50 years on, poverty fight tops World Bank agenda

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A journalist takes a picture at Bujagali hydro-power dam.

A journalist takes a picture at Bujagali hydro-power dam. The World Bank has supported many projects in the country over the last 50 years. Photo by Nelson Wesonga 


Posted  Wednesday, December 11  2013 at  13:25

The last 50 years of the Uganda-World Bank partnership have seen the landlocked country benefit from financial and support in different sectors.

Uganda has enjoyed a relatively stable economy since 1963 when it joined the World Bank Group that has partly financed more than 100 development projects in the country, estimated at more than $8 billion (about Shs20 trillion) to date. About $7.30 billion of this financial support is in form of loans and credit while another $650 million is in form of grants.

The bank’s vice president for Africa, Mr Makhtar Diop, says in the “Celebrating 50 years of Development Partnership: The World Bank and Uganda,” book to be launched in Kampala today, that Uganda has reduced poverty over the last two decades.
Despite a fall in poverty levels to 22 per cent, the income inequality gap continues widening.

The Uganda Bureau of Statistics National Household Survey (UNHS) indicates that income inequality increased from 42.6 per cent in 2009/10 to 43 per cent in 2012/13. But most non-poor Ugandans are classified as vulnerable, meaning they can easily slip back into poverty.

Dr Patrick Wakida, the research World International chief executive officer, urged that poverty should be measured basing on the reduction in income inequality rather than the $1 dollar (about Shs2,500) a day yard stick.

With a per capita income of $506 (about Shs1.3 million), Uganda is still a poor country and far from the middle income status it aspires to attain.
The bank also spearheaded a number of reforms in Uganda including; abolishing price controls and advocated for the privatisation of loss-making parastatals while instituting public expenditure controls. The reforms introduced in the 1990s, however, received resistance from some Ugandans, though Central Bank governor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile says they (reforms) generated a strong economic recovery.
Former Prime Minister Prof Apolo Nsibambi also says the Bank helped Uganda restore its macro-economic stability.

He says: “By 1986, inflation was more than 200 per cent. There was severe shortage of foreign exchange and roads were in poor state.”
The World Bank has financially supported Uganda over the years has through infrastructure, agriculture, education, health and private sector development among others.

Intervention in transport sector
Key projects undertaken in the transport sector with support from the bank include; the four highway projects such as the $5 million project in 1967, the $58.8 million, and $34.82 million projects.

Primary, secondary and feeder roads were either constructed, reconstructed or rehabilitated across the country.

Roads including the 113km Mbarara-Katunguru road, 161km of agricultural, the 44km Masaka-Kyotera, 66km Kabale-Katuna, 149km Iganga-Mbale and 20km Kayunga-Sezibwa were constructed/ reconstructed.

The intervention has seen Uganda’s road network increase to about 78,000km while paved national road network has also expanded from 2,200km in 1999 to 4100km by 2013. However, transportation is still a challenge to the business community as it increases the cost of doing business.

Mr Diop, however, says infrastructure development accounts for more than 60 per cent of the current Bank’s support to Uganda.

Energy sector
The bank’s intervention in Uganda’s energy sector dates back in 1961 when the country got an $8.4 million loan to expand electricity distribution. This increased the Owen Falls Dam capacity from 150MW in 1998 to 168MW in 1993.

Health sector
Uganda also got a $42.5 million (Shs10 billion) in 1989 to equip build a hospital in Rakai to address HIV/Aids.

In 2010, the bank financed the $130 million Uganda Health Systems Strengthening Project that sought to develop a health workforce, improve health infrastructure and provide medical equipment.

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