Budget as viewed by an expert

Finance minister, Matia Kasaija, has in recent weeks been making proposals which the government hopes to factor in the 201516 Budget.
Some of the proposals include new taxes on fuel, commuter taxis, beer, cigarettes, chewing gum, sweets and chocolates, among others.
However, some members of the private sector have already disagreed with most of the proposals. Ismail Musa Ladu spoke to Julius Mukunda, the coordinator of Civil Society Budget Aocacy Group, to understand his disagreement with some of the proposals. Below are excerpts.

Budget proposals are already a public matter. What is your assessment?
This Budget has focused more on security. As you realise crime has increased and terrorism is our number one major concern. Accordingly, police is projected to get the highest share of the Justice, Law and Order sector which will translate to Shs403b.

How will you describe these proposals being fronted by the government?
I think they come with good intentions. We look forward to improved water coverage, increased vigilance and support for police services to reduce crime. It is however the implementation that is a major challenge. There are mainly two issues one is the low absorption capacity of government agencies. In the 201314 financial year, government entities returned unspent money of more than Shs9.4b, indicating partial service delivery. Secondly, there is so much wastage of government resources. The Auditor General, in his 201314 report, unearthed wasteful expenditure to the tune of Shs7.4b and more than Shs110b due in interest on late payments, parking fees for grounded vehicles, delayed handover of sites, court settlements, among others.

How will you classify this Budget should these proposals pass in their current form?
This Budget is not pro-poor because expenditure on social sectors has reduced. Education, health and agriculture budgets have been reduced by Shs45b, Shs317b and 57b, respectively. These sectors are key to the wellbeing of the poor. Similarly, funds to local governments under some sectors have been cut yet these are the key driver of peasantry growth.
We are worried that Local Government budget allocation has declined by Shs61b. This will affect the implementation of UPE and USE, considering that we still have issues with supervision of schools and quality of education. The story is the same with health, where primary health care budget has reduced from Shs327b to Shs322b.

Looking at the proposals, how can you rate this Budget compared to the previous one?
Last year’s Budget was very ambitious. So many projects were set to be implemented at the same time. But this one is a bit cautious. But I wonder how they are going to manage since in the new budget government will not build new roads, health centres and classrooms.

How would you want the Budget to be improved?
I want a Budget that balances the need of current and future generations. Eradicating wasteful expenditure, cutting luxury expenditure and heavy investment in the quality of service delivery is important.

Why would you be concerned about this Budget?
It is an important tool that government uses to transform society as well as achieving socio-economic development.
Without the Budget there would be no social or economic development and with good implementation the Budget has the potential to have horizontal benefits to people especially those who are more vulnerable.

Did you engage government before it made its proposals known?
First of all I commend the Ministry of Finance for increasing its interface with civil society organisations. We strongly appreciate government for enhancing partnership with us as non-state actors.

What will you do if your proposals are not taken on board by the government?
We would seek to intensify our work in mobilising and organising citizens to monitor implementation of the Budget.

Any other issue you would want to tell us in regard to the Budget?
Everybody has a stake in the Budget, and should be interested in it and as such engage in the Budget making process both at the national and local level. As citizens, we need to take a leading role in shaping Budget priorities.

What is missing?
There are a number of unfilled promises in last year’s Budget that have not been included in this one. The first one is there is no mention of how corruption is going to be tackled yet it is one area that constrains implementation. Secondly, government has not come out clearly on how to support the central bank to maintain a stable exchange rate regime as well as containing inflation at below 5 per cent.

Government has also not come out strongly on how to control debt accumulation. Overall, external debt and domestic debt are rapidly increasing, even when still in the debt sustainability threshold. By June 2013, the total debt for Uganda was at Shs18.5 trillion bigger than the Shs15 trillion Budget for the current financial year.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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