You must pay us back, government tells youth
Posted Wednesday, October 23 2013 at 01:00
Fighting unemployment. The government says the Shs260 billion that it will distribute to unemployed youth is neither free money nor is it Entandikwa, and that it should be paid back as soon as their projects kick off.
In what Cabinet called the “magical shot” in the war against poverty and the problem of endemic youth unemployment in the country, Parliament has cleared the Shs265 billion for the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP), a five-year project.
The YLP is a brainchild of Gender Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana, targeting more than 6.5 million youth between 18 and 30 years. The project seeks to economically empower the poor and unemployed youth in all the 112 districts in the country.
YLP is a community demand-driven programme based on the northern Uganda’s Nusaf model. The project will be implemented by ministry of Gender as the lead ministry, working with Local Government and the Office of the Inspector General of Government to ensure accountability of the funds advanced to various targeted youth groups.
The funds will be directly paid into the approved youth Interest Groups Project accounts in commercial banks in form of interest-free “revolving grants” in order to increase outreach and enhance sustainability of the programme.
The Youth Interest Group Project accounts will be managed by the Youth Project Management Committee. Each youth group will have between 10-15 members entitled to up to Shs25 million (maximum) depending on the size of the project. The chief administrative officers will have express powers to access information on the operations of the Bank Account to ensure accountability of the project funds.
The project targets school dropouts, youth living in slums, city streets, high risk and impoverished communities; uneducated youth, single parents, youth with disability, youth living with HIV/Aids and those who have completed A-Level and graduates.
Mr Bigirimana said special consideration would be accorded to female youth to constitute at least 30 per cent of the participants to be selected under the programme. He said deliberate efforts would be taken to offer targeted support to slow response communities and categories of youth. “The youth must develop the culture of saving and investment; this is why we are not giving them free money - this is not Entandikwa,” Mr Bigirimana said. “This money is for wealth creation through sustainable production and we are going to put in place transparency and accountability measures as well as monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.”
The PS said whoever pays back in one year would not be required to pay interest. However, beyond one year, Mr Bigirimana said there will be an interest charge of 5 per cent that takes care of the inflation. “All youth; whether educated or not have access to this money. This programme does not discriminate; there is no tribe, religion; it’s a programme for the youth.” Mr Bigirimana said.
The YLP is responsive to the government’s Vision 2040, an ambitious development plan that seeks to transform Uganda from a peasantry to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years. According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the labour force in the country has 4.4 million youth yet about 32 per cent of the entire youth population in the country is jobless; two million are literate and another two million underemployed.
At least 8.4 million Ugandans are said to be living below the poverty line. Statistics from the labour department show that out of the 400,000 students who graduate from various tertiary institutions across the country annually, only 8,000 have a chance of being gainfully employed.
Explaining the numbers, Leader of Opposition in Parliament Nandala Mafabi said for every one job that is available there are more than 50 qualified people striving to get it. Mr Mafabi added that while he welcomes the YLP, there is need to invest in the agriculture sector which employs more than 70 per cent of the population. Mr Mafabi asked youth leaders to monitor the Shs260 billion so that their money is not stolen.
Analysts say whereas the government has made some progress in reducing poverty levels from 56 per cent in 1992/03 to 31 per cent in 2005/06 and currently estimated at 24 per cent, the high levels of unemployment and corruption are compounding government’s efforts to put money in peoples’ pockets. However, in giving context to the YLP, youth MPs who talked to the Daily Monitor commended Mr Bigirimana for initiating the project and vowed to watch “every penny”. The lawmakers said Uganda had a very young population which represents a major challenge in short and media term if not well planned and provided for.
“We are keenly watching every cent of this money,” Mr Gerald Karuhanga (Youth Western) said. “We know there are people who are already salivating because of the Shs260 billion for the youth, but we want to warn them that we are going to follow this money. We are not going to sit back and watch people steal youth money in Geoffrey Kazinda style.”
Mr Kazinda, who is in prison, was the Principal Accountant in the Office of the Prime Minister where Mr Bigirimana was a PS. Mr Bigirimana insists that he was a whistleblower in the scam involving the loss of donor funds.
Mr Peter Ogwang (Youth Eastern MP) said under the programme, the youth were going to be given an opportunity to identify the projects that they want to engage in then the government would only help during the procurement of the inputs required and therefore urged the youth not to accept projects imposed on them. “This programme is going to succeed because the youth were widely consulted during the programme formulation unlike other programmes where the youth were left out,” Mr Ogwang said. “This programme is unique in a sense that the beneficiaries will be offered training and skills needed to effectively manage their projects.”