MPs ask govt to curb foreign retailers

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Members of Parliament have asked government to rein in on the increasing number foreigners, disguised as investors, but engaging in retail and wholesale business.

MPs who were debating a Report of the Committee on Trade on the increasing number of foreign retail and wholesalers in the country expressed discontent in the way foreigners were being let to operate freely while encroaching on sectors that should be a preserve of local citizens.

Parliament passed the Report during the plenary sitting on Tuesday 9th May 2017.

The Committee recommended that the interests of the local citizens are emphasised and that they are encouraged to participate in business, while creating a conducive environment for investors.

Hon. Andrew Baryayanga (Ind., Kabale Munic.) argued that there is need to curb down on foreigners participating in retail and wholesale trade.

“Many of the big shops down in Kikuubo are owned by mostly the Asians especially those of Indian, Pakistani and Chinese decent. I wonder who gave them the trade permits to participate in retail and wholesale,” Baryayanga said.

Hon. Allan Ssewanyana (DP, Makindye West) also said that the foreigners trading in retail and wholesale are negatively affecting the economy in a many ways.

“These people are one of the reasons we have tenants billing in US Dollars, they come and trade and are ready to pay their rent in US Dollars yet the locals cannot handle,” he said adding that “There is a scarcity of US dollars because most of these people repatriate their income in US Dollars to their respective countries of origin.”

Hon. Sam Bitangaro (NRM, Bufumbira South) asked the government to clearly define the term investor and its application in the Investment Code Act.

“The Uganda Investment Authority should not only stop at issuing licenses but they should go ahead to supervise and investigate whether the so-called investors are actually doing what they came to do; otherwise this is a loophole that these people continue to exploit,” said Hon. Bitangaro.

Hon. Tonny Ayoo (NRM, Kwania County) said that the Ministry of Trade should work with the Ministries of Tourism and Internal Affairs to monitor and control foreigners who are supposed to come and build capacity of the locals yet they end up doing what the locals are doing.

“Let us hold the government accountable because there are people within Immigration Department and the Ministry of Trade that take bribes and accept the foreigners to stay,” said Ayoo.

The Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Hon. Amelia Kyambadde (NRM, Mawokota North) said that Cabinet had set up a committee to look into the issues raised before making recommendations.

“The Ministries of Trade, Finance, Tourism, Internal Affairs and Kampala constituted the committee appointed by the Cabinet. It investigated the matter and its recommendations are yet to be discussed by Cabinet,” the Minister said, adding that, “There are proposals to ring-fence jurisdictions of trade for foreigners to participate in and also to define which particular foreigners this issue affects.”

The Speaker, Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga said that the gravity of the matter needs to be handled expeditiously and added that a Report is expected from the Cabinet in the next session of Parliament.

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