UGANDA (eTN) – News emerged from sources in the Uganda parliament that a controversial deal for new vehicles for members of parliament is apparently going ahead, worth over 100 million Uganda shillings per MP, draining the available funds left in the emancipated purses of the Ministry of Finance even more. Only last week was it confirmed that nearly US$200 million were taken off budget allocations for most ministries to pay the independent electricity producers at least some of their long pending dues. This was leaving in particular the tourism ministry in dire straits, and will very likely compromise the preparations and marketing of the country abroad during Uganda’s 50th year of independence and after being named “The Destination for 2012” by the Lonely Planet Guide.
This latest information has seemingly infuriated tourism stakeholders some more, denouncing the “greed” of parliamentarians when the country is in economic difficulties and considering that the already overstrained budget can hardly afford such luxurious expenditure on a few, when crucial activities of showcasing and marketing the country are being reduced for lack of funding. Said a regular contributor: “In times like this, it is not responsible to spend money we don’t have or need for something else. Tourism would be so happy to receive just the equivalent of 25 of those car payments, because that would give us US$1 million, and we could promote Uganda like never before.
“But the truth is, the money is squandered on unproductive elements, while productive economic activities are starved of funds and then [do] not perform as well as they should. And there are few development partners willing to finance tourism activities now, because it is not in the government’s priority list it seems, and they are reluctant anyway to give Uganda much money, because their own economies are not doing well.”
Parliament is reconvening today after having taken a long break since December, and sparks will undoubtedly fly over a range of issues, and this one not the least of them.