Members of the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Social Protection have decried proposed budget cuts on the senior citizens’ grant for the next financial year.
The Chairperson of the forum, Hon. Flavia Kabahenda Rwabuhoro described the cuts as “extreme” and would subject the elderly persons to utmost despair, vulnerability and even early death.
The National Budget Framework Paper (NBFP) for Financial Year 2023/24 reflects funding shortfalls towards social protection interventions in the country.
This has largely been attributed to a recent government policy to cut all subventions by 80 per cent.
“The current budget requirement for the elderly grant of 306,516 beneficiaries is Shs121 billion. However, the NBFP indicates an allocation of Shs24 billion. This is just about 20 per cent of the required financing,” Kabahenda said.
She said this while addressing a press conference on Wednesday, 25 January 2023 at Parliament over the possible predicament that beneficiaries of social protection interventions are likely to face in the new financial year.
The senior citizens’ grant under the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) is Uganda’s largest cash transfer programme targeting older persons aged 80 years and above with a monthly grant of Shs25,000 to smoothen their consumption.
Currently, a total of 306,516 older persons are benefiting from the grant across the country.
The number is anticipated to increase given ongoing interventions such as registration of eligible members and correcting potential members’ details on the National ID.
The MPs on the social protection forum have called out Parliament to task the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to revoke the policy of a blanket 80 per cent cut on subventions to avert suffocation of social protection interventions.
“We call upon Parliament to ensure that the budget for SAGE of Shs121 billion is reinstated to meet the demands for the financial year and also ensure that the funding gap reflected in the special grant for PWDs is covered,” Kabahenda added.
Currently, the programme has a total of Shs5.1 billion in arrears.
“It is sad that the money currently provided for SAGE basically caters for arrears and not for continuity of the programme,” said Jacob Opolot, the Deputy Chairperson of the forum and former MP.
Among the social protection programmes that have been affected by the budget cuts include, special grant for Persons with Disabilities whose budget has been cut from Shs16.6 billion to Shs3.32 billion.
Special enterprise grant for older persons has been cut from Shs5 billion to Shs1 billion, while the social development grant has not received a single penny in the current NBFP from Shs7.64 billion in the current financial year.