Tourism, Agriculture get row deal in 2017/2018 Budget

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The Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development is set to read the National Budget today. The 2017/2018 Budget has three key messages in its theme – Industrialisation for Job Creation and Shared Prosperity.

Out of the Shs29 trillion budget, Shs17.4 trillion will cater for recurrent expenditure, Shs11.5 trillion for service development expenditure, a chunk of which will be for infrastructure under the Uganda National Roads Authority.

The 2017/18 Budget allocation framework paper revealed unfunded priorities that the ministries had presented for consideration by Parliament and wanted increments in the their budget requisitions.

However, instead they received budget cuts for their sectoral following President Museveni’s directive to take at least 10 per cent off every sector’s share in order to raise counterpart funding for oil roads.

The government has planned a Shs2 trillion infrastructure project to support oil production in the Albertine Graben.

However, some technocrats have claimed the fund allocations do not reflect the aspirations of the budget.

In an interview, Budget Policy Specialist for Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group, Mr David Walakira, told Daily Monitor that the government should have invested more funds in agriculture given that it employs the majority of the population.

“With the current food crisis and high food crop inflation relative to inflation of other categories of commodities, increased investment (to at least 5 per cent of the Budget from the current 3.1 per cent) would bolster people’s livelihood and avert a repeat of the current food crisis. Though seedlings are channelled through Operation Wealth Creation Secretariat, the Secretariat is constrained in terms of technical capacity to handle agricultural extension services,” Mr Walakira said.

He said owing to the outbreak of pests like the army fall worm, it would have been have been logical to recruit extension workers to at least 78 per cent of the required staffing levels to address such issues instead of relying on ad hoc mechanism. He urged the government to take agriculture as a priority not only in policy documents but annual budget appropriations to foster national development.
“I would also prefer more funding to the Social Development Sector. Particularly the Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment and Youth Livelihood Programme should have been targets in the face of decreasing living standards of the senior citizens and high rates of youth unemployment,” he said.

Census report
The Uganda National Census report 2014 says 68 per cent of Ugandans are employed in subsistence agriculture.

Experts say that in the 2017/18 Budget, Agriculture has been allocated only 3.8 per cent of the Budget (Shs828 billion) while Tourism, Trade and Industry got only Shs116 billion (0.5 per cent of the Budget) yet these are key sectors for spurring job creation and industralisation.

According to the background to the Budget 2017/18, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries sectors accounted for 25 per cent of total Budget of 2016/17 and grew by 1.3 per cent, lower than 2.8 per cent in the previous year.

Drought factor
The slump in the Agriculture sector growth was occasioned by the prolonged drought that hit many parts of the country last year.

Growth in cash crops declined by 0.4 per cent in 2016/17 compared to 7.9 per cent recorded in 2015/16.
Forestry, fishing and livestock posted slower growth of 1.2 per cent; 2.4 per cent and 1.6 per cent in 2016/17 respectively compared to 4.7 per cent, 4.8 per cent and 2.8 per cent in the same order in 2015/16.
Livestock activities were hampered by the drought that affected cattle farming regions.

The report further says the economy is estimated to have grown by 3.9 per cent during 2016/17, lower than 4.7 per cent recorded in the previous year.

The decline in growth was attributed to a marginal increase in the budgets for agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors and the prolonged drought across the country.

The report observes that the money was not enough to contain the drought effects.

In the 2016/17 financial year, industry and services sectors collectively accounted for 75 per cent of total production, performing better than agriculture.

The industry and services sectors grew at 3.4 per cent and 5.1 per cent respectively.

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