Budget cuts threaten elderly cash support, says Minister

Elderly persons receive Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment (Sage) money at Atana Primary School in Apac Sub-county on June 30, 2023. PHOTO/ SANTO OJOK

What you need to know:

  • Mr Patrick Katabazi, the coordinator for Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Social Protection, estimated that over 100,000 older persons will miss out on their monthly pay should the government fail to find the Shs20.8b that was slashed from the SAGE budget.

Gender Minister, Ms Betty Amongi, is worried that older persons above 80 years may miss their monthly Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment (SAGE) allowance, following budget cuts in the new financial year that starts next month.

The minister said the budget for the SAGE programme has been slashed by Shs20.8b, meaning that if a supplementary budget is not passed soon enough, some of the older citizens enrolled in this government programme will miss out.

Minister Amongi made the revelation on Tuesday during an engagement with selected journalists in Kampala.

“So we would like you (journalists) to support us in highlighting this because we want to push for a supplementary. If we don’t support them (older persons), they can easily slip out of vulnerability,” she said.

The SAGE is a social protection program championed by the Gender Ministry, targeting older persons 80 and above with a monthly pay of Shs25,000 to cater for basic needs.

Speaking at the same event, Mr Patrick Katabazi, the coordinator for Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Social Protection, estimated that over 100,000 older persons will miss out on their monthly pay should the government fail to find the Shs20.8b that was slashed from the SAGE budget.

“The advocacy around the inadequate budget for SAGE is very critical. As you have heard, you are going to have over 100,000 older persons missing their payout for the entire quarter. This, therefore, means the current budget of Shs100b can only sustain older persons in the next financial year for only nine months,”Mr Katabazi explained.

He added: “For the remaining three months, they will be without; that is why we are calling on the government to ensure that the mistakes made during the budgeting process are corrected such that the money that was cut equivalent to Shs20b is reversed so that programme on the current rate can proceed and cover all the months in the next financial year.”

Mr Katabazi also decried the loss of value of Shs25,000 due to inflation before advising that the same figure be revised upwards.

“The Shs25,000 has been a story of now more than 10 years. And every other year that goes by, money loses value, so to have a pay-out that is meaningful to our senior citizens, its high time we reviewed the value to go up. I would admire a revision of up to Shs50,000,” he noted.

He also suggested that it is important that the government is committed to gradually reducing the age of eligibility until the age of 65 because we have stayed at 80 years for over 10 years and yet the resource envelope is increasing day by day with the number of older persons also increasing.

Statistics from the Gender Ministry show that there are over 350,000 older persons enrolled on the SAGE programme.