25 November 2012

Uganda: Let's Spend Frugally and Stop Begging


In the aftermath of the suspension of aid to Uganda by her development partners Britain, Denmark, Ireland, Norway and Sweden earlier this month, there have been reports that some government departments are beginning to feel the pinch, unable to fund their planned activities and other obligations.

The Uganda government clearly brought this unto herself when it allowed its thieving officials to brazenly swindle money meant for supporting war victims in the affected parts of the country. As a result, many innocent people are likely to pay the price for this impropriety.

Yet there is evidence to suggest that Uganda would be capable of funding her entire budget if the money collected by the Uganda Revenue Authority was not stolen or used extravagantly. The money stolen from public coffers could be much more than what is donated to Uganda. It is, therefore, a shame that we should be pleading for aid instead of utilising internal resources frugally.

The recent importation of state-of-the art Mercedes Benz limousines for President Museveni at a cost exceeding Shs 1.2bn and the use of some of the Peace, Recovery and Development Programme (PRDP) money to buy luxury vehicles for ministers in the office of the Prime Minister clearly show how lopsided our priorities are.

How can a country that begs to fund its budget be in a position to purchase luxury vehicles for its leaders that their counterparts in the countries we beg from can only dream of?

Meanwhile, our public administration expenditure remains one of the highest in the world, with a stadium-size Parliament, a conference-size cabinet, an army of presidential advisors, resident district commissioners, etc. Therefore, while government departments are feeling the pinch, the aid cuts have given Uganda another opportunity to rethink her overreliance on aid for budget support.

We need support for humanitarian causes, similar to the United States' approach whose support is directed at project assistance such as in the area of HIV/Aids. We also need soft loans and grants for mega projects such as the recently launched Entebbe Express Highway which is jointly funded by the Ugandan and Chinese governments. But we may not need, let alone deserve, budget support when we are busy stealing it and squandering locally-generated revenue.

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