Gov’t to finance 2021 elections on borrowed cash

Byabakama and Bahati during a meeting with the legal committee of Parliament yesterday. Photo by Miriam Namutebi

Finance ministry officials have broken the ice on how the Government intends to borrow money to finance the 2021 general elections.

Yesterday, state minister for David Bahati and Kenneth Mugambe, the ministry’s director for budget, told the committee on legal and parliamentary affairs in Parliament that they plan to use part of the Euros 600m (sh2.4 trillion) proposed loan from Stanbic Bank to foot the Electoral Commission (EC) budget shortfall of sh518b to conduct the elections.

Last week, the EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama and secretary-general SamRwakoojo, while appearing before the same committee gave an ultimatum to the Government to avail sh518.9b this financial year or risk having no elections in 2021.

Bahati’s disclosure took the legislators aback, who wondered how that could be possible, given the heavy debt burden the country is already facing.

“Is it correct for a sovereign government to borrow for the purpose of elections?” Bugwere County Abdu Katuntu asked.

In response, Bahati said the sh2.4 trillion loan request is currently before Parliament’s committee on the national economy for approval.

He explained that the loan is meant for budget support and not only elections as it is being misinterpreted.

The legislators were, however, not convinced by Bahati’s explanation, arguing that it was not logical that the Government opted for domestic borrowing rather than focusing on realigning the domestic expenditure to find the sh518b that the EC requires.

Put on the spot to give a time frame on when the funds will be availed and the certainty of the elections, Bahati sent a message of hope.

“There is no way we cannot have elections. We have to ensure that by April, the resources which they need are provided,” Bahati said.

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Patrick Luwagga is the editorial director of cross-platform content for UGANDANZ. He works across the newsroom and with business partners to drive and develop ambitious editorial projects that include digital journalism, video, data research, polling, live events, and thought-leadership series that are supported by outside underwriting. As executive director, he is responsible for the creation of Political news section, prior to joining UGANDANZ, Patrick was the chief editor for the national weekly news magazine of Kasese Times. In that role, he covered several presidential elections, wrote and produced two television documentaries, and was a regular commentator on television and radio news programs. Patrick was born in Masaka and grew up in Kasese. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Makerere University where he was a Knight Foundation journalism fellow.