Commentary

The right, left and wrong of Uganda’s national budgets

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Posted  Thursday, June 12   2014 at  01:00

In Summary

Three things come to mind at a time of the Budget like this. First, the process of presenting the budget to Parliament starts with a guard on honour.

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Planning in Uganda is so scrappy, as the President noted with Naads (call it agriculture) where the bulk of the money goes to workshops and salaries – mostly allowances. The President is possibly still doing more analysis and will soon add other ministries, departments and agencies of government. The army must be happy as they will soon stop launching rocket propelled grenades but follow money or rather monitor ‘budgets’.

By Fred K. Muhumuza Economy

Three things come to mind at a time of the Budget like this. First, the process of presenting the budget to Parliament starts with a guard on honour. This is inspected by the President and follows a “right-left” leg match. Second, Ugandans, like the British, drive on the left side of the road. Once an American told me it is not the left but rather the wrong side of the road because they, Americans, drive on the right side.

Third, Ekanya, of the newspaper comics, was drunk and asleep in the sofa a few minutes to December 25 Christmas Day. His wife woke him up saying Jesus the saviour should not be born and find him in the living room. Ekanya replied, “It does not matter. This is December and by April next year (Easter time), those blood thirsty Israelis will have killed him. He will not live to do much!” Feel free to add the fourth thing that the Budget in Uganda is read from left to right of every page. Hopefully no one will be doing the top-down dozing moves.

Unfortunately, the government budgets in Uganda are not often done from left to right, whereby the left column contains the detailed and relevant activities/items to be financed by the respective amounts in the right column. Proper budgeting must be preceded by detailed planning, else it becomes a ritual of mere resource allocation.

Planning helps with identification of activities and items needed to deliver certain outputs in order to realise some specified objectives or needs of society. The activities must also be ranked or prioritised in a logical manner to avoid ‘paying for a roof of a house before buying the land.’ Little wonder, one of the reasons often given for delays in government projects is failing to obtain land when money has already been borrowed – and allocated of course.

Planning in Uganda is so scrappy, as the President noted with Naads (call it agriculture) where the bulk of the money goes to workshops and salaries – mostly allowances. The President is possibly still doing more analysis and will soon add other ministries, departments and agencies of government. The army must be happy as they will soon stop launching rocket propelled grenades but follow money or rather monitor ‘budgets’!

While development is not rocket science, it certainly has scientific aspects that must be followed during planning, which then guides the budgeting. Unfortunately, in Uganda, budgets are largely driven by arguments along the lines of percentage shares of the total Budget, or abstract linkages to high level objectives/goals.

Thus, agriculture should get the infamous Maputo 10 per cent of the Budget, while an additional $30 million (about Shs76 billion) must be provided for maternal health. Quite often there are no details of what is to be done.

To conclude, the so called drivers of the Budget, which are supposed to be on the left side of the paper (road) are simply on the wrong side – they do not exist. With no right left (I mean correct left) side of the budget, it will not matter what amounts are reflected on the right side.

They are often the wrong amounts giving the wrong budget! It is not surprising that many Ugandans have left (as in don’t take seriously) the government budgets alone. It is possible that the police, who will kick-start the process of presenting the Budget, might end on the ‘right-wrong’, sorry ‘right-left’. I mean the left of leaving or not taking the Budget seriously. After all, by April next year (Easter time) the money-thirsty Ugandans will already have killed the Budget.

Dr Muhumuza is a senior manager,
Financial Services Inclusion Programme, KPMG Uganda.
muhuma@hotmail.com