By Spy Uganda
Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, who is the Prime Minister, has revealed that the government will not pay for utilities like water and electricity consumed by Ugandans during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown that will spurn several weeks.
Premier Rugunda made this revelation when he appeared before Parliament to clarify about some of the Presidential Directives that were issued this week by president Yoweri Museveni to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus.
Rugunda noted that utility service providers will still charge for services, except that companies should exercise restraint in and consider grace periods for defaulters.
He said that; “Pay the utility service providers so that they are able to work and offer services; there is no contradiction at all; what we can tell the utility service providers is to relax the enforcement in case people have not paid.”
Rugunda added that; “For instance, the Managing Director of National Water and Sewerage Corporation told me that there was danger of closure if customers did not pay their bills.
The corporation needs money to buy chemicals to treat the water before supply. I urge all of us to clear our bills to avoid this would-be closure.”
Commenting about the government giving out food items to Ugandans, he said the exercise will start with Kampala and Wakiso areas, but the legislators suggested the exercise should cover the entire country.
Rugunda said the distribution is not based on poverty index, but the categories of people worst hit by the interventions to curtail movement.
“This is not related to the poverty index in the country; the measures government has taken have made it difficult for law-abiding citizens to do their work [and] Kampala was chosen because it has the highest number of those cases,” he said.
He also noted that the government will use this period to spur production of essential commodities and also do import substitution by encouraging the production of commodities that are otherwise imported.
“Government policy is to intensively use this period to increase production, especially farmers who will not be adversely affected by this situation to be able to supply the country and the region,” he said.
Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, on the other hand, warned against further consumption, saying the treasury is already constrained and that even when there is the option of borrowing from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, it will not be an everyday affair.
“I will need your wisdom [Members of Parliament] on how we will get revenue; we are now not getting taxes and the treasury is getting shortages while we pass expenditures, we should also be mindful where we will get the support,” he said.
Government, he added, will also ensure that the Shs400Bn it recently borrowed from private banks is returned in the next Financial Year to improve cash flow and liquidity in the economy.
About attaching and auctioning of properties of loan defaulters by banks and moneylenders, Kasaija said that will be halted while the COVID-19 pandemic persists and that the interest rates will be capped and frozen.
However, he never talked about landlords waiving or suspending the collection of rent from tenants during the time of the Coronavirus lockdown.