UNDP Country Director’s Remarks: High Level Policy Dialogue on Uganda’s Economy

Nov 3, 2015

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry Finance, Planning and Economic Development,
The Deputy Governor, Bank of Uganda,
The Vice – Chancellor, Makerere University
Government Officials in your respective capacities,
Fellow Development Partners and UN Colleagues,
Members of the Private Sector,
Members of the Civil Society,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to join you this morning for this high level dialogue on Uganda’s economy. This event is critical to us all for a number of reasons.
First, it offers an opportunity to affirm our commitment to support Government to deliver on the Second National Development Plan (NDPII).

Second, it has come at a right time when nations, globally, are deepening discussions on how to deliver on the sustainable development agenda within the national development planning and implementation frameworks.

Third, it will hopefully offer some insight on why the Shilling has weakened against the Dollar over the past few months, and the current 8.8 percent level of inflation (*by end of October). I am sure, the potential impact on production and the welfare of people, as well as when we are likely to see an end to this economic uncertainty, is of interest to all Ugandans.

This event is critical because it echoes the critical role of academia in deepening policy space. Academia is relevant only when it is able to influence the political economy through policy relevant research, and high quality graduates that can influence the direction of development policy. The knowledge products should be able to communicate the efficiency and effectiveness of development interventions to guide and influence decision making.

We should embark on strategies for full integration of the academia and its visibility beyond teaching, into institutions we can rely on for best policy research and advocacy. UNDP is committed to scaling up partnership with academia and institutions engaged in private and public policy issues, such as governance, economic management, and human development. Research that directs the course of development is key for economic growth. This is why many academic institutions in developed countries routinely provide solutions to meet development challenges. We must also ensure that this progress supports attainment of Sustainable Development Goals.

With more support and investment in people, and institutions, it is possible to transform Uganda into a world-class knowledge society – where innovative research contributes solutions that transform communities, and people’s lives.

I’m glad that this discussion today is being led by academia, whose role in influencing the economy through policy relevant research cannot be emphasized enough.

As we think about sustainable development, it is important to reflect on the results of the Final MDG Report for Uganda (2015), which we launched a week ago. It shows significant progress on a number of fronts, including poverty reduction (which has been more than halved during the MDG era), improved access to HIV treatment, and reversal of malaria incidence. However, it also recognizes a number of challenges in areas of education, and health. We need to ensure that all citizens are not only able to access these services but also able to get quality care.

At the macroeconomic level, we need to ask ourselves how we can enhance macroeconomic and financial stability in the face of the weakening shilling and the likely decline in investor confidence. How can we support growth in ways that complement achievement on all other dimensions of sustainable development? Yes, the economy has been growing, but we need to put a human face to this growth. How can we make it equitable to ensure that prosperity is shared? These are some of the key questions we should reflect upon in our discussion today.

In addition, our delivery on national aspirations will depend on how best we put in place mechanisms to locally generate resources to finance development. Recent discussions on Financing for Development have focused on renewed energy and commitment to target aid only where it is most needed.

Governments are expected to devise mechanisms for generating more resources and align private investments with the needs of the poor and most vulnerable. Uganda’s tax system should be improved to increase the tax to GDP ratio which currently stands at 12% - the lowest in the East African region.

We require strategies to widen the tax base, significantly reduce tax evasion and tackle resource leakages. There is also need to ensure that those entrusted with managing resources do so transparently and account to the taxpayers through better service delivery.

Capacity should be developed for relevant Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to work together with other actors to promote institutional effectiveness and efficiency at central and decentralized levels. This can only be realized through strengthening systems for public sector management including enhancing evidence –based planning, progress tracking, reporting as well as high-level strategic research and in-depth analysis to guide policy formulation.

I would also like to draw your attention to youth unemployment which remains a major challenge to Uganda’s economy. Currently, 75% of the Country’s population is aged below 30 years. However, 13% of those are unemployed, which poses serious challenges to give them better education and impart the right skills to create jobs. My appeal to you all is to critically think of the best strategies for job creation for the youth of this country. We all know that an unemployed youth population is a threat to the peace and security that Uganda enjoys today.

We also need to factor in the need for good infrastructure whose multiplier effects on socio-economic well-being is important for our communities. While I commend Government’s efforts in infrastructural development especially in the transport and energy sectors, recent reports of corruption in the sector may hinder the benefits achieved. It’s therefore vital to plug these leakages and ensure value for money for every Dollar invested so that future generations can pay for what they have been able to benefit from.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is proud to have partnered with Makerere University and the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to host this event which we hope will be a great start in finding solutions to some of the challenges facing Uganda.

UNDP has a strong history of partnership with Makerere University having funded academic programmes such as, Gender Aware Economics (MA.GAE) and Economic Policy and Planning (MA. EPP). We have also partnered with various research institutions in Uganda to prepare knowledge products to inform decision making.

As an organisation, Knowledge and research is at the core of our mandate. As we prepare to start our new Country Programme (2016-2020), we look forward to partnering with research and academic institutions to promote learning and sharing of experiences to enrich policy and action.Our support will be mainly in areas linked to generation of evidence, capacity building for development, as well as dialogues such as these that provide platforms for interactive policy discussions.

I thank you all for listening and wish you fruitful discussions.

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