The Monitor (Kampala)

22 February 2012

Uganda: Up Education Budget or Lose Grant - World Bank Tells Government

Government must match its requests for financial support from multilateral lenders with its commitment to fund budget priority areas or risk losing the external support the World Bank, one of the biggest lenders has warned.

Specifically, Uganda stands to lose out on a US100m (about Shs240bn) World Bank grant to education because it's allocation to the sector has been declining to now 14 per cent of the national budget instead of moving to bridging the gap of the 20 per cent the government had committed itself to, to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on education by 2015.

Sukhdeep Brar, an Education Specialist at the Bank said on Tuesday that while Uganda is eligible to apply for the Global Partnership for Education grant based on its education sector strategic plan, the government has failed to meet the WB condition of allocating at least 20 per cent of the national budget towards education, which will affect its chances to get the funds.

The $100million grant (about Shs240billion) is a catalytic fund to help countries meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

"This is something that the secretariat will examine. It is a serious issue. When government has continued to reduce funding from 17 per cent to 14 per cent creating a huge gap contrary to World Bank requirement is a serious issue which will not be taken for granted," Ms Brar said at the Ministry of Education and Sports 2012/2013 budget planning workshop in Kampala yesterday.

The education sector for the financial year 2012/2013 has been allocated 14 per cent of the total national budget, a three per cent below the 17 per cent projected in the National Development Plan, the government's working document approved in 2010.

The head of education development partners, Mr Marc Gedopt expressed his disappointment at government saying that while ministry of education had indicated that the budget would increase in nominal terms, they had noted a contraction in real terms.

"If we take into account the high rate of inflation at 28.1 per cent, the size of the budget is worse than stagnant and this can have far reaching impact on the ground and serious constraints on our aspirations," Mr Gedopt explained.

Citing a high rate of head teacher and teacher absenteeism, he said Shs25billion could be saved by eliminating ghost schools, pupils and teachers every year, something that undermines quality education.

"There is a long standing issue of wastage in the education sector. Given the immense budget pressures the sector is facing, I leave it to your imagination what Shs25billion could do in the sector. Efficiency and efficient spending need to become the catch words in this constrained budgetary environment," Mr Gedopt explained.

Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka said that budget strategy for FY 2012/13 would prioritise interventions for addressing high interest rates, high inflation, infrastructure constraints in transport and energy, food prices, unemployment and inefficiency in public service delivery.

"Our fiscal policy should aim at addressing challenges threatening to reverse the country's economic growth and long standing record of macroeconomic stability," Ms Kiwanuka said.

Although education took the largest share of national budget (Shs1.4trillion), Mr Franci Lubanga, MoE Permanent Secretary yesterday said the overall deficit in FY 2012/13 budget amounts to Shs314.25billion from the available resource of Shs1,501.66billion compared to the total requirement of Shs1815.785billion.

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