Former presidential candidate for Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party Dr Kizza Besigye has proposed a Shs19 trillion post Covid-19 recovery plan, which he said would help resuscitate the economy.
Delivering what he called his ‘state- of-national- address’ from his home in Kasangati, Wakiso District, yesterday, Dr Besigye, who calls himself ‘the Peoples President’, told journalists that his ‘Peoples’ Government’ identified Shs19.7 trillion worth of unspent funds in the 2019/2020 National Budget.
Dr Besigye told the country that this money would be sufficient to finance a pro-people post Covid-19 economic recovery plan and called for a forensic audit of all the public funds spent in the name fighting Covid-19.
Dr Besigye, flanked by ‘Peoples Government’ officials, said they reviewed the government expenditure patterns in the current budget and borrowed funds for Covid-19 and found unspent trillions.
Dr Besigye said the Shs19 trillion includes unspent funds for planned foreign and in-land trips by government officials, workshops and conferences that were banned due to Covid-19 pandemic, workshops and borrowed funds from International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other donations.
“The budget spending for the last quarter of FY 2019/2020 amounting to Shs21 trillion has not happened and no accountability has been offered and all the 16 presidential addresses did not come close to explaining about the funds,” Dr Besigye said, adding: “If you include into this figure, the resources earmarked for quarter One of FY 2020/2021 that will not be spent as planned due to Covid-19 effects, the total resources available become Shs19.7 trillion.”
Under his post-Covid-19 plan, Dr Besigye said part of this money would be used to help struggling businesses both big and small enterprises that have badly been hit by the pandemic as a result of the lockdown. Business owners, parliamentarians and independent-minded economists have consistently asked the government to intervene through a stimulus package.
Attempts to table a statement on Tuesday failed after Speaker Rebecca blocked the move, citing unexplained delays.
Justifying the need for an urgent stimulus package, Dr Besigye explained how the tourism sector and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) have badly been hit by this pandemic and must be given priority.
The President in his latest address on Monday put tourism losses at $1.6b and remittances at $1.3b.
Dr Besigye asked President Museveni’s government to prioritise financial and economic stimulus intervention since trade disruptions have led to wide-scale loss of business. He cited hotels, restaurants, guest houses, bars and tour companies as the areas of the economy that need urgent support to boost the economy.
According to Dr Besigye, part of the Shs19.7 trillion must be used to finance social welfare interventions targeting vulnerable Ugandans who have been badly hit by the pandemic.
President Museveni’s political nemesis has also suggested that the NRM government waives and pays all water bills for domestic use for a period of six months.
He also proposed that the government pays rent for struggling tenants with a monthly bill of Shs300,000 and below for six months.
Dr Besigye also suggested that government dispatches Shs100,000 monthly to every Ugandan household for the next six months for food.
“Uganda is mostly a hand–to–mouth economy,” Dr Besigye said, adding: “About 85 per cent of Ugandans are in the informal sector, they need immediate household relief. Government should provide nutrition-improved food and household help to citizens targeting the rural settlers first and the most efficient way to reach them with help is through mobile money.”
Dr Besigye has also proposed that part of the unspent funds be used to close the gaps in the health sector by particularly availing personal protective equipment and conducting large scale testing.
The ‘Peoples’ President’ has also asked the NRM government to double the ICU capacity from 55 to 110, improve pay for health workers, recruit additional health workers, rehabilitate and equip all regional hospitals, provide incentives for producers of medical supplies, boost immunity of the population, among others.
Dr Besigye also said if President Museveni, who is expected to deliver the 2020 State-of- Nation Address today, fails to issue a post-Covid-19 plan that included the pro-people’s interventions, his ‘government will revive strategies to demand for the accountability of unspent funds’.
Dr Besigye has also accused the government of sidelining political leaders and other stakeholders such as the Non-Government Organisation (NGOS) in the fight against Covid-19.
He explained that on the issue of distribution of food, politically-elected leaders would have done it better because they know their residents.
The government spokesperson, Mr Ofwono Opondo, said Dr Besigye should direct the leader of the Opposition in Parliament and FDC MPs in to table the proposals of his post-Covid-19 plans officially on the floor and the government would respond positively.
On the issue of government side-lining Opposition members in the fight against Covid-19, Mr Opondo said Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda announced on the floor of Parliament that all Opposition leaders who wanted to be part of the national taskforce were free to do so but only members of the Democratic Party have been active.
FDC leaders have been silent in Parliament and none of them showed up to give their proposals. Their secretary general, Mr Nandala Mafabi, showed up only once and he did not return. This shows that Dr Besigye’s leaders are not active in Parliament, Mr Opondo said.