President Yoweri Museveni has said the COVID-19 pandemic has helped the country realize its untapped potential, with its reputation set to grow.
“By correctly managing the pandemic, the reputation of Uganda will grow in the World. After the pandemic, people will flock here. The diaspora are now sure of a secure and respectable base, their homeland.,” Museveni said.
He singled out agriculture as one rock on which the country can prosper, saying despite the lock-down of most sectors, its farmers continued to earn the country millions of dollars.
“Our agriculture is, therefore, not only feeding us almost 100%, but also earning dollars for us of the magnitude of $2 billion annually,” he said in his 2020 State of The Nation Address he delivered today.
He said he has authored two documents on the ‘Real economy’ and the ‘Vulnerable’ economy, to explain how Uganda will thrive despite the pandemic.
“When this global crisis, therefore, descended on the World, I started hearing screams of pessimism coming from all sorts of sources,” he told parliament.
He said the ‘Real Economy’ is the economy that deals with the nine basic human needs of food, clothing, shelter, medicine, security, physical infrastructure (the railways, the roads, the electricity, the telephones), health infrastructure (hospitals etc.), the education infrastructure (schools, etc.) as well as the teaching of numeracy, literacy, skilling and intellectuality and the spiritual work (churches, mosques, radios, TVs).
“This is the real economy. It deals with the basic human needs. It is durable. Even in wars, this economy will survive. It is comprised of: agriculture, industry, ICT and some of the services (the professional services such as engineering, medical, legal). ”
Ministry of Finance relief measures
He also outline 11 measures Ministry of Finance will take to provide relief to individual and businesses to offset the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Museveni delivered the State of the Nation Address to Parliament from State House Entebbe, via Zoom.
The Rules of Procedure were amended to cater for use of conferencing and video technology like Zoom in the circumstances that necessitate it.
“Due to the COVID-19 situation and for observance of the social distancing measures, the function will be held at the Kololo Independence Grounds. Article 95(2) of the Constitution states that, ‘a session of Parliament shall be held at such a place within Uganda and shall commence at such a time as the Speaker may, by proclamation, appoint’,” Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga said as she opened the session.
Today’s address signifies the opening of the Fifth Session of the 10th Parliament. Today’s address is significant because it is the 5th and the last State of the Nation Address in the 10th Parliament.
In terms of legislation, the 4th Session has put up a commendable performance as Parliament enacted 25 bills as compared to 11 in the 1st Session, 17 in the 2nd Session and 26 in the 3rd Session.
Measures from Ministry of Finance
(i) Allow corporations including small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to delay payment of corporation tax or presumptive tax for taxes due between April and June 2020 and for tourism, manufacturing, horticulture and floriculture to defer until September 2020;
(ii) Defer payment of Pay-As-You Earn (PAYE) tax by those sectors which are most affected until September 2020;
(iii) Waiver of interest on tax arrears;
(iv) Support to water and electricity utilities in order to ensure continued supply of these essential services to consumers during the period April to June 2020;
(v) Expedite payment of outstanding VAT refunds;
(vi) Payment of domestic arrears for goods and services supplied to Government by the private sector;
(vii) For those unable to pay their loans, Government through the Bank of Uganda has already put in the gazette the measures to support businesses; including allowing extension of repayment periods, postponement of loan repayment for a limited period, relaxing the conditions for non-performing loans, reduction of reserve funds commercial banks are required to keep with Bank of Uganda and creating a special liquidity facility to rescue businesses that are not able to meet operational costs due to low demand or reduced production due to COVID-19;
(viii) Capitalisation of Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) with Ug Shs. 100 billion to enable Government to invest in strategic areas;
(ix) Boosting funding to Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) in FY 2020/21 to continue with innovation research and incubation of business start-ups.
(x) Securing funding for the development of Kampala Industrial Business Park at Namanve and for power transmission and substations for Mbale, Kapeeka, Bweyogerere, Kasese, Soroti, Luzira, Jinja and Mbarara industrial parks; and
(xi) Provision of additional UGX 300 billion immediately to boost agricultural production and productivity for seedlings, fertilizers, irrigation, storage facilities and value addition. The target crops are coffee, cotton, tea, palm oil and other oil seeds, cassava, maize, cocoa and dairy, beef, and fish production.