For the first time, Uganda’s major external funding partner, the World Bank, in its 14th Uganda Economic Update, emphasised Social Protection programmes as an important policy tool for building resilience and supporting households to invest in human capital development.
Uganda has continuously prioritised investment in physical infrastructure over the years and indeed, the proposed budget for the financial year 2020/21 has works and transport taking up the biggest share of the resource envelope at 19.7% up from 19.6% in the current financial year.
As the report highlights, despite huge investments in infrastructure, people are increasingly becoming vulnerable to shocks and risk hence the rise in the poverty rates now at 21.7%.
With almost half of the world’s poorest living in Africa, how the country approaches social protection in the coming years will be very important for the global effort to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030.
It is only when that political economy is guided by a clear goal of firm ethical principles that go beyond those of narrow economic theory, and by an understanding of the interdependence of all parts of the total system of people, society, economy and environment that sustainable outcomes will be achievable.
The new agenda calls for efforts to not only fight the different categories of poverty, but also even up income distribution so that as countries continue to develop the benefits of growth can be enjoyed by all.
In one of his addresses as President of the Republic of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki put it in one of his addresses as president of South Africa! “the appreciation of the concept of eradication of poverty and its proper and real integration into government policies depends not only on the familiarity with modern theories, but also with the political commitment to the point of view that all governance is legitimate only to the extent that both enjoy popular mandate and serve the interest of the people.”
Uganda was one of the few countries to sign the “Livingstone call to Action” that emphasises the guarantee of basic social protection to strengthen the social capital between the state and the citizens, enhancing social cohesion and stability.
Uganda is also a signatory to the all Social Policy Framework (2008) which calls on government to recognize that Social Protection should be a state obligation with provisions in the national legislation.
When President of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni said that “older people have faced challenges alone for too long and government recognised that basic income security was critical to their well-being”, he meant all older persons and not just a few.
Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Social Protection members got excited that the government and parliaments commitment to rolling out Senior Citizens Grant in the whole country.
However, like the world bank report brings it out, although the vision for social protection has been articulated in Uganda, the current levels of expenditure on social protection is very low.
So, the coverage of both pillars of social protection namely, direct income support and social insurance are too low.
Direct income support addresses these barriers. It addresses some of the underlying causes of inequalities and demonstrates government commitment to all citizens.
Panic holds us as the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Social Protection when we don’t see adequate finances being provided for both the sustainability of the current beneficiaries in the highly envisaged national roll-out.
We have a place to start and that is the implementation of interventions as provided for in the National Social Protection Policy.