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COVID-19: CSOs call for economic austerity measures

By Henry Sekanjako

Added 25th April 2020 08:58 PM

Parliament is currently debating the FY 2020/21 National Budget which has shot to sh45.5 trillion, from sh39 trillion as earlier proposed by the government.

COVID-19: CSOs call for economic austerity measures

Parliament is currently debating the FY 2020/21 National Budget which has shot to sh45.5 trillion, from sh39 trillion as earlier proposed by the government.

COVID-19 | BUDGET

KAMPALA - Members of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have implored the government to adopt stringent austerity measures for economic recovery during the post-COVID-19 Pandemic.

In their statement on the ministerial policy statements for the financial year 2020/2021, the CSOs under their body the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) also advised the government to invest more resources in health, sanitation and hygiene and agriculture, among other key sectors in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We call on the government to move away from the rhetoric, to intensify investment in small scale irrigation to enable constant production, even during times of drought and set up community silos as a measure of addressing post harvest losses," the CSOs noted in their position paper on the ministerial policy statements.

The CSOs also noted that it is not clear how the government is set to address aspirations under NDP III and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as a review of the FY2020/21 Ministerial Policy Statements, reveals the budget structure has remained virtually the same, only reflecting increases for the usual budget items despite the country planning to shift from NDPII to NDP III and to address effects of the COVID19 pandemic.

They expressed concern that the expenditures on consumptive items are just increasing despite Government resolve to cut wasteful expenditures.

"To ensure that Local Government fully participates in the development agenda, the first and second budget call circulars, tasked government Ministries, Departments and Agencies(MDAs) with funds for local governments to budget for them under local government votes.

However, there is no evidence in the draft budget that such a policy directive was implemented

Despite the COVD-19 response showing the critical role strengthened decentralized governance can play," they stated.

On education, the CSOs implored the government to invest more in access to education materials especially for rural schools, community schooling innovations, strengthening collaboration with NITA for cheap and affordable internet.

According to the CSOs, the COVID-19 disruptions have unearthed the need for the government to intensify investments in the technology and innovation within the education sector to guarantee the right to education for all.

Domestic arrears

The CSOs also expressed concern that the government, in the FY 2020/2021 budget had not planned for arrears.

Citing the ministry of local government, the CSOs noted that the ministry has a funding gap of sh51.5b needed to settle domestic arrears.

They said the delayed payments of suppliers, partly contributes to the high costs paid by the government in obtaining goods and services.

"Domestic arrears distort business operations and threatens the survival of the private sector which needs to maintain a consistent cash flow to operate effectively. Therefore, we recommend that the MDAs should liaise with the Ministry of Finance to adequately budget for domestic arrears in the budget for FY 2020/2021," the CSOs noted.

Health

On Health, the CSOs expressed concern about what they described as poor financing and performance of the health sector which they said should be adequately financed to cover the gaps.

The CSOs noted that out of the proposed health sector development budget of sh1, 387.50b, only Sh192.161b will come from domestic sources, which is only 7% of the entire health budget.

"This raises a lot of questions about the sustainability of the proposed interventions in the health sector since it is left in the hands of donors, whose priorities keep changing and resources are very unpredictable," CSOs said.

Resource envelope

Parliament is currently debating the FY 2020/21 National Budget which has shot to sh45.5 trillion, from sh39 trillion as earlier proposed by the government.

The Parliamentary Committee on Budget has recommended that the government review and revises the National Budget for the financial year 2020/2021 after the full effect of the COVID-19 on the economy is ascertained.

According to the committee, the total domestic resources will constitute 72.5 % while external funding will constitute 27.5%.

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