MPs raised concerns about government over borrowing yet they hardly see the fruits of the money that is borrowed
The Members of Parliament on the committee of national economy refused to listen to the state minister for agriculture, Christopher Kibazanga, who had turned up to defend a loan of $77m (sh292.6b) government seeks to get from the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Speaking on a procedural point, Busiki County MP Paul Akamba reminded the committee chairman Lawrence Bategeka that as a committee they had resolved not to entertain any more loan requests until government explains the high indebtedness of the country and a progress report from government on what the loan for agricultural cluster programme has done.
“We cannot simply continue approving more and more loans without knowing what the loans we got in the past have done,” Akamba argued.
Akamba was supported by other MPs who included Bugabula County MP Maurice Kibalya, Gomba East MP Emmanuel Kalule Ssengo, and Namutumba MP Mariam Naigaga.
“Let him tell us what happened to the agriculture cluster programme loan. Otherwise we shall keep approving loans which do nothing,” Ssengo argued.
Parliament in 2016 approved a loan of $248m (sh917.6b) from World Bank for the Agriculture Cluster Programme to raise on-farm productivity, production, and marketable volumes of selected agricultural commodities in specified geographic clusters.
The committee chairman (Bategeka) told the minister that members are concerned about government over borrowing yet they hardly see the fruits of the money that is borrowed.
“As a committee we agreed to halt this loan and the other loan of $84.7m for science and technology until we have had a meaningful discussion on the country’s debt burden,” Bategeka explained.
Kibazanga told the MPs that the past loans are working as intended and would give more details when he returns to the committee.
MPs were also heard murmuring that the new agriculture loan government is seeking will mostly benefit the western region.
The MPs resolved not to listen to Kibazanga until he turns up with a minister for finance to explain the concerns they have on loans acquired in the past and the rate at which the country is borrowing.
According to the documents which had been submitted to the committee, the $77m (sh292.6b) loan from the African Development Bank will boost agricultural production in Uganda as an intervention for improving household incomes.
The project will also involve financing of increased production of three selected agricultural commodities which include rice, maize, and beef/dairy.
The project seeks to increase farmer incomes through improvements in Production and Productivity Enhancement, Infrastructure Development and Market Development and Trade Facilitation.
The project will be implemented over a five-year period in various districts across Uganda. Districts in which maize production will be supported through the project include Kyegegwa, Kamwenge, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Kasese, Buhweju, Mitooma, Nakaseke, Mukono, Luwero, Mityana, Kiboga, Buikwe, Wakiso, Buyende, Mayuge, Gulu, Oyam, Amolatar, Pader, Iganga, Kamuli, Mbale, Jinja, and Kapchorwa.
Dairy/beef production will be enhanced in the cattle corridor districts (from Western Uganda to Northern Uganda) with the livestock breeding centre to be established in Mbarara as the springboard.
Districts where rice production will be promoted are mainly located in areas where ADB and government are developing large irrigation schemes. These include Bulambuli, Bukedea, Kamuli, Gulu, Oyam, Amolatar, and Pader.
The soft components including training, input delivery, extension service delivery and capacity building would be extended to all irrigation schemes earlier undertaken with support of the Bank in the areas of Nebbi, Oyam, Kween, Butaleja, Kasese, and Kitgum districts.