THE PARLIAMENT OF UGANDA
OFFICE OF THE LEADER OF OPPOSITION
THE STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS
DELIVERED TO THE 9TH PARLIAMENT ON 6TH JUNE 2011
NATHAN NANDALA MAFABI, MP
LEADER OF OPPOSTION
Rt. Hon Speaker,
Honourable Members of Parliament
- It is with great honour that I present the Opposition's response to the State of the Nation address to this August House this afternoon. Let me first convey my personal congratulations and best wishes to you, Madam Speaker and your Deputy for your election to this high office. By all measures, this office requires the occupants to exhibit integrity, transparency and to promote methods of work that will restore faith in this August House. So far, I have no doubt in my mind that the two of you have the requisite qualities and you can therefore rest assured of my support in this regard.
- May I sincerely congratulate all the Members of the 9th Parliament, upon the confidence, entrusted to them by their electorate, more especially those who won their election genuinely. In a special way, I extend tribute to my predecessor, the Hon Professor Morris Ogenga-Latigo, for steering the Opposition in the 8th Parliament. I wish him the best in his next assignments.
- Madam Speaker and Honourable Members, the essence of the State of the Nation Address is that it presents a significant opportunity for the President to speak to the nation and the world, transcending the political party divides, highlighting challenges facing the nation and proposing policy initiatives to tackle such challenges. It also gives the President chance to give accountability of what has been done in the previous year with the resources approved by Parliament.
- The State of the Nation Address should therefore not just be a Government report card on its achievements. Rather, it should present an assessment of the progress, challenges and opportunities, along with a blueprint of how Government, working with the people, intends to move forward. This is the approach that would inspire and arouse people's interest in governance and naturally get them mobilized for the political and development goals of Government.
- Madam Speaker, we expected the President to move away, for a while, from the usual rhetoric and put forward a comprehensive roadmap to revamp critical processes. We expected to see proposals for:
- the reform of budget processes,
- how to reduce opportunities for corruption,
- reversing the trend of electoral contests being turned into bidding wars with expensive and violent campaigns,
- increasing public vigilance to deter and detect commission of graft,
- improving meritocracy in the public service, target selected departments and agencies of Government for cleansing,
- increasing the speed and efficiency in prosecuting and punishing the corrupt, and stiffening sanctions against corruption,
- how to arrest the current depreciation of the Uganda Shilling, and
- clearly indicating what the major driver of our economy is, whether it is agriculture, industry or the service sector, and how resource allocation has been informed by that fact.
- Madam Speaker, and Honourable Members, as you are aware, this is the first year of this term of Government, led by the same President. You are also well aware that the same President failed to deliver and account on his Manifesto pledges in the last term. We enumerated these in detail in our responses last year. Yes, I can hear the cynics say, he delivered, and that is why he was re-elected. How he was re-elected is completely a different chapter that cannot be dealt with in this short address. The fact remains, that many promises will never see the light, having served the purposes for which they were made.
- Madam Speaker, this is why we were not given a comprehensive report on these important undertakings, even as the President emphasizes that the promises in his election Manifesto form a binding contract between Government and the people. Only last year, for example, the President promised to deal with the corrupt public officials who frustrate investors by asking for bribes or shares, and he promised to enhance seed multiplication through a partnership between MAAIF and Uganda Prisons. He further promised to investigate the shoddy work on the dams in Karamoja. It is not a surprise that no mention is made on such important undertakings.
- Madam Speaker, this list of unfulfilled commitments simply adds on to the already long list which included, among others:
- A promise to stand for the second and last term in 2001;
- Practicing zero tolerance on corruption;
- Transforming rural households from subsistence agriculture to commercialized farming;
- Prosperity for All, where each family would earn Shs. 20 million per year;
- Promoting the culture of constitutionalism and rule of law;
- Fully equipping at least one hospital or HCIV with a doctor, theatre, ambulance and maternity ward in each constituency;
- Setting up a National Social Health Insurance Scheme;
- Putting a reliable UBC and TV signal in every part of Uganda;
- Afforestation of all the bare hills in Uganda; and
- Implementing the Greater Kampala Transport Master Plan.
- Madam Speaker, Franklin Roosevelt once argued that: "Repetition does not translate a lie into truth". The several unfulfilled promises made by the NRM Government to Ugandans were not delivered. Good and responsible leadership demands that we don't just churn out promises for purposes of votes, and abandon them soon after elections. We should at all times be truthful in our commitment to Ugandans if we mean good for this country. Fortunately, Ugandans have since noticed this. Unfortunately, however, they have been kept disempowered from speaking out and taking appropriate action.
The Political Scene
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, the Opposition is concerned about the continued criminalization of political party activities by the NRM Government. This clearly indicates a failure by this Government to nourish and nurture the young multiparty political dispensation, and is greatly impeding the opposition's efforts to reach out and mobilize the masses. Instead of engaging the Opposition in public debate, the NRM has resorted to manipulation of the law to persecute the Opposition. They continue to use underhand methods to coarse voters to vote the NRM party. They also continue to give Ugandans the false impression that voting the NRM party is the only way development will reach their areas. It is shameful, and we must condemn those underhand actions here and now, if we are to have a peaceful country.
- Madam Speaker, the media is regarded as the fourth arm of state, due to its role as guardians of public interest, and as a watchdog on the activities of Government. However, the NRM Government has of recent become less tolerant to the media as is common with most Governments that do not want to leave power. In fact, President Museveni has openly come out to label some media houses, both local and foreign, as enemies of Uganda's recovery, castigating them for giving platform to the Opposition to overthrow Government.
- Madam Speaker, the 9th Parliament opens at a critical time when the media is under immense pressure from Government over what it calls biased reporting, simply because it covers Opposition activities. The NRM views the articulation of popular interests and critical analysis or reporting by the media as support for the Opposition. Reports and images in the media which contradict President Museveni's claim that Uganda is a democracy, where the will of the people is respected, have not been received well by his Government.
- Madam Speaker, as the NRM leaders try to hide behind their power to entrench themselves into power, they have illegally accumulated wealth and perpetuated all kinds of human rights abuses. Journalists face police harassment, threats of torture and intimidation of media houses facing threats of closure. Government has resorted to using the media and obsolete penal laws to prosecute journalists, restrict their liberty to work, and to revoke broadcasting licenses of media houses, without due process.
- Madam Speaker, Government is employing sweeping measures and making broad assertions to crack down on critical media. Uganda Communications Commission, which is legally mandated to supervise media houses, is used as a prohibitive arm of state to curtail free expression. While some media houses have tried to stand up to the pressure, others have caved in and censored themselves, because they don't want to get in trouble with Government. They fear to be closed down and their licenses suspended, and so, some of the independent journalists have been silenced.
- Madam Speaker, the Opposition condemns the culture of impunity and escalation of violence during campaign period. Specifically, we condemn the intimidation, harassment and muzzling of opposition candidates, bribery and denying them space on radios to conduct their political campaigns. We further condemn Police harassment of the media and attempts by Government to stifle the freedom of the press. This trend, if not arrested, will derail our cherished democracy, and make Ugandans get leaders who have distinguished themselves by their long proven ability to be party warlords and distributors of patronage, rather than by their ability to serve the public interest.
- It is unfortunate that leaders in Government only look at democracy in terms of elections. Democracy is not only about free and fair elections, which are still deluding us, but encompasses freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, clear rule of law, independent institutions and checks and balances on all the elected officials. Democracy is fundamentary about providing the basic needs of the people. The greatest challenge before our democracy today therefore is about how we make it work for the betterment of the ordinary person.
- Madam Speaker, there are a number of characteristics of democracy, among which are, the holding of periodic free and fair elections and term limits. However, most of the sit-tight leaders who pretend that their countries are democracies manipulate their countries' constitutions to extend their term limits and then conduct sham elections that return them to power as often as they stand for elections. We therefore call upon all Ugandans to stand firm, rise up and send a strong signal to NRM leaders that they have suffered enough of its abuse of state resources funded by tax payers to serve its own partisan interests.
