Economists speak as Kasaija reads budget today

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Julius Mukunda and Richard Byarugaba at the NTV dialogue

Finance minister Hon Matia Kasaija will today, Thursday deliver the National Budget Speech at Serena Conference Centre in Kampala at 2pm.

The approved budget estimate this FY 2018/2020 is approximately 41UGX trillion.

On Wednesday night, NTV held a pre-budget dialogue at the Kampala Serena Conference Centre, Katonga Hall to gauge expectations of the budget of the financial year 2019/2020.

The Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Patrick Ocailap, said at the dialogue: “the more we export, the better we become at servicing our external debt.”

Patrick Ocailap

Ocailap said instead of crying out on poverty levels, “let us rather think about what each one of us has done that improves the economy in one way or the other”.

State Minister of Finance for Planning David Bahati said domestic revenue will finance Shs19.6tn of the Shs40tn budget.

Government plans to use the Domestic Revenue Mobilisation Strategy to finance its budget for FY 2019/20.

The panelists

“We tried to give tax incentives a few years ago depending on how the investors came and the public started asking why some should be exempted and not the others,” Bahati said at the dialogue.

UBOS Statistics have not been interfered with for the last 33 years and not just 10 years as the statistics boss said earlier on and that is why all the figures depicting growth and development should be believed and trusted, Bahati explained.

According to National Social Security Fund [NSSF] Managing Director, Richard Byarugaba, NSSF funds have grown between 20%-25% over the last few years largely due to growth of salaries and investment of funds and not because of growth in jobs.

Minister Kasaija

He also notes that one of the biggest problems he has is that investment opportunities are low.

“For us to be able to collect enough resources for shared prosperity, it would call for us to look at what taxes we are collecting. Let us avoid regressive taxes which make it seem like we are targeting the poor ones more,” said Julius Mukunda from Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group [CSBAG].

Mukunda has applauded Uganda Revenue Authority [URA] projection to collect revenue of close to Shs2 trillion in FY 2019/20.

Dr Patrick Birungi

He said there is need to mainstream salaries in public service.

“A driver in one Government agency shouldn’t earn more than a director in another government agency. Uganda loses approximately UGX 1.4 trillion in tax exemptions.”

Dr. Patrick Birungi said 68% of the population is poor citing need to help them find income to spend “so that we stop them from thinking about only procreating when the sun goes down”.

Patrick Bitonder Birungi, a Ugandan economist, academic and corporate executive, who serves as the executive director of Uganda Development Corporation, said that is one of the biggest challenges that Uganda has today.

“I want to assure the public that the numbers are produced following international standards and I want to ask the public to trust that whatever will be read tomorrow are the right budget figures.”

Joseph Muvawala

Dr. Joseph Muvawala, the Katikkiro of Busoga Kingdom, said exemptions are not necessarily bad “if we use them well and also, develop a performance related system for them”.

“Our researchers should tell us the cost and benefit of these exemptions so we can know if they are working or not.”

“When you start using 20% of your budget to pay debts and then you are struggling to improve the health care and everything, it becomes confusing when you turn around and say the debt is still under control,” pointed out Fred Muhumua, Economist.

NTV GM Omolo

NTV General Manager Johnson Omolo said they are used to having discussions after the budget has been read “but we realised it is important to break it down so that it is easily understood when it is read and that is why as NTV, we decided to take on this dialogue”.

He added: “Me and my team are happy to have another dialogue about infrastructure bonding but also, we are committed to engaging more in discussions that will help in developing our economy.”

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