Lillian Najjuma and Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa
The Monitor (Kampala)
May 13, 2005
Uganda’s external debt increased over the last ten years from $3 billion in 1994 to $4.5 billion in 2004.
According to a document from Uganda Debt Network (UDN) released on Monday, the indebtedness affects Uganda’s development and expenditure for essential services.
“The odious debt is hampering our rate of development and expenditure on essential services for poverty-reducing sectors such as primary education, primary health care, water and sanitation, agricultural extension and rural roads,” the document says.
It adds, “Foreign aid and national resources have been squandered, wasted and invested in the private ventures of corrupt leaders and managers that do not take into account the interest of the common, poor Ugandans.”
UDN’s reaction came in the wake of government proposal to purchase luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles for its ministers to sail over the poor road in the country. The Prime Minister, Prof. Apollo Nsibambi, last month announced that the government was to upgrade ministers’ transport from the current Toyota Prados to the new generation of Toyota land cruiser vehicles.
“The leaders we have elected to lead us are not creating wealth for the country but are depleting its resources; How would the purchase of Land Cruisers help us overcome the biting poverty, avert the spiraling debt and eliminate other encumbrances to development?” UDN asked.
UDN maintains: “The government is extravagant with taxpayers’ money. The growing culture of wastage of public resources should be halted and government [should] save the resources mobilized from the donors and taxpayers and use them to improve the livelihoods of the vulnerable and especially those in war-torn areas such as Northern Uganda.”
It said giving ministers such vehicles was neither a priority of government nor desirable by Ugandans. “Our leaders should be thinking of a broader and more comprehensive approach to economic policy and development than the lavish style for their enjoyment,” said the statement.
UDN reveals that Uganda’s indicators point to 6.7% of roads paved; thus the larger percentage of our roads remain in a bad state despite the government’s continued spending on road maintenance.
It says Uganda’s poverty indicators present a miserable picture of an impoverished nation that cannot afford a decent living and survival for its population. Thirty-eight percent of the total population of Uganda lives below the poverty line; the under-5 mortality rate (per 1,000 children) is 140; and only 56% have access to clean water while only 53% have access to sanitation.
UDN says that Uganda’s poverty levels vary according to gender and location, with the poor facing hurdles like insecurity, unemployment, poor governance, inability to meet basic needs and high expenditure on medical care, feeding and schooling.
“The above startling figures indicate that our leaders owe a lot to their impoverished people. We expect our leaders to provide a mechanism for linking the needs of the poor to the policy formulation processes,” said UDN, adding, “There is growing evidence that the poor have received limited benefits from Uganda’s macro-economic growth and stability.”
The UDN said government expenditure overshoots what the country is capable of generating in terms of GDP, which stands at US$6.3 billion and GDP growth at 4.7% per annum.
Gross Capital Formation (% of GDP) is merely 20.7%, while revenue excluding grants (% of GDP) is a meager 12.2% according to World Development Indicators, April 2005.