By Moses Walubiri and Henry Sekanjako
Striking teachers will have to wait for another 12 months to get a salary increment as parliament on Friday passed the budget for the current financial year without any financial component addressing their concerns.
In sync with government’s economic blue print to spur growth through creating an enabling environment, Ministry of Works and Transport and that of defense took the lion’s share of the sh12trillion budget.
Through numerous forums, government, through its policy wonks has underscored the integral role of heavily investing in infrastructure and defense – with President Yoweri Museveni, in particular, vowing to expend a considerable chunk of the country’s resources on power dams, Information Technology, roads and revamping of railway.
During Thursday’s debate, the executive caved in to MPs demands to drop excise duty on kerosene, with the issue spawning a heated debate across the political spectrum as legislators accused government of being “insensitive to the poor.”
However, legislators calling for the dropping of 18% VAT on water were not as lucky, as the executive dug in, despite the former warning about its likely detrimental impact on access to safe drinking water.
MPs Kasiano Wadri, Cadet Benjamin and Betty Amongi had remonstrated at both taxes labeling them “anti-people.”
One major highlight of the 2013/14 budget is the considerable reduction of donor funding, with the country’s capacity to contribute over 80% of its recurrent and development expenditure deemed a laudable milestone by economic pundits.
However, government’s concerted effort to slough off chronic donor dependency has come at a price, with new taxes imposed on items deemed essential to the man in the street like mobile money transactions and water.
Other taxes include motorcycle registration and an extra 30,000 on stamp duty on Third party insurance for motor vehicles.
The passing of the budget draws curtains on a process that has, unlike previous years, been overly behind schedule, forcing the president to slap a temporally ‘travel ban’ on ministers whose budget reports hadn’t been discussed by parliament.
“We need to improve on the speed at which the reports are submitted to the House,” Kadaga said as she remonstrated at the snail’s pace that has marred handling of this year’s budget process, adding: “Respond to calls to attend committee meetings because laxity in this regard has been the major cause of delaying this budget.”
Teachers went on a nationwide strike early this week demanding a 20% salary increment as promised by government, aptly choosing their moment to coincide with parliament’s appropriation of funds for the 2013/14 financial year.
Responding to MPs’ apprehension at failure to address teachers’ plight, Education Minister Jessica Alupo exhorted legislators to appeal to teachers in their respective constituencies to call off the strike saying that government is committed to addressing their concerns.
Kadaga told legislators that the budget call circular for next financial will be out in October, urging them to ensure that funds necessary to give teachers a salary increment is captured.
Early this week, Alupo said government will redeem its promise to give teachers a 50% salary increment by 2014/14.