Minutes after Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka presented the 2013/2014 budget that raised more taxes to bridge the revenue shortfall created by donor aid cuts, President Museveni criticised the donors’ action as high-handed.
Last October, donors cut “direct financial aid” to Uganda, angry, in part at the rampant corruption in government departments more so in the Office of the Prime Minister, OPM, and ministry of Public Service where billions of shillings went missing.
“They withdrew their support because of misunderstanding each other’s work methods … cases of corruption in the Office of the Prime Minister and the public service were discovered by NRM sympathizers and the police,” he said, underplaying the role of the auditor general in detecting the corruption scandals.
He said this in the presence of the EU head of delegation in the country, Roberto Ridolfi. Ridolfi later told The Observer that aid cuts were prompted by government’s breach of their partnership agreement.
“There are issues we agreed upon, and when they diverted from the agreement, the member partners decided to cut-off aid, but with fresh commitment from the government of Uganda, the aid was re-instated,” he said.
Museveni said, however, that despite the aid cuts, the economy grew by 5.1 per cent while inflation also came down to 3.6 per cent from more than 30 per cent in 2011.
“It is our internal weaknesses that need to be addressed, we don’t need to bother ourselves with the outsiders [donors],” the president told parliament.
He also explained that the country had a lot of opportunities for investments, stressing how some donors were willing to fund electricity generation at Karuma, Isimba and Ayago, among others. He acknowledged that Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is lower than a single South Korean company Samsung. He blamed the slow economic growth on “some bad elements” in leadership, some of whom he said are within his ruling NRM.
He stressed the role of electricity in the development of the manufacturing sector. He noted that between 2000 and 2005, when the country had relatively enough electricity, the manufacturing sector grew by nine per cent and between 2005 and2009, when there was blackouts, the country’s manufacturing sector grew at seven per cent, a decline of two per cent.
He also noted that electricity is essential in creating jobs and income. He said electricity would reduce the rate of environmental degradation, revealing that 40 billion cubic metres of trees are destroyed annually for wood fuel, while many wetlands have been reclaimed for agriculture, something he said is fuelling desertification.
“Our scientists have told us that 40 per cent of rain comes from local moisture [forests and wetlands], that is why Acholi and West Nile receive more rains than Karamoja because of forests in South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo,” Museveni said.
Museveni’s 30-minute speech was greatly interrupted specifically by opposition MPs who kept challenging his figures and his promise to fight corruption.
“I hope courts will punish severely, those found guilty [of corruption]” Museveni said before legislators interjected, asking him whether Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi would be among those to be charged.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga had earlier urged MPs to be respectful to the president during his speech.
“Honourable members, I want to draw your attention to Rule 110(4) of our rules of procedure. This is Parliament, and the rule provides that the Head of State must be heard in silence,” Kadaga told the MPs.
She also urged them not to brandish the protest placards they carried purposely to Serena International Conference Centre. But her warning fell on deaf ears. As the president resumed his seat, opposition MPs displayed the placards carrying various protest messages against the president.
Source: The Observer (Kampala)