- Madam Speaker, we have no doubt in our mind that the military had earned people's trust as they spearheaded the liberation struggle. However, the continued involvement of some senior army officers in the electoral process is eroding this trust. In addition, the Police, which are supposed to protect Ugandans, have instead been diverted to protecting the NRM political leaders. Some of the Internal Security officers and RDCs in the districts have become campaign agents of the NRM, thus affecting the quality of this multiparty democracy.
- We therefore call upon our National Army, Police and other security agencies to refrain from engaging in partisan operations, but abide by their constitutional mandate of protecting the lives of all citizens and their property. We further recommend that the pay of the rank–and-file in the forces be revisited to match the rising cost of living.
Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law
- Madam Speaker, in recent years, Parliaments everywhere have come under intense criticism and many times, attracted cynicism and indifference. Our Parliament has not escaped this either. Indeed, the public image of our Parliament has plummeted in the recent past owing to our failure to effectively hold Government accountable, and make sure that individuals caught red-handed in the wastage of public resources, face the wrath of the law.
- Madam Speaker, Parliamentary democracy demands many virtues. It demands not only the ability and devotion to work, but also and more importantly, cooperation, self-discipline and restraint. Parliament needs people with passion, commitment and the vision to debate, bring about ideas and reforms that will have a positive impact on the people we represent. This is the only way we can promote Constitutionalism in our country.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, Aristotle once argued that any form of Government is good, as long as the leader who exercises power ultimately seeks the good of all, rather than his own personal interests. As political leaders, therefore, we ought to know that we are answerable to the 33 million Ugandans, and must be committed at all times to national interest first, and our self-interest last. This should be emulated by all those in leadership.
- Those of us in the Opposition know well that the electorate will not accept individuals or parties who put their own interests before that of their electorate. That is why Ugandans are increasingly demanding for a Parliament that is action-oriented rather than just a talking shop. The performance of this 9th Parliament will ultimately not be measured by the number of motions or resolutions we pass, but by the relevance of these motions and resolutions to the lives of voters – how they get translated into people's welfare, and how we hold the executive answerable for failure to deliver that welfare.
- Madam Speaker, it is therefore not by accident that this Parliament features many new breeds and a new generation of Parliamentarians. To the extent that their elections were genuine, it shows that Ugandans are saying "we want new people with fresh ideas and a different approach". They want change in their lives. They want ideas, solutions, productivity, initiative and greater representation irrespective of which side you sit in the House. I therefore urge you, Hon Members, not to let them down in whatever capacity you were called to serve. I also call upon H.E. the President, not to cajole you away from that enormous undertaking.
- Madam Speaker, my colleagues and I have a huge responsibility of presenting a credible opposition to this Government. You are aware we are small in numerical strength, but I must assure you that we are rich in spirit, enthusiasm and hope. We will continue to push Government to follow the right path, and to stop misusing state resources to entrench its hold onto power. We shall continuously warn them on the dangers of undermining state institutions. We will also remind them, that presidential term limits are good for nurturing democracy, and must be reinstated.
- Madam Speaker, we shall be proud to serve in this Parliament, only if it becomes a dynamic forum to articulate people's views; if it derives its strength from discussion of every point of view before arriving at a consensus; and if it believes in diversity as a source of strength. This diversity will only be built if we exhibit tolerance for divergent views. This is the only way we can deliver our mandate in the public interest.
- Madam Speaker, the greatest enemy we have as a nation, which we must overcome, is inside us. The enemy to beat, is within us. When we put ourselves above the country and when we put profit above fairness, when we spread division instead of unity, when we think of our political opponents as enemies and when we substitute politics for patriotism at the hour of need - that is the enemy within ourselves.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, we on this side of the House, hereby pledge our total support for good decisions that will be made transparently, and for initiatives towards building consensus around issues aimed at addressing the needs of the citizenry for positive development. In the same vein, however, we pledge to oppose any decision that is not in the best interest of the welfare of Ugandans.
- We will take debate seriously; we will trust everyone at face value; but we will not allow anyone to undermine our judgment, and push our good faith to the limits. Our walk-out during the State of the Nation address was just a natural response to such a situation. We promise you today, that we will live by those two important commitments for the good of the citizens. That is, to support good, and to oppose bad, with all our energies.
- Madam Speaker, Article 85 (1) of our Constitution provides that Parliament will determine its own emoluments. This was made in good faith as it was intended to stop the executive from stifling Parliament in the performance of its duties. However, political party patronage has already weakened this well meant check-point. Our electorates are already accusing this Parliament of being insensitive to the plight and welfare of other public and political servants.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, in order to stop this unending mistrust, we propose and support the idea that an Independent Commission for Remuneration of all Public Officers be set up. This was done in South Africa and it works well. In other countries, such as Kenya and Zimbabwe, Salaries and Remuneration Commissions have been incorporated in their National Constitutions. We are confident that if such a Commission is carefully instituted, such an independent benefit-setting agency will go a long way to protect the independence and sanctity of Parliament. However, a careful study should be undertaken as to how this can be done in order not to undermine the spirit of the Constitution.
The State of our Nation
- Madam Speaker, the Address by President Museveni was a desperate attempt to persuade Ugandans that all is well, whereas facts indicate otherwise. He could not explain why a country so blessed with natural resources, a favourable climate and such immense talent should not have done better than we did. He cited statistics that appeared impressive when in reality, Ugandans in general are worse off today than they were in the previous year.
- Madam Speaker, the President avoided realities about the increasing trend on:
- The debt huddle, which may lead our country into another debt trap;
- Public spending without equitable distribution, increasing the gap and disparity between the rich and the poor;
- The increase in accumulated deficit on the Consolidated Fund from Shs. 3,784 billion in 2008/9 to Shs. 5,165 billion today, which raises Government's borrowing costs, diverts resources from social services like health, affecting the standards of living;
- Ratio of health workers to patients, and quality of healthcare;
- Child Malnutrition;
- Maternal mortality;
- School drop-outs;
- Disparity between population growth rate of 3.2% per annum and the growth in agricultural output of 0.9% per annum, which is increasing the number of food-insecure people;
- Torture victims and illegal arrests; and
- Outright graft among the political class
- Madam Speaker, the President lamented about the increase in lending rates and interest on treasury bills and feigned ignorance of the real problem causing this. He also says the Bank of Uganda (BOU) had to fight in the money market, to "stem excess liquidity". The major cause, however, was the excessive unbudgeted expenditure on elections and the military, which the Governor of the BOU has since linked to erratic policies and financial indiscipline. This is what forced the BOU to fork out Shs. 419 billion to service interest on treasury bills in order to remove the excess liquidity in the economy, to dampen the inflationary pressures. However, on his part, the Governor owes Ugandans an explanation on why he closed his eyes when these things were happening, yet he is empowered by the Constitution to put his foot down.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, the ordinary person in Uganda is neither interested in high GDP nor statistics of poverty reduction. They are concerned about their children having breakfast before going to school, or having lunch at school, or access to treatment in the current expensive private clinics, because most Government health centres neither have drugs nor qualified health workers. Similarly, expectant mothers are concerned about where to find Midwives to handle them well during delivery, while the peasant farmers are concerned about a good price for their produce, given the impassable community and feeder roads today.
- Madam Speaker, if the above elements are absent, then any talk of statistics on poverty reduction will be meaningless. People do not eat statistics, they eat food. Impressive GDP statistics do not treat people. Treatment is given by qualified health workers in well equipped health centres using appropriate drugs. Statistics on GDP are only meaningful when reflected in the welfare of citizens.
- Madam Speaker, whereas taxpayers are obliged to pay taxes, they have a right to better services from those taxes and proper accountability thereof. However, many times, the priorities of the NRM government are simply not in sync with the needs of citizens. You will remember when in this Parliament, Government struggled without success, to justify allocation of money for construction of a modern market in a foreign country, when local markets are catching fires! The money was passed, but the market has never been built. We are not sure whether this is the much talked about patriotism.
