Public debt: Parliament defeats Opposition push for a lean government

Opposition MPs want an urgent restructuring of government to curb the rising public expenditure which has resulted into a heavy debt burden on the taxpayer.

In a minority report on the National Budget Framework Paper for 2019/2020-2023/2024 financial years, Butambala MP Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi suggested to Parliament the need to resize government.

“We recommend the reduction on the size of cabinet, administration centres, size of Parliament, privileges of political leaders among others,” Muwanga said.

Muwanga wrote the minority report based on the debt figures with the domestic alone accounting to over Shs 9.5 trillion which has resulted into budget cuts for key critical sectors like Education and Health.

The current national debt stands at Shs 41.3 trillion, which is 41.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.

Next Financial Year, the Health budget will reduce from Shs 2.3 trillion to Shs 2.2 trillion while that of Education will be cut from Shs 2.7 trillion to  Shs 2.6 trillion.

It is upon this that Rukungiri Woman MP Betty Muzanira called for the prioritisation of a National Health Insurance Policy.

“The National Health Insurance should be made a priority in this budget…why is the government not caring about the health of every Ugandan?” Muzanira wondered.

The main report of the  Budget committee which was adopted by Parliament shows a slight growth of the economy from 5.8% last financial year  to 6.1% in the current financial year.

The report attributes the increase to activities of the private sector.

“The rebounding of economic growth has been attributed mainly to increased private sector activity, significant growth in the services sector, recovery in agricultural growth from the previous drought,” committee chairman Amos Lugoloobi said.

The total national budget for 2019/2020 is Shs 34.3 trillion of which, Shs 18.3 trillion will be raised from domestic revenue collections.

MPs recommended for a value for money audit on the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) over a Shs1trillion revenue shortfall experienced in the current financial year which affected government’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework.

The Budget Framework Paper gives locus to the National Budget and the Public Finance Management Act requires that it is approved by the first day of February of the preceding financial year.

It is followed by ministerial policy statements and allocations that set the stage for passing of the Appropriation Act.