'The percentage is still low. There are 1.5 milion people who should be getting the grants. There are only 47 out of 122 districts getting the grant'
PIC: Ebitu talking to the media during the international conference on social protection for inclusive growth in Africa at Skyz Hotel, Kampala. (Credit: John Odyek)
This year Government plans to increase the number of elders getting grants. The grants enable senior citizens to buy food, medicine and pay transport fares. The grant amount is sh25,000 per month.
The senior citizens grant targeted older persons of 65 years and above but the age has been lowered in the case of the more vulnerable Karamoja region to 60 years. The grant was largely funded by donors. But in 2016 the donors started exiting funding for it with the Government increasingly funding the gap created.
James Ebitu, director Social Protection Program, ministry of gender, labour and social development currently there are 151,000 elders from 47 districts getting the grants.
“The percentage is still low. There are 1.5 milion people who should be getting the grants. There are only 47 out of 122 districts getting the grant,” Ebitu said on Thursday.
Ebitu said this while addressing delegates at an international conference on social protection for inclusive growth in Africa. The conference took place at Skyz Hotel, Kampala. It was organized by the Economic Policy Research Centre and the Netherlands ministry of foreign affairs. The conference was intended to discuss ways of implementing social protection gaps for inclusive growth and development.
Dr Sarah Ssewanyana, executive director EPRC said social protection helps reduce poverty and inequality. Ssewanyana explained that social protection is expensive because it needs public funds but the benefits from social protection are high.
Ssewanyana said there was need to put funds supporting the elderly, youth and women in one basket to avoid them spreading thin and making low impact.
“The funds are not transformative because they are spread thin. If we target agro processing industries it will creative productive activities that will target the youth, it can create an impact,” She said.
Margaret Kakande head of the Budget monitoring and Accountability Unit, ministry of finance said there was shortage of funds and the priority was being put on infrastructure development. “Nobody wants anybody to go hungry. There is a debate now on how to find the right balance between infrastructure and funding social services and social protection programs,” Kakande said.
The Dutch Ambassador to Uganda, Henk Jab Bakker noted that Uganda can address poverty through reducing income inequalities.
Michael Samson the Director of Research at the Economic Policy Research Institute (EPRI) South Africa urged Uganda to equally invest in social protection as it has done with other sectors especially infrastructure.
Samson explained that social protection helps a nation to develop a strong human capital compared to infrastructural development that only looks at economic growth.
According to Samson, social protection will enable Ugandans and other people from sub-Sahara Africa to handle risks like health, education and nutrition.
He shared that about two decades ago, South African undertook huge investments in the infrastructure sector including airports and roads for export.
However, Samson explained that the country did not realize the intended goals as other countries especially from Asia used the same structures to export to South Africa.
“Income inequality existed at the post-apartheid period and very few South African would use the infrastructure to export. The country later thought about social protection and now everyone admires South Africa,” he said.
Dr. Stephen Kidd, a senior Social Policy specialist at Development Pathways, says social protection can reduce on poverty and vulnerability among citizens.
“These development impacts promote inclusive social development and equitable economic growth,” he explained.