- The politicians who control Government resources, most times, allocate resources based on 'political gains' rather than economic rationale. They think they have every right to do as they please irrespective of people's aspirations. The result is simple – wasteful public spending which does not translate into public welfare. This is why citizens dread paying taxes, for they see no reason for doing so.
- Madam Speaker, the 9th Parliament opens at a time when the public has come to believe that our oversight function is in abeyance due to executive dominance. It opens when there is a huge divide between the rich and the poor, with a small part of the population swimming in abundance as the majority are wallowing in misery. It also opens at a time when inflation is double digit, affecting public servants and wage earners, who earn fixed income.
- The high inflation consolidates the widening wealth gap, as low-income earners feel the pinch more than the rich. It also curtails investments due to low returns on investment, and affects business planning and strategic investment decisions. The high cost of living for fixed salary and wage earners is further affected by high taxes which increase dependence on one's gross pay, and further reducing consumer expenditure.
- Madam Speaker, the President finally admitted that the main driver of inflation was food prices, and that it was manageable. He agrees that it is the role of Government to manage it. Whoever castigated the walk-to-work, claiming that inflation was beyond Government's control was proved wrong by the President that day. The protest was against Government's inaction on rising food prices, a matter that is indeed within its control. For once, we thank the President for clearing the air, and request him unconditionally to release all those being persecuted for speaking out on Government's inaction, and deal with the supply chain bottlenecks.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, whereas the economy continues to register rising commodity prices, H.E. the President just mentions in passing that Government is conscious about concerns of low wages paid to public servants, and promises to come up with a pay reform policy. Nothing is mentioned about revising the pay cheques of the public servants to match the pace of current inflation. These are the same public servants who suffer the Pay as You Earn (PAYE) tax.
- Madam Speaker, Uganda's PAYE threshold remains the lowest in the region, at Shs. 130,000. It was fixed in 1997 when the value of the Uganda shilling and cost of living were low. It no longer reflects the economic reality of prices and the value of the shilling. Over the years, and in good faith, there has been strong agitation for increase of the PAYE thresholds. However, this has been resisted by Government, on the pretext that budget pressures are high, with no room for action. Instead, employees were further subjected to the Local Service Tax (LST) on the same income.
- Madam Speaker, PAYE is levied on salaried people who have nowhere to hide away from the taxman. It is easy to collect, and the tax payers in this category are a vulnerable lot. The low PAYE threshold means that low income earners, majority of who are teachers and nurses, are easily brought into the tax net yet they are the lowest paid. This stifles their capacity to save, invest and consume. This means the income-redistributive capacity, as expected of any good tax, is lacking in PAYE in the current form. The poor end up financing the survival of the rich.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, the failure by the NRM Government to make the necessary PAYE reforms depicts its insensitivity to low income earners' needs and the 'short-termist' approach that only focuses on revenue maximization at the expense of other wider objects of taxation, such as wealth redistribution.
- Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that the Public Service of Uganda has been loyal and committed to duty even in difficult times. But it is now clear that inflation and stagnant salaries have tremendously eroded the purchasing power of these public employees. Time and again, Government tells them there is no money to increase their salaries yet it continues to spend money on non - priority areas, such as military spending on jets, and cabinet expansion and creation of more districts , rather than reward these patriotic Ugandans with the long awaited and deserved salary increments. We are also aware that Government has even failed to come up with the minimum wage policy for workers.
- Madam Speaker, the country's minimum wage of Shs. 6,000 per month was last set in 1984 under Obote II regime and currently, different employers pay their workers as they please. The Minimum wage recommendation of Shs. 53,000 proposed way back by the Minimum Wage Advisory Board has been under consideration by the President's Office since 2000. It has never seen the light of the day and this minimum wage is already overtaken by the rising costs.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, let us remember that when Government fails to keep the pace of salaries and wages with inflation, it has far reaching repercussions, as it increases the incidence of corruption. However, it seems our Government is doing this to deliberately hoodwink the citizens that it is committed to their cause and it is the public servants who are failing them.
- Madam Speaker, economic growth is meant to contribute to general prosperity of the people by increasing their quality of life. However, while they are always told that the economy is growing at a higher rate, the majority of the citizens are excluded from the benefits of that growth, and inequality is on the increase. It is also true that Uganda's growth path has created opportunities deliberately skewed in favour of urban areas of central and western regions, leaving behind rural areas and northern and eastern Uganda, where poverty levels are now simply unbearable.
- Madam Speaker, it seems that as long as 20% of the population are benefiting from growth, the President is comfortable. He doesn't care whether that growth trickles down to the common person in form of health, education, roads and clean water. That is why he says that he was surprised that many people do not see the 9% growth, as if "they seem not to be seeing construction going on in Kampala and Entebbe areas in central Uganda".
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, we suspect the President was wrongly advised that economic growth and economic development is one and the same thing, and that once you have growth, the economy automatically becomes a developed and modern one. He believes that once you have buildings, even if they replace all the wetlands, such as the one being extinguished at the Spear junction, in Nakawa, despite protests from the public and Parliament, it means the country is developing.
- Instead of restoring the fundamentals of economic growth, this Government is engaged in stimulus spending. The President and his party are busy expanding Cabinet from the Constitutional Limit to over 80, and endlessly creating districts, thereby increasing public expenditure, while Local Governments are facing increasing financial pressure and unable to meet their expanded and diversified roles because they do not have any direct revenue raising opportunities. As a result, the country is on the verge of being the object of universal disapprobation, which will force us to hang our heads in national shame, because the welfare of our rural and urban poor citizens cannot be improved.
- Madam Speaker, empowering people means more than just having elections every five years. It means extending their contact with Government beyond elections, to its daily workings, and this enables them to inform Government policies by their insight. A high economic growth rate amidst exclusion is not sustainable, for it embodies discrimination, which catalyses resentment and conflict. We must come out boldly and tell our leaders that waste is bad and wrong; that theft is immoral; that gluttony is an abomination. It is a trespass on the tax payers' purse. This is undemocratic and unacceptable, and it must end immediately.
- Madam Speaker, in our view, the removal of excise duty on kerosene, which we have been advocating for, and remitting of the import duty on hoes was a gimmick only intended to hoodwink the rural and urban poor that the NRM Government cares about them. Giving a free hoe to each family, rather than remitting taxes on hoes, as we have been advocating, is the only immediate intervention to boost agricultural production and ensure food security, as we prepare for mechanization. In any case, remittance of taxes on hoes is no guarantee that the price of a hoe will come down given the current economic dynamics.
- Madam Speaker, we believe the problem with the taxes in Uganda, is not the amount paid but the ad valorem tax regime used. The use of the ad valorem tax regime means that the tax is imposed at the time of transaction. As a result, the tax that was imposed on the budget day has since changed because the dollar rate has since moved from Shs. 2380 to over Shs. 2700. This equally affects the fuel products. The net effect therefore is that removal of excise duty on kerosene has not changed the price of a litre of kerosene to the rural and urban poor.
- Further, there is no sense in removing tax on kerosene, and keeping tax on petrol and diesel, which is used in transporting the kerosene to the villages. That is the bigger tax, which keeps the price of kerosene up and rising. That is why the whole proposal was simply a face-saving gimmick, which some of the East African Presidents seem to have jointly agreed to deploy to appease their populations, cool down protests, and remove their eyes from the bigger picture.
- Madam Speaker, the Opposition believes in a strong society where we owe obligations to each other, and where the sum of our actions always adds up to the kind of society we all want to live in. We owe our people a better choice and a different vision, and will always support the direction of resources to the disadvantaged in society.
