Inside new govt plan to turn the poor rich

The Minister of State for Finance (in-charge General Duties), Mr Henry Musasizi (centre), interacts with the executive director of Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group, Mr Julius Mukunda (left), and the executive director of Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment, Mr Arthur Bainomugisha (right), during the 12th high level policy dialogue on the national budget for the year 2022/2023 in Kampala on February 17, 2022. PHOTO/ISAAC KASAMANI.

What you need to know:

  • Some leaders of civil society organisations have asked the government to be cautious to avoid loss of taxpayers’ money. 

The government has said it is set to disburse to each parish in the country Shs100m, up from the Shs19m earlier recommended by Parliament, in order to kickstart the Parish Development Model (PDM).
The PDM, which is due to be launched next week, is a new alternative programme that bureaucrats and President Museveni have retailed as the magic portion to hook subsistence households into the money economy.
But some civil society leaders have asked the government to slow down on the disbursement of such huge amounts to parishes, warning that limited absorption capacity and expertise could undermine effective programme implementation.

However, Mr Henry Musasizi, State minister for Finance (in-charge General Duties), said in an interview yesterday that the government has learned from its past mistakes and the implementation of the PDM, which they envision as a pillar of socio-economic transformation, will be problem-free.
“Under the Parish Development Model, we are saying that ‘can we allow people to plan for themselves, can we allow people at the parish level to set their priorities?’ I appeal to all of you to be optimistic about the PDM,” he said.
He added: “We have over 10,000 parishes in Uganda and each parish is going to receive Shs100 million, that’s approximately Shs1 trillion.”

Parliament had initially, in May 2021, approved Shs200 billion for the parishes as the implementation was planned to start in July of last year. From this, it was estimated that each of the 10,594 parishes was going to get Shs19.1 million.  
But Dr Agnes Atim Apea, the Amolatar Woman MP who is a member of Parliament’s budget committee, told this newspaper yesterday that their committee asked the Ministry of Finance to increase the amount.

“PDM is a good policy, but we want to see government mobilising resources specifically for that. We saw money [was going to] come [in] piecemeal. Last year we raised Shs200 billion, this year was Shs400 billion. So, we tasked Ministry of Finance to raise all that money and bring that money at once,” she said.
According to the Finance Ministry policy statement on PDM, a sum of Shs4O4.3b was budgeted for capitalisation of the Parish Revolving Funds in Financial Year 2021 /2022. This translates to an average allocation of Shs38.16m per parish.  
“I, therefore, call upon my colleagues [MPs] to seize this unique opportunity of making a lifetime difference in the lives of the 39 percent of Ugandan households in the subsistence economy by extending their full support for the implementation of the Parish Development Model starting in Financial Year 2021/2022,” the Finance minister, Mr Matia Kasaija, said in the statement.
Although the government is racing to avail the money to parishes, some leaders of civil society organisations are asking the government to be cautious and go slow to avoid loss of taxpayers’ money. 

Both Mr Julius Mukunda of Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) and Dr Arthur Bainomugisha, the executive director of Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), said they are not certain about the success of PDM if the government goes full throttle. They said parishes are not ready to absorb the money yet. 
“For me, this is a brilliant idea. We are thinking of how we can make ordinary persons in our villages get money. If this baby (PDM) is not taken care of well, it will not see its first birthday because if we are not prepared and we start pumping in money for a programme that is not yet well developed and functioning, money is going to be lost,” Mr Mukunda said. 

He added: “If we can’t recruit parish chiefs throughout the country, let us start slowly. This country is not going to end. We can start with one region and proceed to other regions. Maybe we will have learnt lessons.” 
Mr Mukunda asked the government to combine other development initiatives like Emyooga with PDM to cut costs. 
“How come we don’t talk of Emyooga and village model to be part of PDM? How come they are special? Because this [combining them] is one of the ways of rationalising expenses so that we can have enough resources for the PDM. PDM is also not about financial support, we need to help [government] ministries departments and agencies plan in line with PDM,” he said. 

But MP Atim, who subscribes to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, said the implementation is another story, “but the basic principle is that as government we think going to the parish will be moving closer to the people”.
“But what is different with this PDM is that money will go to the parish directly, it will not go and sit at the ministry, sub-county or district. The parish committee will sit at that level and decide what they want to do with it. For me I am very optimistic,” she said.

She added: “I always believe that when something [new] comes [up], you have to first look at the good side of it. We know that we have always had challenges with implementation of different programmes, but I have always argued that for once, this is the only programme that will enhance fiscal decentralisation –money leaving the government and coming directly to the people.”
President Museveni’s government has attempted various programmes to alleviate poverty. However, the performance of the initiatives such as Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP), Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), Entandikwa, Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture, Youth Livelihood Funds, Women Funds and the army-led Operation Wealth Creation, have yielded less-than-satisfactory outcomes.  

At yesterday’s event in Kampala, Finance State minister Musasizi said he is confident the project will be successful because of great preparedness the government has made.
“We are working towards having a system which begins from parish up to national level. At parish level, we are going to have a parish development committee and all we are doing is focused on the parish. So, tell me ‘how will the PDM fail when the system down there is working?’” he asked.
He added: “Of course, we learn from the past mistakes. If there have been some failures, we learned lessons, and the way we are designing PDM we are saying ‘let this programme be done different[ly] from how we have implemented other programmes’”.