MEMBERS of Parliament have appealed to government to give more priority to promotion of Uganda's exports to reduce Uganda's trade deficit
By Moses Mulondo
MEMBERS of Parliament have appealed to government to give more priority to promotion of Uganda's exports to reduce Uganda's trade deficit.
The MPs on the Parliamentary committee on commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) made the appeal on Thursday while interrogating officials from the Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB)
The MPs raised concern that UEPB has remained invisible and not effective in executing its mandate.
"Our observation is that you are invisible. Farmers in my constituency do not know that you exist. You are not seen to be doing your work. What is the problem?" asked Eagara East MP Micheal Mawanda.
The UEPB Executive Director Emmanuel Mutahunga attributed the invisibility of the agency to limited funding.
"For example, in the current financial year we requested for sh5.9b but we were given only sh1.21b. That is why we don't do outreach as much as we ought to do," Mutahunga said.
Mutahunga also complained of having a skeleton staff of only 22 workers who cannot do so much for the entire nation because they are few.
The committee chairman Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda raised concern that Uganda's trade deficit keeps widening as the country increasingly imports more than it exports.
"We are heavily importing more than what we are exporting. The Chinese government directly supports Chinese traders to export to other countries. The shilling is continuously depreciating against the dollar because we are increasingly importing more than what we are exporting," Nganda argued.
Responding to the concern about the trade deficit, Mutahunga said, "The trade deficit is not because Uganda's exports are not increasing. Between 2010 and 2013, the growth rate of Uganda's exports was at 7%. It is just that imports are increasing at a much higher rate than the exports," he explained.
Whereas the country's total imports in 2013 were valued at 5.8b dollars, Mutahunga said the exports for the same year were valued at 3.1b dollars.
He outlined coffee, fish, horticulture products, foods and vegetables as Uganda's major exports and South Sudan and Kenya as Uganda's leading export destinations.
Makindye East MP John Ssimbwa said, "It is true that government has neglected the Export Promotion Board since 1996 when it was established. The agency should be funded adequately to enable it execute its mandate."
Kawempe North MP Moses Kasibante said, "The export promotion board is almost dead. It is heavily underfunded. They are only facilitated to sit in their offices. They are not sensitizing Ugandans on exports needed abroad."
MPs want gov''t to prioritize export promotion