In a first, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Hon. Mathias Mpuuga has held an alternative to the government’s 2023/4 budget, finding Shs10 trillion on the revenue side that could be applied in service delivery.
Mpuuga’s alternative budget themed, ‘Rethinking Uganda’s Economy: A Human Rights Approach’, proposed removal of tax holidays and ending exemptions that his Shadow Finance Minister, Hon. Muwanga Kivumbi said would boost available funds for public services.
The 380-page budget also seeks to wage an all-out war on corruption and substitute contract employment for permanence in public service to boost productivity.
Kivumbi said if everyone pays taxes, there will be Shs32 trillion available for discretionary use in the budget away from a ballooning statutory expenditure, as opposed to government’s Shs22 trillion.
“Tax exemptions amount to Shs7.7 trillion; we are saying if we are in government, everyone will pay taxes, just like the poor pay,” he said.
He added that, ’everyone must pay, even those who have; even if it is Parliament, you will pay from your emoluments; if Parliament paid, we would have Shs100 billion in taxes; the councilors pay taxes, your drivers also pay taxes’.
People serving in the armed forces at senior positions, he said, will also pay taxes, ‘to exhibit a high sense of patriotism’.
The Opposition promised to slash expenditure on security, saying theirs will be a government keen on investing in diplomacy, which Kivumbi said is cheaper.
“You cannot spend that much money on security; stop war mongering, encourage democratic governance in our neighborhood than war mongering…it is cheaper,” he said.
Mpuuga, on his part, criticized government’s handling of the current raging inflation saying it has adopted a solution that has ended up inflicting more pain on the poor than alleviating their suffering.
“The country is facing structural inflation and you do not invoke the kind of response that the government is employing; the people are broke, the kind of inflation we have is not because there is too much money in circulation competing for few commodities,” he said.
Instead, the LoP traced the inflation to a balance of trade payment which is the assessment of what a country exports against what it imports, saying production of commodities imported by Uganda has been slow, and that this is causing ‘imported inflation’.
He cited the vast iron ores in South Western Uganda, which he said if harnessed, could transform the country into an exporter of iron products in the entire Sub Saharan Africa.
Mpuuga criticized tax exemptions, which he said is responsible for troublingly low revenue collections pushing government’s borrowing hand across the Atlantic to donors.
The Opposition proposed the allocation of Shs2.9 trillion to the health sector, which Mpuuga said is yet to recover from the ravages of Covid-19.
“Uganda’s health indicators remain unsatisfactory and disparities continue to exist across the country. The Covid-19 pandemic has strained health systems and disrupted essential health services, leading to reversal of some of the health gains in the last five years, especially in teenage pregnancy,” he said.
The National Unity Platform Party President, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu attended the colourful event, and criticized government for what he called neglect of the country’s youth.
“We believe that it is possible to build a Uganda that works for everybody; gross corruption, inequality and lack of opportunity for the majority of the people is rampant,” he said.
Other dignitaries in attendance was Kampala City Deputy Lord Mayor, Doreen Nyanjura who represented the Forum for Democratic Change party, Dr. Mathias Kilama of the Uganda People’s Congress party, Ms Saddam Garyira of the People’s Progressive Party and Mr Muhammad Kateregga of the Justice Forum party.