- We therefore promise to be conscious stewards with the limited resources of our state. This obligation will be outlined in our forthcoming budget response, where we will show you how we intend to do things differently by cutting down spending, help create more jobs and prosperity, reform Government programs and act responsibly in the use of state resources.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, we propose that there is need to:
- Gain control over the domestic economy, by supporting the private sector as the engine of economic growth;
- Have a general consensus on the National Development Plan;
- Make agriculture our main line of defense against poverty and food security, through increased funding to the sector;
- Create industries which are viable in the long term and do not require constant subsidies to survive, such as is the case with Phoenix Logistics, in order to create jobs;
- Have a public transportation and infrastructure plan;
- Fund rural empowerment to provide employment of the 40,000 students who graduate from our tertiary institutions every year. This would enable them be productive in their areas of origin;
- Hasten the Public Private Partnership Legislation;
- Improve the predictability, reliability and efficiency of our business environment for those who want to invest;
- Annual revision of the PAYE threshold and the Minimum Wage to march the changes in the value of the Uganda Shilling. The salary increment should be over and above the current double-digit inflation and PAYE threshold to at least Shs. 350,000;
- Review the entire remuneration structure through an independent Commission;
- Implement the pay and pension reforms, and downsize Government, to reduce Public Administration expenditure;
- Urgently put in place Petroleum legislation on resource and revenue management, to stream line how oil revenues will be injected into the economy without causing distortions;
- Reduce the number of the Ministers to what is provided for in the Constitution;
- Reduce other political appointments and rationalize public employees
- Address the shortcomings in our electoral system to make democracy meaningful to the citizens;
- Rationalize the creation of districts; and
- Change the tax regime on essential commodities and petroleum products
- Madam Speaker, agriculture is the core of the livelihood of most households in Uganda. It is the engine for overall economic growth and the single most important pathway out of rural poverty. With nearly ¾ of the Uganda Households dependant on agriculture, the sector should be made central to Uganda Government's strategy for meeting its twin challenge of reducing poverty and fostering broader economic growth. The worsening poverty and food insecurity today is due to the poor performance in the sector.
- Madam Speaker, in a country like Uganda which is still in the early stages of development and economic transformation, agriculture growth has powerful leverage on the economy, because it still accounts for a large share of national income, employment and foreign trade. Compared to growth in other sectors, agricultural growth has been shown to be more effective at reducing poverty, especially in countries with large agricultural sectors and a large concentration of agricultural households among the poor, than any other sectors.
- Madam Speaker, despite the importance of agriculture, the NRM Government has not handled it well. It is an irony that, while the President accepts in his address that "agriculture is the backbone of our economy", the sector has suffered the greatest decline in its contribution to GDP, from 51% in 1990 to 13.9 % currently, during his tenure as President. While total GDP has increased over the years, real annual growth in agriculture has been on the decline, to the current 0.9%, with the crop sector registering a -15.8% growth rate. This rate is insufficient to meet the needs of the rapidly growing population now standing at 3.4%. As a result, most citizens are food insecure.
- Madam Speaker, the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda pledged to ensure food and nutrition security in Uganda. This was adopted in the 2003 Uganda Food and Nutrition Policy (UFNP) which expressly recognized the human right for adequate food security for all. However, in the State of Uganda's Population Report, 2010, it was estimated that 1.9 million people in Uganda are food insecure while 6 million are at the risk of becoming insecure. Out of the children who are under age five, 22% are stunted, 7% are wasted, 10% are underweight, and 33% are anaemic. This was further compounded by the recent Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report which reveals that nine million Ugandans are currently facing an acute food shortage.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, the proportion of the population who are food insecure over the years disproves the purported general downward poverty trends in Uganda. Indeed, experts from the Uganda National Programs of Action (NAPA) recently observed that Uganda may be unable to feed its people in the coming years because the population growth is not being matched by an increase in cultivated land. Surely, a country which cannot feed its people cannot be a proud one. It is a country that has misery. This is unfortunate, because in the 1960's, Uganda was well known as the food basket of Africa due to its good soils, dependable rainfall, and relatively high agricultural production and supportive policies.
- Madam Speaker, for over a decade, the NRM leaders continue to blame low crop yield on weather, yet we have large expanses of water reservoirs, and most of the rain water is wasted away because of poor water harvesting mechanisms. For lack of a better description, we can call this "part time" thinking, because the problem of agriculture in Uganda is not drought, but rather lack of planning, management and monitoring as evidence has shown.
- Madam Speaker, in his 2010 State of Nation address, President Museveni attributed inadequate growth in the agriculture sector to Government's continuous reliance on weather and insufficient linkages to value addition and market opportunities, and promised to handle the problem. This year, H.E. the President, as he usually does, blamed the poor performance of agriculture, in particular, low food production, on poor rainfall and drought. Instead of informing Ugandans how far his Government has gone to address the problem, he still outlines plans that will still not be implemented.
- Madam Speaker, the President reported that the NRM Government's goal has been to fundamentally transform the three million Ugandan households in subsistence agriculture to commercialized agriculture. He further said this transformation entailed moving away from rain-fed agriculture to irrigation, from the hand-hoe to mechanized agriculture; and from production for household consumption to production for the market through agro-processing.
- Madam Speaker, this commitment has not been translated into monetary terms. Instead of subsidizing and deploying tractors in sub-counties to commercialize agriculture, our leaders in Government think removing taxes on hand hoes will do wonders. They have failed to update Parliament as to what happened to the 500 walking tractors that were to be distributed to farmers in 500 parishes in September 2008 to begin the drive towards increased agricultural production, yet money was appropriated for this purpose.
- Madam Speaker, the President talked about a plan to build storage capacity to improve post - harvest handling. In 2007/08, the same President promised to refurbish storage facilities at primary society level, and moneys were appropriated. To date, we have not been given the progress on this. Sometime back, Government constructed silos in Kyazanga. We are not told as to who is using the silos, how much is paid and to whom. Can Government inform Parliament whether it is true that the said silos are about or have been leased for 99 years to a company trading in produce, in which the first daughter has shares?
- Madam Speaker, in his 2009 State of Nation address, the President informed the Nation that in order to achieve better market access for farmers to sell their produce at premium prices, the Warehouse Receipt Scheme has been started and was to be progressively rolled out. Ugandans would be interested in knowing the progress, as the intention of the project was to enable rural households earn at least, Shs. 20 million per annum, to enable them meet basic necessities.
- Madam Speaker, last year we made a number of proposals which would improve agriculture productivity, but the NRM Government leaders did not buy the proposals. We specifically advised Government to fund a comprehensive agriculture census that would form a basis for national planning. We advised Government to increase the sector funding of agriculture, where our country has competitive advantage, from the then 4.9% to 10%. In reaction to our proposal, and as if the proposal had annoyed them, the sectoral allocation has instead been slashed down to 4%.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, the current Government is like a business that increases its price in response to cost pressures. This might work for a while but eventually, customers may refuse to buy. The problems facing agriculture cannot be appropriately addressed without a comprehensive census, because they are founded on lack of comprehensive, reliable and consistent statistical data. In our view, if you cannot measure something, you cannot manage it. The lack of the sector's statistics causes inadequate funding allocation and consequently, poor output.
- The last Comprehensive Agriculture Census was carried out in 1963/5. This was followed by the 1990/91 National census of Agriculture and Livestock. Since then, our planning has been based on annual sample surveys that are not regular due to lack of funding. The institutions that are mandated to carry out the exercise, such as MAAIF and UBOS, have never put in place statistical systems to collect important data on agriculture on an annual basis.
- We need data on crop area, yield, production, an inventory of livestock and animal products, and the characteristics of farming enterprises, whether commercial or subsistence. But we do not have such an agriculture data bank to help in planning, resulting into steep decline in agricultural performance.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, this lack of informed planning excludes the majority of the rural people engaged in subsistence farming from participating in the benefits of the country's economic growth. These smallholder farmers do not have access to the vehicles and roads needed for transporting produce to markets. Market linkages are weak or non-existent.
- The farmers lack inputs and technologies to help them increase production and reduce pests and diseases. In addition, the smallholder farmers lack access to financial services that would enable them to raise their incomes by improving and expanding their production and establishing small enterprises. This low productivity, coupled with the limited value addition, and lack of commercialization, is what has led to the declining GDP share of the agriculture sector in Uganda, and this must be addressed.
