In the grand scheme of things Ministry of Trade, Industry and cooperative is regarded as an underdog.
This according to trade specialists, civil society organisations and a wide range of observers, explains why every financial year the ministry struggles to attract the kind of budget it deserves despite its massive role across the economic sector.
It further emerged that the Trade ministry is not regarded as “juicy and powerful” as some other cabinet dockets, among them finance, planning and economic development where all decisions on matters resource and allocations happen.
Until the arrival of Amelia Kyambadde as the Trade Minister, the docket appeared to be short of clout, energy and vibrancy.
Lack of enough resources to implement the ministry programmes is Kyambadde’s biggest challenge.
Speaking in an interview after launching the Switch Africa Green campaign (SAG) recently, Kyambadde said her ministry deserves more in terms of resource allocation than is the case.
She said: “The Trade ministry needs to be supported. This is a sector that supports and makes money for all other economic sectors.”
She continued: “We support the small and medium enterprises, we ensure proper standards prevail and we develop policies that allow economic sectors thrive while at the same time organise them. This makes us a core ministry and the heartbeat of the economy, so we need to be supported.”
Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives ministerial policy statement presented to Parliament for the debate on the Budget Estimates for the Financial Year 2016/17 indicated that the ministry budget is slightly more than Shs40 billion.
The sector has received additional resources for financial year 2016/17, including Shs2 billion for the Uganda Export Promotion Board to promote exports; Shs1.5 billion for the Uganda National Bureau of Standards to provide Quality Marks and Product Certifications to Micro Small and Medium Enterprises to export their products.
The entire budget for the ministry, including agencies under it, is just shy of Shs95 billion according to the budget estimates presented to Parliament for approval by the minister. Compared to the previous financial year’s Budget, this is an improvement of nearly 45 per cent funding, thanks to the clout and negotiating skills of Kyambadde.
The increase in budget excludes arrears to international obligations which have since blown to Shs2.6 billion. This will certainly worry, Fred Muhumuza of the Makerere School of Economics, who wants the government to turn its energies in regional trade such as Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa among other regional blocs, saying that is where the opportunity for Uganda is.
The sector budget also does not cater for local government grants to district commercial officers who monitor operations of the ministry at the grassroots.
Case for more funding
This explains why business people and analysts believe the ministry deserves more than what it gets considering its role across the economic sector.
Interviewed for this article, the chairman of Kampala City Traders Association, Mr Everest Kayondo, said for years now, the Trade ministry has been starved of resources to do its work properly; saying even the slight increase made for the financial year 2016/17 is far from enough.
He said: “The importance for the ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives is beyond the benefits it accrues for the sectors it belongs. This ministry serves the economy of the nation. It is important for production, marketing, quality control and even promotion of local goods and services.”
He continued: “Without a proper budget for the aforementioned activities, then as a country we are bound to be impacted in one way or the other. We have called for increased funding of the ministry because we believe it is the heart beat of the economy.”
Equally concerned about the treatment of the Trade, Industry and Cooperatives ministry is the executive director of Private Sector Foundation Uganda, Gideon Badagawa.
Speaking in an interview on Thursday last week, Badagawa said: “We understand that all ministries, departments and agencies of government complain of lack of enough funding. Despite that we expect the ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperative to be treated differently because of it is the anchor of the economy.”
He said the ministry is important in mobilising investments, capacity of SMEs, organising farmers and other organisations to benefit from cooperatives, warehouse system receipts among others, and all that it needs more money than what is allocated for the ministry.”
Earlier, the Southern and Eastern African Trade, Information and Negotiations country director, Ms Jane Nalunga, said the ministry has for long suffered as a result of underfunding, saying it affects its capacity to build a massive and strong trade negotiation team for the country. She said with proper funding, the ministry structures will be coherent and coordinated.
But with the available budget, it will be a tall order if the ministry implements all its major plans.
Trade ministry’s work in 2016/17 financial year
Some of the work of the ministry in the financial year 2016/17 includes: legislations, strategies and monitoring services including producing a draft gift policy, market and supermarket guidelines submitted to Cabinet; and kick starting Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BOBU)
Implementation through stakeholder consultative meetings on the best practices of the strategy implementation.
Conduct an inventory of locally produced goods and services, identify and certify non-certified BUBU products, undertake survey of products and services 50 members from the business community and other stakeholders shall be sensitised on Hire Purchases, law and regulation, conduct verification of tobacco stocks in the districts.Capacity Building for Trade Promotion shall be built by enhancing skills and competencies of internal trade Staff, Private Sector and other MDAS.
The Ministry is expected to head product market research and development/trade policy research, and trade. Licensing data shall be collected from 20 municipalities for the development of the business register, the sector plans to carry out verification visits on non-tariff barriers at various border posts.
Trade information and product market research: trade licensing data shall be collected from 20 municipalities for development of an authentic national data.