By Ahmed Kakooza
Civil Society organisations appeals to the government of Uganda to use the shs1.7 trillion donation from the International Monetary Fund(IMF) to purchase Covid vaccines for the population but also to boost the recovery of the economy.
On August,23, 2021, IMF issued new Special Drawing Rights(SDRs)to Ugandan to a tune of shs1.72 trillion to help the country build confidence, and foster the resilience and stability of the economy hit by pandemic.
In a press Conference on Sunday, Jane Nalunga, the Executive Director for SEATINI-Uganda said the new SDR issuance offers some form of debt relief to Uganda as it can use a resource to meet its public spending needs without having to acquire any new loans.
She explained that this means the SDR remains one of the free feasible options that countries like Uganda can reliably count on to finance their recovery efforts.
“Priority on utilization of these new funds should be placed on procuring vaccines and critical medical and proactive equipment,”Nalunga said.
“Unless the entire population has been vaccinated, the economy can’t reopen. We need to prioritise this.”
Uganda recently received 647,080 doses of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine from the US government.
According to data from the Ministry of Health as of August, 30 2021, a total of 1.37 million people had been vaccinated with Astrazeneca and Sinovac.
However, the 1.37 million is way too below the 22million people that the country plans to vaccinate before the economy is fully reopen.
According to the World Bank, the total number of poor people in the country is now 11 million with the pandemic pushing over 3.1 million households into poverty.
SEATINI said since the Covid pandemic greatly affected the country’s domestic revenue collections with a shortfall of over shs2.4 trillion in revenue, receiving the shs1.7 trillion in SDR is a great opportunity for the country to revive the struggling economy.
“The money should also be injected into the real economy supporting micro small business enterprises and providing adequate social welfare support through programs such as direct cash transfers,” Jane Nalunga said.
The SEATINI Executive Director said unless government invests in recovery of the economy, it will continue having revenue shortfalls since everyone was greatly affected by the pandemic.
The civil society organisations however warned government against using the money to repay debt obligations.
“If you don’t know where you are going, any direction is good enough. Special Drawing Rights(SDRs) is free money from IMF but if we don’t have a good plan for it, we will be doomed,” said Regina Navuga, the program coordinator at SEATINI Uganda.
“The money should be planned for well so that as a county, we benefit from it.”
The CSOs said government needs to revisit the tax incentives given to foreign direct investments but also to motivate the citizens to pay taxes.
The government was also urged to hold dialogues with civil society, parliament, media, parliament and the general public to collect views on the proper and transparent utilization and management of the resources.
“Parliament should play a stronger oversight role and ensure these funds are used prudently,” SEATINI’s Jane Nalunga said.