- Madam Speaker, in our budget response last financial year, we reported that we had conducted a study on the need to address the limited access to finance for agriculture production. We recommended, based on the findings of the study, creation of an Agriculture Development Bank. The draft bill to this effect is ready for consideration by this August House.
- We wish to re-affirm that the sector Shadow Minister will seek leave of this Parliament to table a Private Members Bill for creation of an Agricultural Development Bank. We request Hon Members to support the bill for creation of an Agriculture Development Bank that will address financial constraints faced by the majority of our voters.
- Madam Speaker, the much sought after modernization of agriculture will remain a travesty as long as Government does not wake up to the realization of the need to invest massively in agriculture as a necessary precondition for industrial development, monetization of the economy and food security. Improving agricultural productivity is the only way through which the poor rural households can meet their food security needs and increase their income.
- Madam Speaker, Uganda has enormous potential to increase agricultural production to overcome food insecurity and malnutrition, as well as take advantage of increasing food demand in the region. The only powerful tool that can overcome this is use of fertilizers and high yielding seeds. However, recent studies show that while Uganda has the highest soil nutrient depletion in the world, it also has the lowest fertilizer application, at 1.8 kg per hectare. This is mainly because of the limited knowledge about benefits and costs of fertilizer application.
- Madam Speaker, the President raised public hope when he mentioned that Government will soon address the pertinent issue of actualizing phosphate fertilizer production at Sukulu Hills in Tororo. However, information obtained indicates that the hills belong to the Madhavani Group of Companies. We request Government to inform Ugandans as to who will be carrying out the project and whether this would in turn reduce the price of fertilizers to the small holder farmer.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, as a country, we have not come up with a National Fertilizer Policy that would consider subsidies on fertilizers as a priority. Rwanda, on their part, recently carried out a fertilizer profitability analysis and use. Based on the study, fertilizer trials have been established across the country. A National Fertilizer Policy should be enacted to subsidize fertilizers in line with the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement that allows developing countries subsidies of up to 10 percent of agricultural inputs.
- Madam Speaker, to address the problems in the agriculture sector, we have to fix the problems along the entire value chain. These range from research and development for seeds and inputs, to irrigation, fertilizers, agricultural extension, credit, rural infrastructure, storage and marketing. We therefore propose the following:
- Make the agriculture sector the main line of defense against poverty and food insecurity by increasing its funding to over 10% of the overall national budget.
- Expedite the enactment of the National Fertilizer Policy which should consider subsidies on fertilizers and other agriculture inputs as a priority to increase agriculture productivity.
- Establish an effective extension system to sensitize farmers to embrace use of fertilizers, so as to sustainably increase agricultural productivity in Uganda;
- Provide water for production, and disease control;
- Improve access to affordable, predictable and reliable financial services;
- Reduce the cost of production by putting emphasis on mechanization, and enhanced research for the introduction of high-yielding varieties of staple crops;
- Provide for grain terminals/silos, refrigeration facilities, post -harvest facilities to handle bumper harvests and maintain the standard requirements of the produce;
- Invest in the Warehouse receipt systems in major grain producing districts and regions, to keep farm products safe and ready for market;
- Support availability of adequate storage facilities at sub - counties, and mainstream functional warehouses to avoid post- harvest losses, as well as improve commodity pricing;
- Expeditiously activate the existing national irrigation infrastructure, including establishing new irrigation programs;
- Allocate funds to establish micro-irrigation schemes on all major rivers and lakes in the country;
- Strengthen the Private Public Partnership (PPP) approach in the construction and maintenance of irrigation schemes;
- Revitalize cooperatives and re-establish the stabilization Fund in Bank of Uganda; and
- Provide a conducive policy environment that would attract private investment in agriculture
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, the state of the environment in Uganda leaves a lot to be desired, with Kampala being one of the dirtiest cities in the world. Plastic bags are in every corner of the country and Government is reluctant to enforce the ban on these plastic bags. The citizens are left to stay near choking heaps of garbage. Such pollution exposes Ugandans to diseases, and contributes to the high health budget requirement in the country.
- Madam Speaker, in the last 15 years, Uganda has lost 4,000 square kilometers of wetlands posing a risk of water shortage. The wetland coverage has reduced from 13% to 11% over the period. Preliminary results from the study launched by the Ministry of Water and Environment reveal that the major wetlands and their biodiversity are dying out, with a serious potential of water stress and flooding in the next 10-15 years. This poses a danger because our growing population will always need fresh air and clean water to live.
- Madam Speaker, Uganda loses 15% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually, due to the destruction of forests, land and water resources. The politicians, and those who think they have money, are amongst the greatest abusers of the environment. We have destroyed the wetlands around Banda, encroached on Namanve forest, and environmental degradation continues unchecked. The 2006 NRM Manifesto which promised to cover all the bare hills with forests did not see the light of the day, only to resurface in the 2010 Manifesto.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda states that "it is the duty of Parliament to protect and preserve the environment from abuse, pollution, degradation and also to provide for measures intended to manage the environment for sustainable development and promotion of environmental awareness". The challenge at hand is as to whether we have used this provision to enforce environmental discipline, or we have left the work to the citizens and civil society organizations.
- Madam Speaker, in order to enhance our environmental protection, we propose:
- That Parliament should take a keen interest in environmental legislation and discipline in Uganda including garbage management;
- A ban on plastic bags is enforced;
- National tree planting campaigns, using primary school pupils, are immediately started throughout the whole country;
- Wetland restoration and planned urban housing and waste management, to stop the spread of filthy and disease-ridden slums;
- Start a community cleaning exercise in Kampala, to get rid of the plastics in the city and outside Municipalities and Towns; and
- Prepare early for environmental impact of oil in the Albertine region.
Labour and Employment
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, we strongly believe that good Government policy should not only be able to spur economic growth, but also strengthen the private sector's ability to create jobs. In our view, the private sector is a catalyst for economic growth. It is the sector that can create meaningful jobs because they put up agro-based industries that are viable in the long term. This can only be done when we create a good environment that would attract investors to put up these industries.
- Madam Speaker, Ugandans can be patient, but they have low tolerance for sustained lies. In 2008/9, Government promised to turn Uganda into a leading competitive destination for private investment in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to them, this was the only way new jobs would be created to absorb the majority of unemployed youth. However, the Global Competitiveness report published in March 2011 makes shocking revelations. Globally, our competitiveness dropped down from the 108th position last year to the 118th this year. In Africa, we are currently in the 20th position compared to Rwanda's 7th, Kenya's 14th, Tanzania's 16th and Burundi's 32nd position.
- This means that in terms of investment opportunities in the East African Region, we only compete with Burundi. How does the NRM Government intend to create more jobs and provide employment when our competitiveness in attracting investment is seriously worsening as a result of corruption, lack of sound infrastructure and Government's inefficiency?
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, the tourism sector which has the potential of improving our employment potential has also not been doing well due to meager funding, poor infrastructure, unfavourable policy environment for the development of the sector and the inadequate protection of property rights. For example, the sector has only been allocated Shs. 8.2 billion in the 2011/12 budget which is not enough to market our tourism potential.
- Madam Speaker, the 2011 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report revealed that the Uganda's ranking in the tourism sector fell from the 111th to the 115th position. In the region, Uganda is in the 13th position, Rwanda in the 7th, Kenya in the 8th and Tanzania in the 11th position. This is because Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania have invested heavily in intensive marketing of their country's tourism attractiveness. They have also invested in the development of innovative tourism and infrastructure.
- Madam Speaker, while statistics indicate that tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors and the second foreign exchange earner in Uganda, the Report reveals that we do not invest in marketing. Kenya, for example, spends US$ 10 million in marketing and promotional activities annually. Tanzania spends US$ 8 million and Rwanda spends US$5million, while Uganda spends only US$ 350,000, as in the table below;
Investment in Tourism Promotion(US$)
Ranking in Competitiveness in the Region
Table 1 Source: World Economic Forum, March 2011
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, how did Government expect to be top of the range in a sector where it never invested? How then does Government intend to absorb the 40,000 graduates produced annually by our tertiary institutions when we are not investing in sectors that have potential to create employment opportunities?
