Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Wants UGX 6 Billion For Post NAM, G77 + China Summit Activities

Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Wants UGX 6 Billion For Post NAM, G77 + China Summit Activities

By Spy Uganda

Kampala: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs has recommended the provision of a budget line worth Shs4 billion and Shs2 billion to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to cater for post-summit Non-Aligned Movement and G77+China activities respectively, for the next three years.

This was brought before the Committee on Budget on Tuesday, 16 January 2024, while presenting a report on the 2024/2025 National Budget Framework Paper for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Uganda’s Foreign Missions.

Currently, Uganda is hosting the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit at Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo, and it will be followed by the G77+ China summit next week.

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Fred Opolot, Chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, presented the request of the Ministry before Parliament’s Budget Committee, which is scrutinising sectoral committees’ reports on the Budget Framework Paper (BFP) for the 2024/25 financial year.

Opolot, who is also the Pangire County MP, informed the Budget Committee that despite the ongoing Summits at Munyonyo, Uganda will be chairing and coordinating the NAM post-summit activities for the next three years, hence a need for the additional money in the next financial year.

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President Yoweri Museveni will head NAM for the next three years until another host country takes over.

”The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be highly involved in a number of non-tangible post-summit activities relating to NAM. However, no funds have been provided for the activities. In chairing NAM, Uganda is set to benefit from improving its image on the world stage and hosting meetings which will bring in foreign exchange” Opolot said.

Opolot further defended the budget request, arguing that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Missions Abroad have functions that cannot be quantified, which is why their economic value may not easily be seen from the surface.

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He, however, said that their functions have a great impact on increasing market access for Uganda’s exports, attracting Foreign Direct Investment, promoting tourism and attracting investors to Uganda.

”NAM is one of the activities that have to be implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, its Missions (abroad), as well as other Government agencies, but no budget was provided for its implementation of post-summit activities under the Foreign Affairs sector. The Secretariats in charge of the NAM will be undertaking research, preparations of position papers, hosting or participation in meetings and mini-summits, supporting Missions (abroad) with NAM chapters, plus sending and receiving envoys,” he added.

Dickson Kateshumbwa, MP for Sheema Municipality, wondered why Parliament should be bothered by such a request if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t bother to allocate funds to post NAM conference monitoring activities.

”I am just wondering whether you have interacted with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs because you are labouring to explain the importance of NAM, G77. It is already here, and the Ministry knows that. How can the Ministry not have money allocated to support this? What do you want Parliament to do because it is just a bother? Kateshumbwa questioned.

Kateshumbwa also tasked the Committee of Foreign Affairs to explain how this money, if provided, will impact Uganda’s economy.

 ”You know we are focusing on fiscal consolidation, but we would like to know the results of last year in terms of commercial diplomacy. What can we say as the Foreign Affairs sector, what has it contributed, and what does it intend to contribute because now it is about economics and return on investment. If we give this money, what do we expect in terms of exports”, he added.

Bukanga South MP, Stephen Kangwagye said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be given funds to monitor post NAM Summit activities because organizing of the current summit was taken over by the Office of the President.

”The NAM activities are going on within the country, and according to their report here, a provision of UGX 5.6 billion was transferred from the Ministry of Finance to the Office of the President, but you are asking for the post activities that are going on. With the activities that are going on, who is funding those activities? Is it the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or is it the Office of the President”? he asked.

Meanwhile, lawmakers also raised concerns over the failure of the Government to allocate UGX 41.8 billion for annual subscription fees to international organizations.

This was after the Committee on Budget was told that the Ministry of Finance had little money as part of payment of the overdue subscription arrears to international organizations.

Documents tabled before the Budget Committee indicated that although the Ministry submitted a budget of UGX 28 billion in 2024/25, only UGX 6.16 billion was provided, leaving a funding gap of UGX 21.84 billion.

Among the outstanding arrears are $3.9 million (about UGX14.9 billion) to the World Food Programme,$232,329 (about UGX 885.5million) to the UN Peacekeeping Operations and Tribunals, $4.5 million ( about UGX 17.3 billion) to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)  and $530,497.76 (about UGX 2.022 billion) to the International Conference on Great lakes Region.

Others include $452,800 (about UGX1.725 billion) to the United Nations, $595,166 (about UGX 2.265 billion) to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, $829,363 (about UGX 3.161 billion) to the African Union and GBP17,869 (about UGX 86.1 million) to the Commonwealth Secretariat.

”The annual budget requirement totaling to UGX 25.054 billion for subscription to international organizations should be provided to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Priority should be shifted to the settlement of international subscriptions in order to protect Uganda’s image abroad and safeguard its interests. The Committee strongly recommends that all the subscription arrears totaling to UGX 41.867 billion should be transferred from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs budget to the Ministry of Finance’s budget”, he reported.

Otuke County MP, Paul Omara welcomed the recommendation to have the funds for the subscription to international organizations appropriated, saying that some MPs have been chased out of international conferences over Uganda’s failure to pay subscription fees.

Gomba District woman MP, Sylvia Nayebare asked fellow lawmakers to ensure that funds for subscriptions to international organisations are availed in order to avoid any future embarrassment for President Museveni being denied a platform to speak due to such arrears.

”When you look at the list, it is quite long. I would request the Committee to prioritise, so we know which ones to look at, and at least we push that, especially where the President is going to appear. It is a shame for our President to appear and not make a speech”, she noted.

Ojara Mapenduzi, MP for Bardege-Layibi Division in Gulu City, described the failure of the government to budget and avail funds for subscriptions to international organizations as shameful.

”For those who have been in different groups and associations, even belonging to the malwa (Local Drinking) group requires you to meet certain obligations, or you will be kicked out. So if the Committee is reporting that Uganda is failing to meet its obligations, it isn’t just shame but something that gives our country a bad reputation. It is important that Uganda meets its obligation and the requirements of belonging to those groups,” Mapenduzi emphasized.

The MPs also protested the decision by the Ministry of Finance to cut the Budget for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by UGX 4.55 billion and that for Missions Abroad by UGX 11.65 billion because, if not reinstated, this will cripple the planned activities.

”How do we expect the Missions to operate without travel if there is no money completely because their work isn’t here? Their main work is wherever they are supposed to be, and they need to move. So we need to move and support that the UGX 11 billion required for travel for Missions Abroad, be provided. Maybe we can talk about the UGX 4 billion  required by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs because if they already have their representative everywhere, they don’t need to be travelling,” Mapenduzi insisted.

In the 2024/25 national budget, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been allocated UGX 30.559 billion, while Missions Abroad have been allocated UGX 260.439 billion, which is an increment of UGX 12.35 billion from what the Missions were allocated in the current budget.

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