How Kampalans received budget

Members of the Indian Business Forum gather at Silver Springs Hotel Bugolobi to listen to key takeaways from the 2024/2025 budget facilitated by experts from one of the audit firms. Photo | Stephen Otage

What you need to know:

  • The budget itself is fairly ambitious, prioritising the development of human capital in education, health, and skills development, as well as the infrastructure of transportation and the private sector development.

The national budget reading yesterday for the 2024/2025 fiscal year was received with different reactions across the country. While technocrats from the Finance ministry, ministers, MPs, and the President gathered at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds to listen to the budget speech, the traders in the city went about their business as usual.

The budget itself is fairly ambitious, prioritising the development of human capital in education, health, and skills development, as well as the infrastructure of transportation and the private sector development.

On the busy streets of Kampala such as Kikuubo, Nasser Road, Baskerville Avenue, Ben Kiwanuka Street, and Balikuddembe Road, the atmosphere was the ordinary trade and very few bothered about what was happening at Kololo. Those who kept an eye on the development at the ceremony waited for what would happen to the legislators accused of corruption.

Mr Joseph Duwe, a trader dealing in agro-machinery, said the budget has no meaning because it is presented every year, but the services were not visible as promised.

 “And we are seeing people erecting buildings in town and we wonder where they get money from. To me, the budget is nothing. It has nothing to do with service delivery,” he said.

About 16.9 km of roads in the Kampala Metropolitan Area are planned to be upgraded to bitumen standard (tarmac), according to Finance Minister Matia Kasaija.

Minister Kasaija stated that the government would upgrade a significant section of roads in the metropolitan area.

In Kikuubo, Kampala’s busiest business hub, a boda boda cyclist said he was annoyed by the budget because of the new fuel tax, which is driving up fuel prices.

Fuel prices

With the passage of the Excise Duty Amendment Bill, 2024, by the Parliament in May, the cost of gasoline (petrol) and diesel is expected to go up. This has already caused a rise in the price of fuel from Shs5,400 to Shs5,500 and diesel from Shs5,300 to Shs5,400.

He also complained about the new taxes on bottled water.

“They have put a tax on mineral water. It’s unfair for us. They sit in their offices and make decisions that please them. That’s why we don’t want to talk about the budget now. Let them do what they want,” he said.

A 20 percent tax increase on alcohol and tobacco has also been suggested by the Parliament’s Health Committee, which could greatly increase revenue. According to the Uganda Alcohol Report, there are between five and 12 million alcohol consumers. Of these, more than 66 percent consume alcohol in an illegal, unregulated manner that puts their health at risk and results in significant financial losses.

“In the years back, you would put on your phone radio to listen to that budget reading and you would notice that essentials such as sugar had seen a reduction in taxes and we would appreciate that. But these days, you always hear that KCCA has been allocated billions of shillings for road repairs and still, you see potholes the whole financial year. How do you trust such a government?” he asked.

Mr Henry Semiganda, who imports  hardware equipment, said he was afraid of the budget because it affects his line of work in terms of taxes, rent, and regulations. 

“We have lost hope. Back in the day, people would wait for the budget to know what had been allocated and which incentives had been put in place. The Parliament hasn’t helped us grow our businesses. We need to help the local producers so that we can also reduce the import bill. It’s our prayer. But how can that happen when people in Parliament are only doing their things?” he asks.