- Madam Speaker, since majority of our population is in agriculture, the sector has great potential of absorbing the 40,000 youth in the rural areas in agro-processing and effective extension services, rather than the NAADS-type conspiracies. We therefore propose the following measures to create employment opportunities:
- Rural empowerment to absorb the majority of the youth in their areas to increase agricultural productivity through agro-processing and extension services;
- Increment of the funding to the tourism sector;
- Institute measures to fight corruption; and
- Strengthen Government institutions to ease the cost of doing business.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, the single most important thing that Ugandans seem to agree on is that the NRM Government is chronically corrupt. It would appear that our friends in Government have since changed our National Motto to "Come, let us eat, drink and make merry, for tomorrow we shall go". This is what has led to the kind of recklessness that is becoming common at all levels of Government.
- Uganda's experience demonstrates that whereas anti-corruption laws, regulations and institutions are important, they are no substitute for action. The most important pre-condition for success in the fight against corruption is the commitment of the political leadership to fight corruption at the highest level. This is what we lack because our leaders have failed to walk the talk in the war against the corrupt.
- Madam Speaker, in Uganda, corruption has become widespread resulting in endemic poverty and frustration, rivalries between the regimes leading personalities, and the rupture of the political contract between leaders and the citizenry. Corruption takes away medicine from our hospitals, and books and furniture from schools. It has also eaten up our roads which have caused senseless deaths due to accidents, killed our industries, destroyed agriculture productivity, rigged elections, destroyed our police and acquitted the guilty.
- In summary, corruption has robbed, looted and plundered our public resources, killed and dehumanized our people and sown seeds of greed, selfishness and lust for power and ill - gotten wealth. It has created some leaders with questionable integrity because the corrupt, in spite of their rhetoric and grandiose posturing, do not love this country, for, if they did, they would not rob it of the scarce resources much needed for development and improvement of the citizen's welfare.
- Madam Speaker, in terms of political life, personal and group patronage has become linked to the provision of services. Elections have become less about having a credible choice of who governs, but more of an exercise in political patronage, featuring the buying and selling of votes. Politicians from the ruling party no longer make a distinction between Government property and that of a party. This is why political party functions take place in State House at the expense of the tax payer who foots, among others the food, electricity, water and entertainment bills.
- With the naked eye, you can see that there is no genuine war against corruption as the NRM Government has only beaten about tiny weeds, ignoring the vast plantations in plain view. It has also been selective, and many times, only taken action on those who fall out with them, rather than dealing with the vice in a non-partisan manner. Placing political interest above the rule of law and checks and balances, is therefore the major stumbling block in the fight against corruption.
- Madam Speaker, allow me to use this chance to inform H.E. President Museveni that accountability and the fight against corruption is not a choice, but a constitutional requirement. And so, when the Head of State presides over corruption at the centre, he will lose moral ground to enforce discipline at the Local Governments. He cannot simply do away with it, because he wants to protect his cadres who remain loyal to him and the ruling NRM party, and therefore no concrete action can be taken against them.
- Madam Speaker, fighting corruption requires action and not speeches. In fact, it can be eradicated by acting in silence. What it requires is the will to do so. The continued failure by H.E. the President to remove corrupt people from his Government has undermined public confidence in his purported commitment to fighting corruption.
- Madam Speaker, sometime back, the President announced that he had trained a new army of professionals ready to fight the corruption scourge and that he would use a new dangerous approach to net corrupt officials and punish them. You can see for yourselves, the suggested approach has not come to fruition. The latest is that he is now going to set up a committee to investigate political leaders and senior public officers implicated in corruption scandals. Why would someone spend time and money chasing for thieves, yet he promotes and rewards those who have already been caught? Those are diversionary tactics employed in war, when surrounded by an enemy. H.E. the President knows this science quite well.
- Madam Speaker, in the 16th century, when Sir Thomas More was asked to go against his conscience and deny his trust, he answered as follows: "Public trust is held like sand in our hands. If we open our fingers only a bit, to be only a bit corrupt, the sand of trust flows out quickly and is completely lost". The war against corruption cannot be won by rhetorical speeches and the rotation of Ministers and public servants who have nothing more to offer. Political will transcends good speeches and incorporates leadership by example and taking swift action where corruption is detected.
- Madam Speaker, there is enough empirical evidence to suggest that Governments which act in total disregard of the good of their population and dissipate their resources through various means, including corruption, cannot be considered under any reasonable standard to be practicing good governance. As representatives of the people, we should stand firm and hold responsible any political leader or public servant that misuses public resources that are meant for service delivery to our voters. It is the welfare of our voters that will make us relevant in our constituencies, and not our parties.
- Madam Speaker, the victory against corruption needs courageous individuals to stand up, speak out, take risks, and alert the wider society that something wrong is taking place. This may take a toll on our lives, and political survival, but it is worth taking. This Parliament must advocate for penalties that are beyond a mere slap-on-wrist. The penalties must be tough enough to deter anyone bent on corruption or harbouring such motives.
- Madam Speaker, we have to decisively address increasing petty corruption, the perceived growing culture of impunity for grand corruption and pervasive "quiet corruption" - the failure of public servants to deliver goods or services paid for by Governments - such as unchecked absenteeism by teachers and health workers.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, we therefore propose the following measures for adoption by this Parliament:
- Any politician or public official who abuses his/her position for personal gain should be dismissed. We have no right to put public interest at risk by retaining those who treat public office as a tool for enrichment;
- Unlawfully acquired personal assets must be confiscated and auctioned publicly, to recover the funds;
- Heavier fines and/or sentences be imposed for corruption;
- Speed-up pre-trial investigations and judicial proceedings by adequately funding anti-corruption agencies;
- Parliament and its Appointments Committee should not pass any politician and/or public official involved in any corruption scandal to occupy any political or public office unless he/she has been cleared by a competent Court of Law; and
- Parliament should as a matter of urgency consider and enact the long awaited Anti-Money Laundering Legislation.
The Social Sector
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, education and health are key components of both economic and human development. It is a common agreement worldwide that for any community to develop, its members must be educated. It is also widely accepted that for human beings to be economically productive, they must be mentally and physically healthy. Provision of quality education and health systems facilitates and promotes people's participation in, and enjoyment of the benefits accruing from the economic activity.
- Madam Speaker, the crucial role education and health play in the overall development of a nation cannot be overemphasized. While education is widely accepted as a leading instrument for promoting economic growth, a healthy population is an engine for economic growth. Education leads to good health which is a prerequisite to the development of any household, community or country as it translates into increased enrolment and better performance in school and high labour productivity. Despite its importance, health and education have in the last decade taken a heavy beating from the Executive in terms of budgetary allocations. Whereas the number of hospitals, health centers, schools and universities has increased, the quality has sharply declined.
- Madam Speaker, the importance of good health is summarized in a popular saying, "the wealth of a nation is the health of its people". Indeed, everyone knows that the state of one's health is at the very core of one's existence, whether it involves an individual or nation. However, our health care system at present remains characterized by under investment, insufficient numbers of trained health workers, poor pay, insufficient drugs, very poor and inadequate health infrastructure and ill equipped health facilities.
- Madam Speaker, for the last 10 years, the Government of Uganda's budgetary allocation to the health sector has stagnated over time as a percentage of Government's total discretionary expenditure. As a result, the Uganda public health system continues to suffer from shortage of medicines, lack of health equipment and supplies, shortage and poor remuneration of health workers, and services that are not affordable to many poor persons.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, most of the facilities available in most public hospitals are in a sorry state with indicators such as the number of medical workers in health centres and availability of essential medicine wanting. The few able patients flown out of the country for medical procedures sometimes end up in the hands of Ugandan doctors who have gone abroad for greener pastures due to low pay at home. This means that the scarce foreign exchange which is a direct cost to the tax payer is spent abroad on a few patients most of whom are the well placed politicians and the civil servants paid for by Government.
