The 2021/2022 Budget that Finance minister Matia Kasaija presented to Parliament this week, sharply contradicts the key targets in third National Developments Plan III (NDP III), a policy document that gives strategic direction to the country's development agenda.
Mr Kasaija's 7th Budget as the minister in charge of Finance, maintains the 19 government priority programmes but disregards targets on resource allocations.
For example, Mr Kasaija's total resource envelope is Shs41.2 trillion down from Shs49.7 trillion in second year of NDP III implementation.
The minister has also allocated more money to governance and security (Shs7.7 trillion) in contravention of the NDP III targets, ceiling the programme expenditure at Shs6.9 trillion.
The other three programmes that received more than what had been budgeted for under NDP III are Human Capital Development (Shs6.8 trillion) Integrated Transport Infrastructure and Services (Shs3.9 trillion) and Private Sector Transformation (Shs558.7 billion).
Daily Monitor's analysis of Kasaija's proposed Budget allocations for the next financial year also shows that 15 programmes suffered budget cuts, in total disregard of NDP III aspirations.
The most affected programmes are regional development, which is under the Trade ministry, climate change, natural resource and environment and water, development plan implementation, sustainable development of petroleum resources and agro-industrialisation, among others.
On September 9, 2019, Cabinet approved the strategic direction for the NDP III before Parliament approved the five-year strategic plan in January last year. The document, which is the principle guiding framework for sectors and local governments in the development of their plans, is a brainchild of National Planning Authority.
On Monday, lawmakers on the Budget Committee forced Mr Kasaija to withdraw the Shs41.2 trillion Budget on ground that it was not aligned with the NDP III aspirations. Mr Kasaija was told to draft a new Budget that speaks to the allocations in the NDPIII and return today.
Mr Amos Lugoloobi, the Budget Committee chairperson, and other lawmakers had no kind words for Mr Kasaija and his team after discovering that the 2021/2022 Budget contradicts NDPIII.
"You are expected to come back on Thursday with figures that align to the NDPlll, short of that, you will get problems with us," Mr Lugoloobi told off Mr Kasaija.
Mr Kasaija accepted to retract the statement and promised to meet NPA officials to help him balance the books.
The minister, however, informed MPs that his ministry had to deduct money from some programmes to balance the Budget because of the pandemic.
"The revenue of this country keeps reducing every day due to the impact of Covid-19 but the expenditure is increasing . We either have to reduce our expenditure or increase our tax base," Mr Kasaija said.
Giving a summary of the Shs41.2 trillion, Mr Kasaija explained that Shs26.2 trillion is available for spending and Shs15 trillion is budgeted to finance the debt and interests that have accumulated over time. The MPs, however, rejected the minister's explanation and insisted that the Budget must balance as planned under NDP III document.
Prof Pamela Mbabazi, the chairperson of NPA, asked MPs and the public to understand that Covid-19 hit almost all the nerves of the economy to the extent that the government cannot cater for everything planned for in the Budget.
"We have to be realistic because we all know that Covid-19 affected the economy. We made the NDP III allocations with assumption that the economic growth would be at 6 per cent but it is now at 2 per cent," Prof Mbabazi said.
Dr Joseph Muvawala, the NPA executive director, however, told Daily Monitor on Tuesday that they had requested for more time to align the NDP lll with Mr Kasaija's Budget proposals.