Uganda: Govt to Extend Covid Money Countrywide

Taxi drivers and boda boda cyclists cross the country whose businesses were affected by the lockdown will benefit from the government Covid cash, Mr James Ebitu, the director of social protection in the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development, has said.

Other groups in all urban centres such as single mothers and ghetto youths will benefit unlike last year when government gave food to only Kampala Metropolitan Area.

While appearing on KFM's Hot Seat radio programme on Monday, Mr Ebitu said the government will mobilise the funds both locally and internationally.

"You can only spend what you have. It would be a lie if we tried to tell people that this will cover everybody. That is why it is important to target the most vulnerable ones," Mr Ebitu said.

"We can we start with the urban centres most affected, especially those operating in the taxi park and others whose businesses have been brought to a standstill. We shall provide what we can depending on resources we can mobilise," he added.

President Museveni last Friday imposed the second major lockdown amid escalating Covid situation, with daily infections for the first time since March 2020 grossing 1,300.

Both public and private transport as well as Kikuubo, the commercial hub of Kampala where hundreds earn a daily living, were closed.

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja at the weekend said the National Covid-19 Taskforce that she chairs opted for cash transfers to vulnerable populations because of the headaches experienced during the distribution of food during the first lockdown in March last year.

Her office was slated to release more guidelines on how much each vulnerable individual will get and where the government will attain the required funds, but the national taskforce meeting was postponed to today.

Mr Ebitu said the government was still discussing whether to give cash handouts or coupons to the targeted population to access food from designated places.

"The other mechanism is to provide cash for work. We have some programmes we initiated during last year's lockdown and it is being piloted in Arua [District] where we encourage people to come and do some work, and they are paid for the labour and this is applicable in urban centres," Mr Ebitu said.

"If you have known about Labour intensive public work, there are people who fall in that category who have been surviving from hand-to-mouth, so once those opportunities are provided, people can go and work and they are paid daily income and this will help them throughout the shock," he added.

Civil society organisations welcomed the cash option but cautioned against 'ghost' beneficiaries.

Addressing journalists on Zoom yesterday, the executive director of Food Rights Alliance, Ms Agnes Kirabo, said people will be able to choose what type of food to buy as opposed to giving them maize flour and beans.

She said money will be distributed among retail shops and markets that sell food staff across the country.

Mr David Kabanda, the executive director for centre for food and adequate living rights, said once the government gives out the money, there will be a risk of inflation, hence it should ensure that price inflation of food is regulated.

Mr Patrick Rubangakena, the Budget Policy Specialist at CSBAG, wondered where the government will get the money since it was not provided for in the budget.

Mr Rubangakena said the government can ask for a supplementary budget, but this will take long with the suffering population who has been hit by the lockdown.

"The government should revise the budget and factor in some of these interventions for future abrupt shocks. The government is promising too much, but we all do not know where money will come from," Mr Rubangakena said.

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