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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Science and Technology get overwhelming funds in Uganda 2013/14

By Esther Nakkazi

Science, Technology and Innovations together with ICT (Information Communication Technology), overall, received a big share of the 2013/14 budget. Although the total amounts cannot be specified because most of it is in particular sector funding, the budget has commitment to fund STI.

“In the next year, Government will continue to support Scientific and Technological innovation to drive value addition, increase our competitiveness in the global market and create employment among other benefits,” said Maria Kiwanuka, the minister of Finance while reading the budget speech on 13th June at Serena Hotel, Kampala.

At the Budget reading, Kiwanuka also announced setting up Information Technology Parks to host Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) that helped create jobs in the last financial year ending this June. It will also set up ICT service companies and fully serviced Industrial and Information Technology (IT) parks in various regions of the country over the medium term.

Kiwanuka also promised students loans for science students who are privately-sponsored at University and Tertiary institutions to further equip them with skills and grow the numbers of science students and eventually scientists.  Last year, increment of salaries of doctors were announced further showing government commitment to improve science and keep scientists at home but most of them have expressed disappointment that this has not been implemented. This year, science teachers will get more money.

Science, Technology and Innovations are among Uganda’s priorities, spelt out in the five-year National Development Plan (NDP) with the theme: Growth, Employment and Socio-economic Transformation for Prosperity” 2010/11 – 2014/15.

Now, experts say that prioritising science is a good plan for Uganda’s development.

“It puts us at ease that the key priorities of this year’s budget match those of the National Development Plan. Investing in science is the right path to development,” said Dr. John Ssekamatte-Ssebuliba, the head of social sector planning at National Planning Authority (NPA).

Other priority areas that got big funds from the budget include infrastructure, energy, security, public administration which got the bulk of the budget funds. Although, there were murmurs on why so much was allocated to security, but President Yoweri Museveni has emphasized many times that national security is a key priority for Uganda.

Another disappointment was agriculture, which employs 70 percent of the Uganda population it only received 13% of the total budget.

“There is no clear strategy in developing agriculture,” said Everest Kayondo, Chairman Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA). He said although Agro-processing is what can be funded more to compete with Uganda’s neighbors, the agriculture sector got only 13% funding of the budget. 

“You are providing security for people who are dying. Should we buy guns or medicine? What should we invest in more –provide security for people who are dying?” asked John Mutenyu a senior economist at the school of Economics, Makerere University.

The total resource envelope for Uganda in the next financial year,  are projected to amount to Shs 13,169bn but 81.1% will be financed from Domestic sources to the tune of Shs 10,509bn and the rest by the donor community.

“When over 80% of the budget is funded by Ugandans, we shall have better accountability and Ugandans will want to see Ugandan money at work. There will be more vigilance in people demanding for accountability,” said Dr. Fred Matovu, a senior economist at Makerere University.

“This gives us freedom to align expenditures to our priorities. People in government were more accountable to donors before now they will answer to local tax payers,” said Matovu.

But the Minister also announced an increase in excise duty of kerosene by 200 shillings per litre to discourage the practice of adulterating diesel by mixing it with kerosene. This measure is expected to raise about Shs. 15 billion.

“The increased taxes on Kerosene will increase maternal mortality because some health centers in rural areas use kerosene to deliver babies. Mothers have to go with their own Kerosene to give birth,” said Dr. Edward Babale an economist from the College of Business and Management Sciences, Makerere University, Uganda.

“Many diseases are from contaminated water but they are pushing people away from clean water. The biggest problem with domestic water supply is the wastages and water are losses,” said Bbaale while commenting about the increase in domestic water taxes.

The Financial Year 2013/14 Budget, like the one last year, focuses on translating the Government’s strategic priorities into practice over the next twelve months. “The Journey Continues: Towards Socio-Economic Transformation for Uganda”.  

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