Last week, the government announced that it had approved a total of sh468b Children Endowment fund.
Minister Florence Kiyingi
By just taking the case of Mulago National Referral Hospital, where an average of 35,000 babies are delivered every year, the Government has, in essence, taken up another major social welfare intervention likely to set back the national budget by billions of shillings.
With each mother getting sh23,000 per month, this would bring the figure to sh9b annually for the babies born at Mulago Hospital. Using the 2015/16 Annual Health Sector Performance statistics, Uganda had a total of 1.7m babies born in the year under review. This, therefore, means government would have to pay out a total of sh469b every year. However, this is only for the hospital based deliveries. And since this is rated at about 55% of the total deliveries, the number and eventual cost could be much higher.
This week, State Minister for Youth and Children Affairs Florence Kiyingi, made the pronouncement that the Ministry had approved a total of sh468b Children Endowment Fund.
Sh469b is almost half of the entire allocation to the agriculture sector, which employs majority of the population, especially women.
Is this for women empowerment?
Women empowerment, which is one of the reasons that has been fronted for the fund, is much more than hand-outs, according to Perry Aritua, the Executive Director of the Women Democracy Network.
"Sh23,000 being given out to women is one other laughable intervention. The Government needs to listen to the technocrats. These random approaches are not going to push this country anywhere," she argued.
According to Aritua, unless government focuses on key production areas where women are most concentrated, giving them money without prior skilling is likely to drown them deeper into poverty.
Similarly, Ritah Atukwasa, a policy analyst, argued that the challenges to women empowerment need to be perceived from a rather broader perspective.
"Have they consulted women and actually found out what their major limitations are? This is only treating a symptom of a deeper challenge that unless uprooted, such interventions will only be a waste," she said.
According to Atukwasa, government needs to go back to strategic planning other than riding on ‘political expediency' (actions drawn out of convenience).
However, in his argument, Patrick Katabaazi an economic policy analyst, said social welfare programmes if well-structured are able to move people from conditions of vulnerability.
Katabaazi cautions that the Government must have a comprehensive plan, other than haphazard undertakings.
"Government is literally failing to fulfil the pledge of sh25,000 to the less than two million older persons in the country. It is very unlikely that under the current set up, they will be able to undertake such a massive intervention," he said.
Alluding to the case of Ireland, Katabaazi noted that social protection interventions must be targeted and not mass programmes. Their unemployment benefits programme is run in such a way that people are able to undertake job-focused trainings so as to be weaned off.
"These should be stop gap measures and run as a project where beneficiaries are empowered to become self-sustaining after a given period. It must be an equalization measure because not everyone is badly off," he said.
In her argument, minister Kiyingi stated that since the Government was already supporting the youth and the elderly, "there is no reason we should not look after babies."
Other welfare funds
-Youth livelihood fund; a total of sh265b was approved for the Youth Livelihood Fund for a period of five years (2013-14 to 2017-18).
-Older Persons Grants: Sh17.5b for 2017/18 out of the required sh29.15b
-Women Fund; sh41.1b