Seven million Ugandans are in need of government assistance as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic begin to bite, says the Centre for Budget and Tax Policy (CBTP), a think tank.
The most affected groups, the body says, mainly include informal sector workers such as boda boda riders, taxi drivers, vendors and petty traders whose activities have ground to a halt due to the lockdown.
President Museveni has over the past two weeks issued a series of directives, stopping all public and private transport, non-food related market activities and petty trade as a way of ensuring the social distancing required to stop the spread of Covid-19.
To improve the situation, the government has set today to commence giving out food rations to the vulnerable groups in Kampala and Wakiso districts. The targeted number of recipients is 1.5m, leaving about 5.5m without support, according to the CBTP estimates.
Apart from the above groups, the think tank estimates that private sector workers, mainly those earning less than Shs1m a month, have also been gravely affected.
These, according to the statement, have been left partially redundant by the temporary closure of companies and factories and are likely to be affected more if their employers don’t recover from this slow down and close permanently.
Uganda’s elderly are also a group that has been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Although up to 200,000 of them have already been on government support, CBTP estimates that another 1.3 million elder persons have become vulnerable as a result.
Another 500,000 who don’t fall directly in this category but are close also need assistance as they are at a high risk of being adversely affected too.
Public servants in the lower rungs, especially the teachers, armed forces and nurses earning less than Shs0.5m per month, are the other group adversely affected by the lockdown.
Shs800b is recommended by the statement as the money required to bail out members of the informal sector, with each person receiving up to Shs50,000 a month.
The statement also points out that the senior citizens grants be expanded to cover all people above 60 years, down from 75 years, which was the limit. They also recommended that the reach be expanded to cover suburban and urban centres on top of the villages previously covered.
Grants that previously stood at Shs25,000 per older person should be increased to Shs50,000 monthly too as the dependency on older persons by others is likely to increase during this period.
Shs240 billion is also recommended to support more than 800,000 private sector employees, with at least Shs100,000 per month for a three-months period when they are redundant.
The statement released by Mr Patrick Katabazi, the CBTP executive director, also recommends prompt payment of pensions for retired civil servants, a law stopping business owners from hiking prices of foods and other necessities, plus urgent payment of domestic debts to government suppliers that topped Shs3.3 trillion in the Financial Year 2018/19.