On 15th March 2018, SPEED partner EPRC in conjunction with UNICEF organized a public dialogue on financing for human development in Uganda at Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala, Uganda.
The dialogue was aimed at providing an opportunity for stakeholders to review social sector FY 2018/19 financial proposals, brainstorm on sector challenges and build consensus on priorities as a basis to strategically advocate for improvement in financing and ultimately shape the effective delivery of social services in Uganda. The dialogue was structured with a keynote presentation from EPRC, a panel discussion to delve into the issues presented, and a general discussion and way forward.
The Keynote Presentation was delivered by Ms. Sheila Depio, a Research Analyst, at the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC), Makerere. The keynote started off by highlighting the contribution of the social sectors to economic growth and development. These sectors include Health, Education, Gender and social development, water and environment, and Justice, Law and Order Sector. The presentation noted that the bedrock of any society’s development and social transformation is a strong human capital. A stronger and highly productive human capital, however, requires deliberate investments in a country’s social sectors. To this effect, it was critical that government allocation to social sectors is enhanced in the budget so that deliberate investment programs are identified and funded that would build a strong and reliable stock of human capital.
Reflecting on the current budget proposals for FY 2018/2019 contained in the National budget framework paper, however, Ms.Sheila Depio, noted that allocations to these critical social sectors is projected to likely decrease from Shs. 22 trillion in FY 2017/18 to Shs 21 trillion in FY 2018/19. Yet, Uganda’s human capital development process is plunged in many challenges, including high population growth rates, an influx of refugees, drastic climatic changes and globalization. It was also noted that the education sector which would help build capacity for increased production and productivity by increasing the quantity and quality of Uganda’s workforce, has seen its budget allocation reduced from 16% to 11% in FY 2018/19.
In her submission, Dr. Elizabath Ekirapa (SPEED Health Economist) spoke more closely to facts within the health sector. She noted that while it is acknowledged that budget allocations to health have been declining over the years, even within the sector, there seems not to be clarity on priorities that could in the long-run save resources for health. She submitted that with limited funding now available, the health sector should focus more on preventive health and less of curative health because most of the disease conditions can actually be averted by promoting preventive practice at individual, household, and community levels before such conditions can escalate to health facilities. Dr. Ekirapa also noted that a lot of funding comes from funding agencies and implementing partners, which is off-budget. However these funds are often not linked to the ministry of Health priorities, and this has often resulted in duplication of activities, effort, and ultimately inefficiency. She recommended creating a stronger framework for coordination between governments and implementing Partners, right from priority setting stage to implementation to reduce such duplications. Finally, Dr. Ekirapa, called for more investments in skills development, leadership and management, because leadership is key in streamlining service delivery. She called upon all people within their areas of expertise to play their roles well, if we are to sustainably contribute towards improving the human capital of Uganda.
Hon Bategeka Lawrence (Vice chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on National Economy) recognized the challenges in resource availability and allocation because of the pressing demands on government. He noted that while Parliament recognizes the critical contribution of social sectors, it struggles with expanding the resource base. The goodwill exists within government, but the resources may not be enough. Hon. Bategeka called upon all sectors to work together to foster the development of Uganda. While agitating for government increased allocation to social sectors is a good move, we should in the meantime leverage resources within different sectors to ensure that they all deliver qualitative and productive capital ready to engage in economic activity.
Emerging issues from the panel discussion
As one of the panelists, Dr. Aloysius Ssennyonjo – the SPEED project manager, argued for multi-sectoral collaboration and action in human capital development. He noted that no sector can work singlehandedly and successfully. He asserted that a government budget is just a political tool that gets through a series of processes, and thus need not be over-emphasized. Rather, sectors need to work in a coordinated way so as to leverage on the resources of each other. “The sectors need to look at each as bigger blocks that can work in a coordinated way”. He emphasized that within the health sector, emphases should be put on preventive services than curative services. “The health should look within their little resources, areas to be prioritized.” For instance, he noted, by eradicating malaria in Uganda, it will create more funds for the country that can be invested in other sectors. Other areas he talked about include, increased coordination in donor funding, negotiation, and agreement on priorities of each sector with donors. He called for multisectoral planning, rather than planning in silos, is what will move Uganda to the next level of development.
A second panelist, Dr. John Ssekamatte-Ssebuliba, Head of Population and Social Sector Planning at the National Planning Authority (NPA), a SPEED partner institution, emphasized that a country cannot promote infrastructure & development without prioritizing Human Capital development. He added that NPA is committed to ensuring that all sectors start to prioritize Human Capital Development in their respective sectoral development plans. He pointed out that NPA had already instructed all sectors to develop plans that are aligned with the National Development plan priorities. He advised that there is a great need for joint planning in all sectors, He added that no single sector can produce a single finished human capital out alone. He called upon the joint conceptualization of issues, coordinated budgeting as the only way to accelerate economic development in Uganda.
The third panelist, Mr. Stephen Kasaija, the Head of the Social Protection, Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development (MGLSD), expressed concerns about the low budget allocations that are given to social development in Uganda. He remarked, “budgetary allocations to social development have never exceeded 1% of total national budget Yet, the population of Uganda as a country has been increasing, with emerging challenges of increased youth unemployment, children with special needs, among others”. He noted that even then, less effort has been directed towards the household level. Yet, without addressing the demand side aspects of social development, there is less that can be achieved. Even when the government increases access to education – a supply side issue, it may not be automatic that people will enroll their children in the schools. There are other issues that come into the mix, that are more related to the demand side, and these must be addressed if communities are to benefit from government programs.
As a way forward, Shiela from EPRC affirmed to members that since EPRC has a working relationship with the ministry of finance, they will share the proceedings of the report with them for actions. She also urged the audience to continue to engage with different stakeholders in trying to bring to the fore the issues that will push the economy to a middle-income status that government is striving for
The meeting was closed by Dr. Ssekamatte, of the NPA.
Dr. Ssekamatte giving closing remarks at the EPRC dialogue on Financing for Human capital in Uganda- 15th march 2018 at Imperial royal Hotel –Kampala
SPEED team attending the dialogue
Dr Aloysius giving an interview to UBC TV