President Yoweri Museveni has outlined his stimulus package to revamp the economy in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic, banking heavily on import substitution through powering industrial progress.
In his address on the State of the Nation delivered to Parliament, Museveni said he is determined to turn the pandemic into an opportunity to finally substitute for over US$7 billion in imports by supporting industrialisation.
Museveni has set aside Shs1 trillion in the recently passed National Budget for financial year 2020/2021 to offer low interest credit facilities to manufacturers and commercial agriculturalists under the Uganda Development Bank.
“When the global crisis descended on the world, I started hearing screams of pessimism coming from all the sources,” said Museveni.
“The real economy is standing up and expanding especially in agriculture and industry,” he added.
With the Shs1 trillion, Museveni said most of the commodities imported into Uganda can actually be manufactured locally.
“There is no reason why we import all these items…we can make them here,” said Museveni.
With incessant demands for an economic stimulus mainly from the Opposition, Museveni gave a glimpse into areas government intends to prioritise to promote liquidity in the economy and heal an economy badly wounded by Covid19.
Companies in bad financial shape due to Covid19, said Museveni, will be excused from paying a wide range of taxes including Corporation Tax, Pay AS You Earn (PAYE) and a waiver of interest in tax arrears till September 2020.
Government suppliers will have their arrears cleared so they can stay afloat, on top of relaxing loan repayment schedules and deferring rent payment.
Commercial farmers and industrialists will also benefit from more support through the Uganda Development Corporation, which will receive an excess of Shs100 billion to support small scalers.
Museveni said food distribution is to continue, signaling a likely extension of the lockdown until a vaccine is discovered, which he hinted on during his last address on Covid19.
Civil servants who the President accused of sabotaging industrialisation were labeled neocolonial agents that he said, the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) would defeat.
Museveni also instructed the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) to produce an aerial map detailing all factories constructed in wetlands on the Kampala-Bombo industrial stretch, saying no other factories should be constructed there.
He put local leaders and civil servants on notice over any further issuance of licenses for construction of factories in wetlands.
Parting from tradition since independence, this year’s State of the Nation address, the last under the 10th Parliament, bore the scars from the brunt of Covid19.
With President Museveni connecting from State House, Entebbe via Zoom, the ceremony was denied its usual pomp of elaborate VIP arrivals, parades mounted by the security forces and doses of humor from the President.
The interruptions from the Opposition, which receive quick humorous rejoinders from the president, were substituted by near dead silence as MPs, spread across the South Wing parking listened to the head of state.
To Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, this was the last such address in his tenure as head of Uganda’s judiciary with his retirement this month.