By Umaru Kashaka
MEMBERS of Parliament on the budget committee have said in order to match the increased supply of energy, the government must equally invest in electricity distribution particularly in rural areas by allocating a minimum of sh250b annually to Rural Electrification Agency (REA).
REA is a semi-autonomous institution under the ministry of energy and mineral development which was established in July, 2003 to execute Government’s rural electrification programme in order to ensure the displacement of kerosene lighting in all rural Ugandan homes.
While discussing their medium term macroeconomic plan and programmes for social and economic development for fiscal years 2014/15-2018/19 on Wednesday, the MPs noted that the country is investing heavily in energy generation at Karuma, Isimba, Ayago and many others.
“According to REA, in order to meet the target of 20% rural electricity coverage by 2022 from the current 7% rural electricity coverage, $100m (about sh250b) annually is required,” the Ntenjeru North MP and committee chairperson Amos Lugoloobi said.
By making electricity available in new areas, they said, Government will be enabling the development of small-scale power-reliant businesses like welding workshops, hair dressing saloons, phone charging booths as well as facilitating the operations of social facilities such as hospitals and schools.
“Let’s revolutionize the lives of our rural people and those who are operating factories that need power. This will also stop students in rural areas from reading in the early evening or from exhausting their eyes under the candlelight,” said the Agago County MP Amos Okot.
Legislators also observed that the Agency has a funding gap of sh29.66b for counterpart funding for door supported projects.
“Undisbursed donor commitments attract commitment fees/charges that pose a financial burden to government. We recommend that government provides the entire necessary counterpart funding so that these projects can be undertaken to improve rural electrification and also save government from paying penalties for the unutilized donor funds,” the Tororo County MP, Geoffrey Ekanya implored.