Uganda: Budget Silent On Covid Impact, Say Analysts

Business leaders and policy analysts have said the Shs44.8 trillion National Budget for Financial year 2021/2022 lacks essential elements to respond to worsening effects of Covid-19 crisis on the economy and health sector.

On May 5 the Health Ministry announced the second wave of Covid-19, a month after Finance minister Matia Kasaija tabled the Budget before Parliament for review.

The surge in Covid-19 cases on Sunday prompted President Museveni to reinstate a lockdown on schools and ban on inter-district travel, and public gatherings, among others, for 42 days.

However, policy analysts said although the move will curb Covid-19 infections, effects on economic growth and livelihood will be enormous.

Mr Amos Lugoloobi, the designate Minister of State for Finance (Planning,) while reading the 2021/2022 Budget yesterday, said despite the huge threat from the second wave of Covid-19, the government has a clear plan to minimise effects on the two sectors.

"The mitigation of the adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on health and education was a key element of government response. 964,000 doses of [AstraZeneca] Covid-19 vaccines were procured," he said.

He added: "Today 733,923 persons have received their first dose of the vaccine and 40,895 have completed both doses."

But Mr Patrick Kiconco Katabaazi, the executive director of Centre for Budget and Tax Policy, said: "This Budget was done with a thought that Covid-19 was going to be contained [effectively], that was before the second wave [of the pandemic was announced]."

He added: "So we expect that in the next week or two, Mr Lugoloobi or, Mr Kasaija will come to Parliament to ask for a supplementary Budget for Health because the money allocated was low."

In the 2021/2022 Budget, Human Capital Development, which comprises Health, Education and Social Development, has the highest allocation of Shs7.598 trillion, a significant portion government says is for procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

Government plans to vaccinate at least 21.9 million Ugandans.

The country's head of immunisation programme, Dr Alfred Driwale, said the government is struggling to acquire sufficient doses due to high global demand that has caused a shortage.

President Museveni yesterday said all doctors who have completed training should be employed to handle patients at community levels in order to minimize overwhelming health facilities in Kampala.

On economic growth, Mr Lugoloobi said in the FY 2021/2022 the focus is on supporting struggling businesses and improving household income.

"Boosting business of the private sector, especially Micro, Small and Medium (MSME) Enterprises by extending Covid-19 relief measures, increasing regional and continental market access, access to long term affordable capital and supporting entrepreneurial developmenthe said.

He added that they will aggressively promote agro-industrialisation to unlock the potential of primary production, together with standards development and enforcement including enhanced market access, among others.

But Mr Everest Kayondo, the chairperson of Kampala Capital City Authority (KACITA), said there is nothing new for struggling businesses in the Budget.

"Even during the first phase of Covid-19, they promised us things such as stimulus package which we never got. It is everyone for himself and God for us all," Mr Kayondo said.

A study by Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) and the International Growth Centre (IGC), revealed that only 10 per cent of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in Uganda remained open during last year's lockdown, and 7 per cent of the businesses didn't bounce back after the lockdown.

Mr Lugoloobi said up to 6.5 per cent of employees of private sector firms who were laid off during the first lockdown have suffered permanent layoffs.

However, he said government is also confident that despite the Covid-19 threats over the last year, the economy has remained resilient and is on a recovery path.

Allocations

Shs560 billion has been provided for the procurement of vaccines but the overall budget for the Ministry of Health is Shs1.5t.

Education ministry (526b) and Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (146b).

Shs358.5b has been allocated for innovation and technological development to respond to Covid-19 crisis and other challenges faced by the country

Shs124.9b has been provided for rural water

Shs523.4b for urban water to promote sanitation and hygiene

Shs587b for Private sector development to ensure business continuity in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic distress

Covid-19 kills 14 in one day

Nobert Atunda

KAMPALA. Uganda has registered 14 deaths in just one day, according to data released on Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths to 402.

This is the highest number of Covid-19 deaths registered as of last evening.

The Ministry of Health data shows the country has recorded more 55,511 Covid-19 cases with at least 784 patients admitted to hospitals across the country.

From June 1 to June 7, a total of 38 Covid-19 deaths were registered and a 6,835 confirmed cases of 40,978 tests carried out.

However, health experts have urged the public to observe Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to avert the spread of the pandemic as most health facilities are full to capacity.

Dr Charles Olaro, the director curative services at Ministry of Health, said unlike the first wave where cases were mild and asymptomatic, currently the cases are severe and critical.

"It might not be Covid-19 which will kill you but it will now complicate the management of comorbidities and you die because of the complications," Dr Olaro said yesterday.

Dr Nathan Onyachi, the Masaka Regional Referral Hospital director, said: "We are trying to set up an Intensive Care Unit equipment in the space we have although it is not descent but we shall assemble equipment and start handling some patients. We have also called back our nurses."

Issue

According to Ministry of Health, with the first wave, one person could infect between 21 to 39 people. But with the second wave, a positive person is likely to infect between 80 to 100 people.Government has continued to appeal to all eligible persons to go for vaccination to avert the crisis.

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