By Tezira Jamwa
Although the 2014/15 Budget looked rosy and glossy, when critically analyzed, the future looks bleak for ordinary Ugandans who comprise majority of the citizenry in the country.
Indeed they should brace themselves up for tougher times ahead. Candidly stated, the Budget is not pro-poor and it is not for the down trodden. To an ordinary Ugandan, the gap between the rich and the poor is going to grow bigger and bigger.
For the poor men and women who make up over 70% of the population that live in rural areas and the urban poor, adding sh200 more on paraffin that they depend on for lighting, is like sending them to dig their own graves.
And on top of that adding sh50 on a kilo of sugar, this is going to be like being squeezed between a rock and a hard wall for these helpless people.
Adding taxes on fuel is not good news either. Once fuel prices go up, the cost of production, processing and transport is going to be higher and so will the price of food. The cost of living will automatically sky rocket. The situation is going to be worse because in most families in rural areas they have been surviving on a meal a day because of the persisting levels of poverty.
To add salt to an injury, the agriculture sector where over 70% of poor men and women dominate continues to be least funded.
Funding for this sector continues to fluctuate between 3% and 3.3% only. One wonders why Uganda has never implemented the Maputo Protocol of 2003 that requires African States and Governments to at least give agriculture sector 10% of their national budgets.
Taxing agricultural inputs and machinery is bad enough this is going to be the last straw for poor men and women whose livelihoods depend on agriculture.
The 2014/15 Budget was very gender insensitive. Women dominate agricultural sector and when all these taxes are piled on them, how will they fend for their families one may ask especially when all basics are being taxed. The Government should have done gender analysis to see who benefits and who gets what from the budget.
The women of Uganda would have loved to hear about the commitment by the Government to come up with agriculture policy that would put in place measures that would improve agriculture budget allocation, land use and how to regulate and monitor the production of seeds and other materials/inputs. This would minimize land conflicts especially in cases of access and control by women.
Taxing milk and other dairy products is going to cause stunting in children especially in those areas where the problem of stunting in children is common. On the other hand, we shall end up with mal-nourished mothers who may not be able to breast feed their babies.
Whereas the Government is trying to find ways of widening the tax base, this should not be done at the expense of poor men and women. For purposes of justice and fairness, poor men and women aspire for gender responsive budgets for equity.
Resource allocation should be fair across board in order to advance sustainable development.
The Minister of Finance also stated that private schools and institutions are going to be taxed.
This is not good enough because this means that school fees and tuition fee is going to be hiked. Again it is the girl child who is going to suffer more because girls may not go to school and school drop-out among girls may rise to make the already bad state worse.
Infrastructure development continues to be top priority of the Government. It would be prudent enough for government and other development agencies of government to embark on aggressive rural electrification so that rural development can be boosted to alleviate poverty and disease from mothers and children especially.
The writer is a former MP and RDC