KAMPALA – It is now every Ugandan’s concern as to what mechanisms should the government employ to ensure the country returns to a low risk of debt distress.
Parliament’s Committee on National Economy says Uganda’s public debt stock increased by 22 percent from Shs56.938 trillion in the Financial Year 2019/20 to Shs69.513 trillion by end of the Financial Year 2020/21.
The committee was also worried that public debt is projected to increase over the medium term as the government continues to implement its investment programme to boost economic recovery.
Now, in their new year statement – 2023, Civil Society Organisations – CSOs noted that while borrowing might be inevitable, Parliament should approve borrowing to support projects with a high economic and fiscal return.
“We are concerned about the growing public debt which is currently standing at 50.3 % of GDP. Unfortunately, most of the borrowed funds are lost through multiple public sector leakages,” said Ms. Margret Sekaggya, the chairperson of the Uganda National NGO Forum on Monday.
The CSOs including; the Center for Constitutional Governance, Human Rights Center Uganda, Alliance for Finance Monitoring, Uganda National NGO Forum, among others say that the government should clear domestic arrears as a means of supporting the economy and reducing the costs of doing business.
“We take cognizance of the worsening economic conditions, characterized by food insecurity, the high cost of living and increased prices of consumer goods and fuel, creating discomfort for citizens,” they said, adding that, “With the high costs of credit and joblessness, most Ugandans are left living on the edge unable to afford a decent living and support their children’s education.”
The leaders want the government to enforce the proposed school fees structure in schools to ease the burden off the suffering citizens and address the high costs of fuel which has a high multiplier effect on the cost of living.
They also warned of the loss of public confidence in the National Social Security Fund following the series of recent media reports on the management of the Fund.
They say that most savers are worried that their savings might no longer be safe given the alleged political interference in the management of the Fund.
“We call upon the Uganda Retirements Benefits Regulatory Authority to intervene and ensure that the interest of members is protected.”
“We further call upon the NSSF Board to ensure that the NSSF is managed professionally and avoid undue political influence,” they added.
The other issue the CSOs leaders raised was the increased road accidents where hundreds of lives have been lost in a period of only one and a half months due to indiscipline and recklessness by individual road users, according to traffic reports.
However, the leaders have partly blamed the poor state of the majority of Uganda’s roads. They say that it is unfortunate for roads to be in non-motorable state even when road construction has been taking the biggest share of the infrastructure budget.
“We, therefore, wish to call upon the government to improve public road infrastructure and address the corruption challenges in the road sector.”
On shrinking of civic space and human rights situation, CSOs note that the physical and virtual spaces where citizens associate, assemble and express themselves have been significantly narrowed through the enforcement of regressive laws.
They say that these actions reduce citizens’ confidence in government institutions and reverse the country’s democratic gains.
They tasked the government to address the various reports and incidents of human rights violations and provide an enabling environment for civic expression as provided for under the Constitution.
“More specifically we ask the Judiciary to expeditiously handle cases to avoid prolonged detention without trial.”
They, however, thanked the government for a successful fight against the spread of the Ebola Virus.
The CSOs leaders also applauded the government through the Directorate of Industrial Training (DIT) for its efforts taken by where youth are being empowered with vocational skills.
Their call to action and their commitment
They asked the government to fast-track the national insurance policy, ensuring that all Health Centres are connected to the national electricity grid, and functional water supply.
They also called upon the President and responsible government institutions to develop mechanisms that will ensure the country returns to a low risk of debt distress and address the misuse of public resources. “Rigorous transparency and accountability measures should be put in place to ensure that the borrowed funds are used for their intended purpose.”
CSOs want government institutions, especially the Uganda Police Force and the judiciary to protect the rights of all Ugandans to freely express themselves and associate, in spite of their political affiliations.
They also noted that “Judiciary must expedite the handling of cases involving all individuals detained for long periods without trial to ensure that justice is not delayed.”
The leaders committed to always be available to fulfil the immense task of bridging the gap between citizens and the state and addressing the issues that couldn’t be fulfilled by governments alone.
“Our advocacy will focus on proposing solutions to certain policy issues, and constitutional reforms that facilitate values-driven political decisions.”