Top government officials in the Ministry of Finance gave contradictory views on how to deal with Uganda’s exploding population, serving an insight into how some critical decisions may not win common positions in the ministry.
At the World Bank Open Day held at the Kololo Ceremonial Grounds yesterday, Mr Mark Meassick, the USAID Mission Director Uganda, raised the red flag that Uganda’s population is expected to reach 100 million people by 2050 and inquired what the government was planning for this population blowup.
Uganda’s population is already creating high unemployment levels, the rise in numbers of urban poor and income inequality in the economy.
But during a panel discussion, Mr Keith Muhakanizi, the Secretary to Treasury, said the country’s “politicians and ministers were shy to talk about the population growth.”
“You know my strong views on a subject that politicians do not want to touch. We have to tackle this issue. It is a long-term problem. It cannot be tackled by civil society. If these big guys are shy about it, there is a big problem,” Mr Muhakanizi said.
He said the population problem is manifesting itself in the budgeting process, especially when there are sections of civil servants demanding for salary increments.
He also said capitation grants to UPE schools always seem to be small but because of the increasing population, they eat into the budget restricting further increments.
But Finance minister Matia Kasaija shot back at Mr Muhakanizi remarks, saying the fast population growth was good for Uganda’s economy.
“We need big population. What we should be talking about is the quality of the population. UK has about 60.7 million people and we are the same geographical size. The government is doing some work to improve the quality of the population. We have instituted a programme called UPE,” he said.
Mr Kasaija said the provision of free education is a “revolutionary programme”, noting that when the children educated grow up, they will tend to have fewer children.” He blamed the poor quality of UPE on limited resources.
“There are countries that have controlled their population but now they are looking to import labour because their working population is aging,” Mr Kasaija added.