Government has been urged to rethink the huge spending on infrastructure. This and more were outcomes of the submissions made during the dialogue on financing for social services held on February 19, 2019 at Hotel Africana.

Themed “Rethinking the balance between economic and social sector allocations" Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) organized the dialogue in union with UNICEF Uganda.

Many experts who either participated as panelists or keynote speakers argued that Uganda still has the significant portion of the population that is in dire need of basic social services.

In the recent past, proponents of economic infrastructure investments argued that roads and energy would boost private sector growth and that of the whole economy under the private sector led model.

Similarly, last year’s government focus on economic infrastructure development was seen as a pathway to lower the cost of doing business particularly transport and electricity.

A section of development planners and commentators suggested that without increased infrastructure, financing social sectors such as health and education cannot be sustained.

While partaking in the dialogue as a panelist, Joseph Enyimu, the Acting Commissioner Economic Development Policy & Research, Ministry of Finance maintained the above stance.

Public Budget Dialogue

Enyimu noted that the dichotomy between economic and social sectors is artificial and the two have to work hand in hand. “Social and economic investments are complimentary; we cannot talk about modernizing healthcare without addressing the issue of energy or road access to health centers,” he said.

However, Ibrahim Kasirye, the Director Research EPRC says that Uganda lags behind in almost all the results envisaged in the NDPII. Examples cited include; increasing per capita income from USD 788 to USD 1,033, increasing GDP growth rate from 5.2 to 6.3, reducing poverty rate from 19.7 percent to 14.2 percent, increasing access to safe water from 65 percent to 79 percent in rural areas and from 77 percent to 100 percent in urban areas.

The latest estimates have put poverty at 21.4 percent while water coverage was 70 percent in rural areas and 77 percent in urban areas as of June 2018.
He called for the need to build and strengthen systems and capacities of all social services to contribute effectively to development. “By investing appropriately in social services like health, nutrition, education, water and sanitation among others Uganda could reduce multiple deprivations experienced by tens of thousands of her population,” Kasirye said.

According to the UNICEF’s Deputy Representative to Uganda, Noreen Prendiville, the Ugandan economy grew by 6.1 percent in FY2017/18 but social indicators show mixed progress. She noted that literacy and numeracy improved until 2010 but have stagnated since.

She added that primary education completion rates have declined and that improvement in child and maternal mortality rates are visibly slowing down.
Prendiville called for good quality education that instills competency for better employment given that an estimated 600,000-700,000 individuals enter the Ugandan labour market every year.

The IMF Resident Representative to Uganda Clara Mira shared the same line of thought. Mira argued that the current focus on economic growth and infrastructure development has not translated into matching social outcomes. She warned that if Uganda does not invest in its children now, it may be too late to do so later.
A careful analysis of views and opinions aired during the dialogue reveals that achieving more inclusive growth calls for reversal of the trend towards reduced budget allocations to social sectors.

 

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