The Hon. Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Maria Kiwanuka, opened her address by thanking Ugandans in London for looking after the Ugandan Olympic team and most of all for helping Kiprotich win the marathon gold medal.
She expressed her appreciation of the role the Ugandan diaspora played in the development of Uganda, not only for the remittances sent by the the Diaspora, but also for the good ideas generated and the business contacts that they attracted to the country.
Hon. Kiwanuka stated that there was no doubt that the focus for this year’s convention, Career and Investment Opportunities in Uganda, was of critical importance to the government’ prioritisation to renewing the country’s economic growth. The government’s strategy is to support value-added in agro-processing, skilling of the workforce in areas that are most relevant to the job market and lowering the cost of doing business by increasing the stock of infrastructure, energy, roads and water transport networks. She said that the government is very much aware that the private sector both inside and outside Uganda is the engine of growth, responsible for over 80% of GDP and that the government’s best role is to see where it can help the private sector to achieve its optimum returns.
Hon. Kiwanuka reported that, in order to maximise returns and target limited resources to most critical areas, the government is concentrating on the following areas:
- Infrastructure development; roads repair , maintenance and expansion; power generation, power transmission and distribution
- Research development which includes skilling of workforce, and training our trainers, to make sure that our people get back to work.
- Research and development in improved seeds, improved animal semen and how best to control crop diseases and pest diseases.
- Assist with business regulatory frameworks to streamline and rationalise the licensing and regulation framework to ensure business people/ entrepreneurs are not frustrated in their efforts to set up or continue their businesses.
- Selection of public /private partnerships i.e. first contractor financing or contractor facilitated financing., and energy transmission lines or energy generation whereby mini hydro schemes are set up to sell power to the government ,to be sold to the ultimate consumer.
Hon. Kiwanuka stated that 3 key bench mark questions will be asked in order to maximise returns:
- Does the investment increase the stock of infrastructure, productive infrastructure, roads power and irrigation and ICT?
- Does the investment add value to its product or process? Will it enable the product or process to be produced cheaper or better?
- Does the investment lower the cost of doing business? And if, so by how much?
“In the year 2010, the Ugandan Diaspora sent back remittances over 40 billion Shillings excluding informal flows. With the global economy continuing to register slow growth and persistence of the crisis in the Euro zone, the government cannot ignore the potential of private financial flows from Ugandans in the Diaspora in forms of property income, equity investments and pension payments among others. The advantage of such investments is that they are more stable than wage income but also enable the owners to broaden their investment portfolios.”
Hon. Kiwanuka urged delegates not to forget the fact that returns on investment right now are highest in Africa including Uganda, and the risk perceptions are not as high as has been previously envisaged, especially since Uganda is changing her export strategy to focus more on the regional aspects. She said that Uganda is the only country in East Africa that is a net exporter of food and appealed to delegates to improve on the production, the productivity and to add value to this area. The government has 10 commodities for priority interest, these being maize, beans, cassava, rice, bananas, fresh water fish, dairy cattle and beef cattle.
The second area Hon. Kiwanuka discussed was regulatory and licensing reform. A number of initiatives have been undertaken by the government to create an enabling business environment and to minimise the cost of doing business in order to attract more international investments, including those of the Diaspora. These programmes are geared towards infrastructure and skills development , the pension sector to be newly liberalised and regulatory and licensing reforms.
The Ministry of Finance came up with recommendations for business licenses reform. It identified a total of 790 licenses, permits, user charges issued by both central and local government agencies countrywide. It recommended that some of these be eliminated and have already done so because they do not serve any regulatory purpose. Another 400 will be retained, streamlined or reclassified. The implementation of these recommendations will save the private sector more than 25% in their current licensing costs . It will also ensure that licenses are used to serve legitimate regulatory purposes and not revenue generating purposes.
The Government is also to establish an official e-registry to house all information on approved business licenses which will minimise duplication of submission of information and excessive licensing. It will serve as a definitive repository of information on licensing requirements, thus will increase transparency and compliance by the private sector.
The government will establish the business entry one-stop-shop by integrating business incorporation with other business registration processes such as taxes, registration, licensing and social security registration. This would reduce the time and cost associated with starting and running a business. It will employ ICT tools to enable sharing of critical information on businesses.
Hon. Kiwanuka fully accepted that there are other issues that will require broader policy consideration beyond the scope of licensing reforms, including local government financing, enforcement gaps, regulatory overlap, costs and inefficiencies associated with centralised services. She recognised a need to improve co-ordination between various government agencies on policy matters. She said that her ministry is already working closely with the relevant sectors where these problems have been reported in agriculture, local government, fisheries, trade, health, environment, hotel and tourism sectors.
Hon. Kiwanuka concluded her speech by assuring the delegates of the support of the government in all their plans to increase business and other economic set ups in the country and that the government looks forward to their contributions towards revitalisation of growth and sustainable development in Uganda.
She hailed the close connection her ministry has with the High Commission, and urged delegates to give any problems or issues which they would like her ministry to address to the High Commissioner or deputy High Commissioner who will make sure that she receives them in the quickest possible time.