President reports economic growth, eyes infrastructure in State-of-the-Nation Address

President Yoweri Museveni is content with the economy’s progress, which he said recovered from a nosedive during the COVID-19 pandemic, and is poised to hit US$55.2 billion.

The President was officiating at the opening of the Third Session of the 11th Parliament wherein he delivered the State-of-the-Nation Address on Wednesday, 07 June 2023 at the Kololo Ceremonial Grounds in the capital, Kampala.

A session of Parliament is a period beginning with the date when Parliament commences to sit upon being summoned by the President or Speaker by proclamation under clause (1) and (2) of Article 95 of the Constitution and lasts a year.  There are five sessions in the lifespan of each Parliament.

During the televised address attended by MPs, diplomatic corps, accounting officers, religious and traditional leaders among other stakeholders, the President said, government will hasten the acquisition of the right of way for the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway, and that the maintenance of murram and tarmac roads will also keep officials busy.  

The SGR is anticipated to improve trade volumes and down the cost of transportation to grow the economy.

“Government is expediting the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway, starting next Financial Year 2023/24, starting with Malaba to Kampala. I welcome the decision of His Excellency, President William Ruto of Kenya, agreeing to extend the SGR from Naivasha to Malaba,” the President said.

With a steady decline in fuel prices since May 2022, Museveni felt vindicated in his rejection of subsidies, which he said is ‘cheap and opportunistic.’

“We have defeated the rapid increase in prices; food prices remain high due to climate change causing prolonged droughts,” he said.

“There is no more excuse for people who want to remain in poverty; the PDM money, once paid back, will be in the parish SACCO, and the parish is not far, so you can access the funds; whatever mistakes that arise from this pro-poor people enterprise are corrected,” he said, sounding a warning to the corrupt.

In his tours across the country, Museveni said he saw many ‘candidates of Luzira prison’, a reference to officials he found to be of suspect conduct and are likely to face prosecution over the Parish Development Fund, which has so far seen an injection of an excess of Shs500 billion.

Museveni also boasted about the country’s industrialisation exploits, with factories he said now standing at 226 and over 303 waiting to open.

Exports, on the other hand, shot to US$6 billion, while Foreign Direct Investment was recorded at US$945 million, indicators Museveni said depict a rising economy.

Museveni is now looking to oil money for infrastructural and social services projects, which he said should find an already sound economic base to support the economy.

“With our oil money, we shall be able to complete our targets of a government primary school per parish and a government secondary school per sub-county. The railway, the electricity, technical and science education as well as some national roads, will be the elements our oil money will deal with. I intend to meet with the Petroleum Authority and the oil companies, to harmonise so that we do not miss the target of 2025 as the first oil date,” he said.

The President said revenue to Gross Domestic Product is at 13.9 per cent, and that government will ensure it increases to at least 19 per cent in the next five years.

On encroachment on wetlands, Museveni said the communities where leaders justify cultivation on wetlands ironically remain in poverty, saying that is evidence that it will not help people to settle on water catchment areas.

“I was talking to MPs from Bukedi and Busoga when we were in Kyankwanzi they told me that our people have been growing rice in wetlands but I asked them how well are they now? They told me that the areas are among the poorest in Uganda. So the question is, if encroachment on wetlands is so good why are people still poor?” he said at the sitting chaired by Speaker Anita Among and also attended by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa.

With the recent spate of murders in the country, Museveni sought to reassure Ugandans by terming the incidents ‘isolated’, and that save for the restive Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where militants are active, the country is otherwise peaceful.

“I wish to assure Ugandans and investors that Uganda is a secure and peaceful country. The recent isolated incidents of misuse of firearms and killing of innocent people, is being handled with immediate response,” he said.

Looking forward to next the financial year, Museveni listed 11 points with security of persons and property on top, and ICT at the bottom.

Government will also capitalise the Uganda Development Bank and the Uganda Development Cooperation to make cheaper capital available for industrial oriented investment.

Museveni ended by thanking Parliament for a record high number of laws enacted, but did not indicate the government’s legislative agenda for the next financial year, as is the practice.