President Museveni yesterday offered to implement several reforms East African leaders launched last year and urged other member states to reduce the cost of doing business.
The President, who was addressing the East African Legislative Assembly in Kampala, however, admitted Uganda was holding back other members states due to lack of national identity cards.
Addressing the issue of economic integration, Mr Museveni said on the key reforms on the Northern Corridor, member states agreed to put an end to non-tariff barriers, arguing that they were the main impediments to economic development of the region.
With effect from this month, he said, transporting a 20-foot container from Mombasa to Kampala will be reduced from 18 days to three days and a maximum of four days. Transporting the same container will now take six to seven days down from 22 days, resulting into savings of about $45 million (about Shs111b) annually.
Currently, the EAC has achieved the customs union, common market protocols and they are now headed to implementing the monetary union, which seeks to have a single currency for the five partner states.
Mr Museveni said multiple bonds for importers have been removed because they are “subversive” to the economy, adding that weigh bridges were reduced to one in all member states.
“It is no longer necessary for people to travel to Mombasa to clear their goods. They can do that from Kampala,” Mr Museveni said.
The President said with effect from next month, a single tourist visa will be implemented.
He said this costs only $100 (about Shs247,000) which will be shared among the member states.
Under the arrangement the country that issues a tourist visa will get $10 and the $90 will shared by all. He said discussions with President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania were on-going to replicate similar reforms on the Central Corridor.
In making a case for reducing the cost of doing business, the President asked EAC member states to stop comparing themselves with fellow “economic pigmies”, adding that this has hampered the development in the region. He invited the EAC to take over Soroti Flying School and demanded that the salaries for instructors there be increased with immediate effect. He accused civil servants of sabotaging the school, by refusing to pay the pilots well.
On behalf of the East African Parliament, MP Joseph Kiangoi of Kenya described Uganda as an “importer of refugees” and reiterated their support to Uganda’s mission to South Sudan.
REGIONAL SECURITY MATTERS
On security, President Museveni condemned what he called “rubbish” sectarian conflicts in the region, adding that the conflicts are mainly fueled by “ideological mistakes” and a “cocktail of Europeans and opportunists “that hide behind the tribes and religion”.
He also said weak state structures have allowed the conflicts to emerge and called for honest dialogue to end the conflicts. He said conflicts are also caused by poor discipline of some political actors who are fighting and in the process rape women, kill unarmed people, loot villages and towns. “The foreigners encourage these useless people, they ..invite them to their embassies...” the President said.