- Madam Speaker, the quality of health services in Uganda is wanting and a lot needs to be done. Indicators related to maternal mortality such as antenatal care coverage, delivery in health facilities, and medical assistance at delivery have progressed only marginally, with maternal mortality in Uganda remaining among the highest in the world, due to the high fertility and poor pre- and post-natal care.
- Madam Speaker, the Health sector continues to experience workforce challenges arising from numbers, skill shortages and motivational deficiency factors. Medical workers remain grossly underpaid with a Graduate Medical Officer in a public health facility in Rwanda and Kenya earning about 4 times more than his/her Ugandan counterparts. This is what has led to a higher doctor-patient ratio.
- Madam Speaker, free heath care in Uganda only exists in principle but not in practice. In most hospitals and health centres, there are frequent drug stock outs, health personnel are sometimes unavailable and lack of basic equipment and services are inadequate and unavailable. The initial gains in the HIV/AIDS control have since been reversed because ARV outages are very common, raising a very big threat of drug resistance. This coupled with inadequate infrastructure, staff shortage, low remuneration and general mismanagement leaves free health service only a wish. As a result, most Ugandans are sick, yet the country boasts of many health centers.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, in most rural areas, low staff morale, absenteeism, staff attrition due to poor salary and poor support and supervision of health workers have remained critical constraints. For example, most health centres are run by nursing aides who also do not work on certain days, especially weekends. In most cases, the patients are only given prescriptions and told to go and buy drugs elsewhere. This is what has particularly contributed to high levels on maternal mortality because most mothers (61%) do not deliver in these facilities and end up with traditional methods of delivery in the villages, with the attendant risks.
- Madam Speaker, last year, the President reported cases of district health officials having 'ghost' health centres which receive drugs and directed the Inspector General of Police to investigate and prosecute all these. This scare ended up with the address, and that was it. In the same vein, this address also has nothing new to offer in terms of health care. The Committee set up to investigate the health sector has only been heard of in the press but Ugandans have not seen the fruits.
- The only way to revamp the health sector is to increase the funding to meet the minimum health care package. We propose:
- Increase in the health expenditure to the threshold of 15% as agreed upon by the African Leaders in the Abuja Declaration of 2001;
- Funding of the health sector should be the priority and duty of Government whose constitutional responsibility is to provide health to its citizens and should not be left to the Donors.
- Review of the salaries and wages of health workers to make them competitive with their counterparts in the region;
- Training and recruiting more health workers to be deployed in the various health centers; and
- Procurement of adequate equipment to the Health Centers which have become white elephants.
- Madam Speaker, education is not only seen as a key to poverty reduction and a vehicle for promoting equity, fairness and social justice but also helps to supply the essential human or social capital which is a necessary condition for sustained economic growth. However, it remains under-funded at higher levels leaving a burden to the majority poor. In addition, the curriculum has not been adequately addressed and as a result, our tertiary institutions end up producing functionally illiterate graduates who are only job seekers and not job makers. This has to be addressed to make education more meaningful.
- Madam Speaker, while it is a fact that the introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) resulted in a huge increase in enrolment, completion rates remain worrying. The trend of completion rates reported by the Ministry of Education and Sports revealed a rate below 50% in the academic years 2006, 2007 and 2008 and 52% and 54% in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
- Madam Speaker, analysis of the Primary Leaving Examination performance reveals that from 2006 to 2010, the number of pupils who failed to get a PLE certificate is more than those who passed in Division 1, and on average, 24,000 pupils do not sit exams, yet Government pays examination fees for them.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, we believe this miserable performance is caused by the unrealistic funding of the UPE program and poor planning which leads to delayed release of funds. It is surprising that Government continues to budget and release on Shs. 450 per pupil per month, implying that each pupil gets Shs. 1,350 per term. This amount is not even enough to buy half a kilogram of sugar. Even then, release of this amount to primary schools is delayed disrupting the timely implementation of school activities.
- Hon Speaker, like the health sector, education is also hit by low staff morale, absenteeism and staff attrition due to poor salary and poor inspection in schools. While we support the President's target of improving the pupil teacher ratio of 56:1 in all Government schools, we believe this will remain a dream as long as teacher's morale remains unattended to. This was recently put to test when immediately after the President's Speech, the Primary Teachers Colleges (PTCs) and National Teachers Colleges (NTCs) closed due to limited funding.
- Madam Speaker, the implementation of the Universal Secondary Education (USE) is also facing a dilemma due to limited funding. The Secondary Schools currently implementing the USE program are hard up due to limited funding to meet the rising costs of food prices in the country. As a result, most private schools such as those founded by religious bodies are threatening to pull out of the program, and this may affect its implementation.
- Madam Speaker, we therefore propose that:
- 20% of our National Budget be dedicated to education, as opposed to the current 4.4%
- Government provides teachers houses and increase the number of classrooms;
- The salaries of teachers in both Primary and Secondary Schools should be reviewed to match the rising cost of living;
- There should be constant monitoring and supervision of the UPE and USE programs by both the Center and Districts to improve on the quality of the graduates;
- The Student Loans Scheme be immediately introduced to assist students from poor families attain higher education; and
- The Curriculum is immediately revised to create functionally literate graduates.
The Petroleum Sector
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, last year, the President reported that Government had put in place a National Oil and Gas Policy to provide the guiding principles in the petroleum value chain and institutional framework for prudent management of resources and the revenues accruing from production. He further reported that two Petroleum legislations namely; the Resource Management and Revenue Management were being prepared to operationalize the policy. In our response, then, we criticized the way Government had connived with oil companies to keep the Production Sharing Agreements secret and how it came up with a National Oil and Gas Policy without adequate consultation with all stakeholders.
- Madam Speaker, while the President reported about the progress in the oil exploration, he avoided to report on the progress about the legislations. In the budget speech, the Minister of Finance said Government was still finalizing the appropriate legal and institutional framework for resource and revenue management for presentation to Parliament. Our concern is that Government continues to award contracts without the relevant laws and manage the oil sector as if it is personal. Indeed, the oil resource may turn into a curse due to poor production management, inefficient exploration, corruption and the likelihood of becoming a single sector economy.
- Madam Speaker, the President laboured to demonstrate that fuel prices in Uganda were comparable with those of Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Sudan. However, he avoided giving the Nation a comparison of the salaries and standards of living of the people in these countries. For example, a medical doctor in Kenya and Rwanda earns 4 times than a doctor in Uganda. A primary school teacher in Rwanda is better paid than ours in Uganda. These are therefore more able to pay the high fuel prices. Rwanda even went further and reduced taxes on all petroleum products. Therefore to compare the fuel prices with those in our neighbouring countries without regard to salary levels and standards of living would be grossly misleading.
- Madam Speaker, in order to properly manage both the oil resource and revenue, we therefore propose that:
- Resource Management and Revenue Management Legislations are tabled in Parliament as a matter of urgency;
- Reduction of tariffs on petroleum products;
- The Production Sharing Agreements are made Public, debated and lessons drawn from other countries; and
- Use of a multi-sectoral approach involving all stakeholders such as Parliament, the Civil Society and the Media, to ensure transparency in oil management.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, in his address of June 2010, the President said most of the talk about our storage tanks in Jinja was speculative and not based on facts and that Government had never lost interest in the storage tanks, whose capacity of 30 million litres exists to hold national strategic reserves. He further said the facility was only temporarily closed to enable its refurbishment. This year, the same President says the tanks, which act as the national strategic fuel reserves, are being refurbished and will be restocked under a Public-Private Partnership initiative.
- Madam Speaker, George Orwell once wrote that; "In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act". Based on this contradictory information, we would like to know how temporary these reserves will be closed, whether Government still has interest in the reserves and whether it is true that the reserves were sold. The information should be comprehensive to include all the reserves constructed by President Amin such as those in Nakasongola. We would also like to know the whereabouts of the stock of fuel that was in the reserve tanks that has since disappeared.
