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Civil society pushes for independent COVID-19 recovery unit

By Samuel Sanya

Added 1st July 2020 06:35 PM

Julius Kapwepwe, the Programs Director at Uganda Debt Network, who doubles as the chairperson East African Budget Network said that the government post-COVID-19 Recovery Committee or Implementation Management Unit should superintend over the management of the recovery guidelines.

Civil society pushes for independent COVID-19 recovery unit

A woman receving food during the recent distribution to the people affected most by COVID-19. (File photo)

Julius Kapwepwe, the Programs Director at Uganda Debt Network, who doubles as the chairperson East African Budget Network said that the government post-COVID-19 Recovery Committee or Implementation Management Unit should superintend over the management of the recovery guidelines.

KAMPALA - Uganda's civil society has urged government to authorize the creation of an independent COVID-19 recovery unit, saying the unit would be more accountable.

This comes after sh89b additional funding was wired to the ministry of health, to deal with the COVID-19 Pandemic in the most recent sh1 trillion supplementary expenditure request.

Julius Kapwepwe, the Programs Director at Uganda Debt Network, who doubles as the chairperson East African Budget Network said that the government post-COVID-19 Recovery Committee or Implementation Management Unit should superintend over the management of the recovery guidelines.

"It's a special period; we need special but accountable measures transparently accessible to all Wananchi and firms that qualify, without fear, favour or attendant mischievous antics," he explained.

Kapwepwe pointed out that although parliament approved sh50b as part of the supplementary expenditure, to support the microfinance support center, the country still needs specific guidelines that are publicly communicated on criterion for who qualifies to access these financial windows.

He noted that guidelines would lessen discrimination of beneficiaries. Kapwepwe's comments come hot on the heels of the World Bank Board of Directors approval of $300m (sh1.1 trillion) to Uganda through budget support.

The World Bank said that the money will boost the Government's capacity to prevent, detect and treat the COVID-19. The support will also be used to protect the poor and vulnerable population, and support economic recovery.  

"The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the economy and livelihoods. This budget support operation will enable the Government to provide vital services, social safety nets and a more robust shock-responsive system for the long term, and the economy to recover faster," said Tony Thompson, World Bank Country Manager for Uganda in a statement.

In FY 2019-2020, URA was given a target of sh20.3 trillion but projects a deficit of up to sh3 trillion. 
 
Despite that, the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development has for the FY 2020-2021, given URA a higher target of sh21.81 trillion, comprised of tax revenue amounting to sh20.22 trillion and non-tax revenue of sh1.591 trillion.

This is the first budget support operation to Uganda in more than 6 years and will address the fiscal financing gap while supporting reforms that will provide immediate relief to individuals and businesses that have been most affected by the pandemic. 

As of July 1, Uganda has registered 893 cases of COVID-19 with no fatalities. Containment measures such as restrictions on travel, public gatherings, closure of businesses and schools has had severe impact on the economy and people's livelihoods.  

An estimated 3.15 million could fall deeper into poverty, adding to the 8.7 million Ugandans currently living below the poverty line. This has been worsened by the onset of heavy rains and flooding, and a locust invasion whose impact was expected during April-June of 2020. 

Overall, economic growth is projected at 3 to 4% in FY2019/20, lower than the 6.3% that had been anticipated for the year. 

To secure financing, Uganda has undertaken policy measures that directly benefit many low-income households. Farmers will be supported to access high-quality agricultural inputs, seeds and fertilizers using e-vouchers to boost nutrition and food security. 

Social protection programs through cash for work labour-intensive programs will be expanded to benefit 500,000 individuals while the current senior citizen grant will cover an additional 71 districts to support the elderly. 

A national single registry for beneficiaries of safety net programs has been established and additional measures taken to protect children against violence. 
 
Uninterrupted access to essential utilities like electricity, water and sanitation services has been guaranteed through subsidies, and tax exemption extended to supplies and equipment used in the treatment of COVID-19.  

To stimulate recovery of the private sector, businesses in distress will receive tax relief alongside the liquidity measures from the Central Bank to commercial banks, microfinance institutions and credit institutions, that allows them to provide a moratorium on loan repayment for businesses and individual borrowers that have been affected by the pandemic for up to 12 months. 

In addition, the World Bank pointed out in its statement that government has committed to stronger transparency and management of state-owned enterprises debt and payment of domestic arears to suppliers.  

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