By Paul Busharizi
Primary school teachers, health workers, lower cadre security staff, scientists and prospective boda-boda owners have something to smile about following yesterdayâ€™s budget reading.
Finance minister Syda Bbumba, while noting that the economy grew slower than the previous year, unveiled a populist budget whose expenditure will rise to sh7,552b from sh7,080b in this year.
The economy has grown at 5.8% compared to 7.2% last year. In 2010/11, it is expected to grow by 6.4%.
In her second reading of the budget, Bbumba announced a sh18b for enhancement of scientistsâ€™ salaries, part of a 30% increment in salaries for scientists, primary school teachers, lower cadre health workers and security forces.
She also provided sh124b to clear outstanding pension and gratuity arrears as well as a sh3b salary increment for commissioners of constitutional commissions.
With an eye on next yearâ€™s presidential and general elections, Bbumba earmarked sh102b for the Electoral Commission and sh500m for political organisations activities. Bbumba also pledged a bicycle and a salary for LC1 chairpersons.
The finance minister is hoping to put a dent in youth unemployment with her various provisions to support unemployment. She provided sh2b for the school leavers industrial training fund, sh4b in low interest loans for university and college graduates.
While recognising the growing reach of Savings Cooperatives (SACCOS), which now control savings of about sh83b, she put aside sh2.1b for Kampala-based SACCOS and shs4.1b for Kampala markets and urban-based SACCOS.
Bbumba also sought to spur innovation and research by bankrolling a sh1.2b science unit at the Uganda Industrial Research Institute and earmarking sh5b towards engineering innovations at Makerere University.
Bbumba waived VAT on computer software as well.
The finance minister also raised her allocation to the Northern Uganda Peace, Recovery and Development Plan to sh124b from sh100b last year and also provided sh200m for the families of the 69 families of the Mukura tragedy.
Agriculture got some resources directed at it in the way of a commitment to build 600 rain harvesting systems in Mubende, Nakaseke and Bugiri, sh3b to shore up the meteorological department and sh50b for the maintenance of 10,000km rural roads.
Ugandans should brace themselves for an upsurge in bodaboda numbers as the minister lowered registration fees to sh141,400 from the current sh222,800.
â€œDue to the sound economic management under the NRM government, the economy has continued to grow at 8.4% since 2006,â€ Bbumba said in her opening remarks.
â€œThis solid performance is even higher than the remarkable economic growth that Uganda has experienced since 1986.â€
Bbumba reported that measures initiated in last yearâ€™s budget to improve the business climate have born fruit as the economy continues to grow, inflation is held in check, the export sector thrives and the financial industry goes from strength to strength.