Government is set to roll out the implementation of the Parish Development Model, the latest of attempts to turn around service delivery and alleviate poverty at the grassroots.
The model will see development activities planned for and executed in parishes, as the lowest level unit for planning and development, as government moves to advance the benefits of decentralisation.
The initiative aims to spring the nearly 39 per cent of households from subsistence economy to commercial production.
As opposed to previous interventions like Entandikwa, the Youth Livelihood Programmes and Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme that only focused on giving out money to interest groups, the Parish Development Model will look at different aspects of advancing household development.
The Model, which is expected to start on July 1, encompasses seven pillars, including production, infrastructure and economic services, financial inclusion and social services. The others are community data (Community Information System), governance and administration, and mindset change.
“The idea is that the people will decide what they need, in what place. If it is infrastructure, how do you ensure it is what the people want, instead of counting the national roads that people cannot access, what data is government using to plan and budget,” Mr Ramathan Ggoobi, an economist, said.
“Is it data which really reflects the needs of the people? The parish model is about taking the government to the people, so that the transformation agenda is driven at the parish level,” he added.
Mr Kenneth Mugambe, the director for Budget at the Ministry of Finance, says the first three months into the financial year will be spent on parish chiefs operationalising the Parish Development Committees, who will be in charge of the initiative. Implementation will then kick off in October.
He says the funds to be used for the implementation of the pillars have been allocated in the national budget and will only be used according to the plans from the Parish.
“The other four pillars already have financing, they are already covered under the respective sectors. The whole essence is to ensure that whatever is funded by the government in the parish is done in a coordinated manner to ensure that they complement each other,” Mr Mugambe said.
The pillar that has gained the public’s interest under the model is financial inclusion, intended to promote savings and investment by households in activities with a potential for generating a production surplus.
While delivering the Budget speech on June 10, the Minister of Finance in charge of Planning, Mr Amos Lugoloobi, said Shs30 million will be given to each of the 10,694 parishes for the revolving fund. Parliament had, however, slashed this budget by half.
Minister of Finance designate Matia Kaisaija, told this newspaper that residents of a parish will be required to form Savings and Credit Co-operatives (Saccos).
Mr Kasaija said Finance is working with the Ministry OF Local Government to finalise the specifics of how the funds will be administered.
In generic terms, however, participating parish-SACCOs under the model will lend funds from the Parish Revolving Fund to individual households or household collectives at a concessional interest rate.
Mr Kasaija told this newspaper that anyone who fails to pay back the money will be sanctioned.
According to the ministerial statement presented to Parliament, starting Financial Year 2022/2023, the amount of funds to be allocated to the parishes will be determined basing on the share of households in the subsistence economy and the poverty levels in the district.
Special groups like women, youth and persons with disabilities (PWDs) will be given priority.
The ministry of finance also says they are drawing lessons from the challenges that have dogged previous interventions including not being in sync with the needs of intended beneficiaries and the country’s industrialization and as well as high administrative costs
Away from the revolving fund, government has also identified and prioritised development of 18 commodities that are said to be marketable both locally and on the global market.
These are coffee, fish, cotton, diary, cocoa, beef, cassava, bananas, tea, beans, vegetable oils, palm, and avocado. Others include maize, shia nut, rice, cashew nuts, sugarcane, and macadamia nuts
Government has pledged to find market for the produce.
Parish devt model
Mr Mugambe, says the model will addrees the failures in previous interventions.
“The previous programmes, I think were disjointed. The whole essence of the parish model is to ensure that we address that element of having programmes that are disjointed, which become duplicative and rare less efficient,” Mr Mugambe said.
Mr Ggoobi says there is need to understand the initiative in its entirety, and not just as a microfinance scheme. He adds this misunderstanding will affect the viability of the initiative.
“It is a pro people grass root oriented planning and initiation of services which people need as opposed to government using projects to think for the people. There have been these interventions, these things are distorted because they are designed, implemented, evaluated by the center when the people at the grassroots have not contributed anything,”Mr Ggoobi said.
He added: “Let the people imitate what they need, not government. What people need from government are the services which facilitate their production. Once those are sorted, people do not need money from government.”