- Madam Speaker, Government efforts to improve and maintain the road network as primary for development is commendable. However, the poor quality of works, value – for - money, delay in completion of contracts, poor absorption capacity of the funds allocated to the sector and poor management of traffic remains a problem. The other serious problem is the poor management of the contracts by the technical arm of Government.
- Madam Speaker and colleagues, up to 30 per cent of the urban roads in Kampala and major municipalities can be categorized in poor state, while the entire additional 10,000km of district roads upgraded to national status in July 2009 are beyond any meaningful maintenance, requiring substantial injection of funds. It is the condition of our infrastructure that has tremendously contributed to the low level of our competitiveness in the region.
- Madam Speaker, in our response last year, we pointed out that Government had failed to implement the pledges made yet funds were appropriated. These include among others the purchase of the district road equipments, the construction of the Ntungamo aerodrome and rehabilitation of Kasese airfield. We further pointed out the need for rehabilitating our rail and water transport system to reduce the cost of transportation which is exorbitant on the roads. The only thing Government is doing is to continue to promise and undertake studies about the rail sector. In our view, Government is just buying time and will never fulfill the pledges. These same pledges have again been made this year and we should expect more next year.
- Madam Speaker, we propose the following:
- The Traffic Management Plan of Kampala be quickly availed and revisited;
- All the access roads and walk ways be worked on;
- Revamp the railway lines Kampala – Tororo - Pakwach and Kampala - Kasese;
- Road maintenance equipment be procured immediately; and
- Report on the review of the concession of Rift Valley Railways(RVR)
Regional and International Matters
- Madam Speaker, in his address, President Museveni concentrated on the East African Community and avoided other areas of serious concern yet our country was attacked by the Al Shabaab terrorists last year. Our support for the parliamentary resolution to send our troops to Somalia was based on the understanding that other African Nations would contribute forces. However, it is now apparent that the burden has been left to Uganda and Burundi. There are no regular and transparent reports on the state of our missions.
- Madam Speaker, we have noticed that there is deliberate over emphasis on the political federation of East Africa, sometimes over shadowing economic integration objectives, which were the main intent of Member States. We believe this may attract resistance from other partners and derail us from the core objective. Further, a political federation is only possible where cooperating States see the need to harmonize matters of political principle enshrined in their Constitutions. For example, while other members have Presidential term limits, Uganda has open ended terms. How can we have a political federation when we have divergent political principles?
- Madam Speaker, many developments have taken place in North Africa and the Middle East but the President evaded commenting on these. In addition, this Government does not have a policy on the repatriation of Ugandans who are caught up in war zones and other unforeseen catastrophes, like the earthquake, which triggered off Tsunami which damaged the nuclear reactor in Japan.
- Madam Speaker, we would like to know our foreign policy on the Middle East and what Government thinks about the Developments in North Africa. We also want to know the fate of Ugandan nationals in North Africa and Japan as other responsible Governments repatriated their nationals out of these danger zones leaving Ugandans to fend for themselves. These people play a great role in bringing in the country the much needed Foreign Exchange and therefore Government should reciprocate as a gesture for the contribution to our economy by these "Nkuba Kyeyos" and as a sense of national responsibility.
- Madam Speaker, the Southern Sudan is getting her independence next week, but the situation therein is potentially explosive. However, our foreign policy concerning the situation in Southern Sudan appears to have been kept secret and personalized. There is also a lot of speculation about General Salim Saleh's presence in West Nile. We want a clear national policy regarding the situation in Southern Sudan.
- Madam Speaker, today, Ugandans holding the red passports don't enjoy the respect these passports carry because many wrong doers who are involved in drug trafficking and international money laundering carry red passports. This is what has at least been found out with those arrested in London and Kenya. As a result, many countries no longer respect some of our dignitaries and Government has not come out to address this problem.
- Madam Speaker, the state of our Missions abroad leaves a lot to be desired. Most of the buildings constructed under President Amin's Government are in a deplorable state and many cities around the World have called on Uganda to address the problem but this Government has done nothing at all. In addition, most of our Missions abroad have become a dumping place for political failures. This has not only affected the performance of our Missions but has also demoralized career diplomats in these Missions.
- Madam Speaker, we propose the following:
- Parliament is urgently briefed about the situation in Somalia and the contributions of other African states to enable us review our position.
- Uganda should insist on a wider AU participation, preferably from Islamic countries.
- Government informs Parliament on the steps being taken to rescue Ugandans caught in the war zone and areas affected by other catastrophes.
- Government should urgently refurbish our Missions abroad to rescue the tarnished image of our country.
- Slow down agitation for a political federation until we get economic integration right and until we harmonize the political principles in our Constitutions to fast track the political federation; and
- At least 50% of the positions of head of Missions should be occupied by career diplomats to improve on the performance.
Financing of Local Governments
- Madam Speaker, for the last five years, the Opposition has been questioning the rationale of the 20% budgetary allocation to Local Governments where the majority of our citizens live. These Local Governments are already facing increasing financial pressure and are unable to meet their expanded and diversified roles because they do not have any direct revenue raising opportunities. To perform well, Local Governments should be allowed to form their own Regional Governments, and left to manage their own resources, leaving the Central Government with core functions of defense, security, immigration and foreign affairs.
- Madam Speaker, Local Governments do not have a good revenue base yet Government is behaving as a donor to them. In FY 2011/12, the Local Governments have only been allocated 19% which is not enough to improve service delivery. In addition, the number of conflicts in the Local Governments between the Chairpersons, RDCs and CAOs and the civil society are on the increase and stifling service delivery. All these have to be addressed if we are to improve the welfare of the citizens. We propose that:
- The allocation to Local Governments is increased to at least 40% of the National Budget;
- Increase the revenue base of the Local Governments by delegating some of the taxes to them; and
- Harmonize the Local Government Act to solve the conflicts in the Local Governments;
- Formation of Regional Governments which should be empowered to manage their own resources.
Justice, Law and Order
- Madam Speaker, the President says Government is committed to the Rule of Law, and praises himself for establishment of specialized Police units and a few cases in Court which have been disposed off. However, the Rule of Law is more about guaranteeing people's freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution rather than just establishment and equipping of terror units.
- We expected H.E. the President to update the Nation on last year's promise of improving the welfare of security personnel and their families, to commit that Courts of Law will be allowed to operate independently, that the IGG and DPP will be allowed to operate uninfluenced, and that the Prisons service would be supported, rather than attacked in various ways, such as land grabbing by Government and its agents. No one values and cares about prisoners anymore, and this attitude must stop.
- Madam Speaker, matters of land in Uganda have never been resolved mainly because of lack of a comprehensive policy and greed. We had hoped that, upon promulgation of the Constitution, Government would immediately carry out adequate consultations that would result in formulation of the National Land Policy and consequent laws to operationalize the policy. That is how things are done in organized Governments. Instead, our Government moved in haste and in reverse order to enact laws before a land policy. The consequence is that the Land Act and its subsequent amendments cannot be implemented because there was no foundation in form of a policy, for the Law. We therefore propose that:
- Adequate Consultations are made to come up with a harmonized National Land Policy;
- Halt the rampant Land give –away until the Policy is in place to guide on land use; and
- Revision of the Land Act to conform and operationalize the National land Policy.
- Madam Speaker, throughout my term as a Leader of Opposition, we intend to seek out, consult, listen and understand before we engage on issues. I hope our colleagues in Government will not simply stifle valid criticism, scrutiny or examination but will listen to our reason.
- We hope they will positively view our legitimate way of looking at issues because we are partners. We pledge to focus engagement around issues aimed at addressing the needs of the citizenry for positive development.
- Madam Speaker, this country is ours and we should not allow it to sink. It should be anchored on our good intentions and actions because we shall all be answerable individually and collectively. We shall continue knocking at the door of the Leader of Government Business for an update on promise made in this address and the Budget.
- The Committee of Government Assurances will follow up on all the promises made and will periodically be reporting to this House. We request Hon Members to always give these reports the most deserved attention for the good and welfare of our citizens.
I thank you for your kind attention.