.
Other bills, which are yet to be acted upon, he said, include the Animal Feeds Bill, amendment to the Fisheries Act, Data Protection Bill and Counterfeit Law, among others.
“Government needs to expedite the enactment of these laws to enable regulation,” he said, noting that the current budget has been a mixed bag of new tax measures that, although had sought to broaden the tax base, continue to increase the cost of doing business.
According to Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, there is need to speed up the execution of government projects and programmes as well as tackling inefficiencies in public sector to ensure better services delivery.
This, he says, will not only improve private sector investment but will also reduce wastage and corruption.
“Emphasis should be placed on industrialisation of the economy, based on agro-processing, export promotion of key commodities and products as well as addressing challenges to youth unemployment, private growth and expediting in infrastructure investments to reduce the cost of doing business,” he said.