MBALALA, MUKONO: President Museveni has said Shs 1 trillion of the Shs1.9 trillion loan obtained from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be injected in the Uganda Development Bank (UDB), to enhance the country’s production capacity.
Museveni said Uganda has enough raw materials to feed industries for production of commodities rather than continue relying heavily on imports, which he said were unsettling the economy, especially during crisis, like the covid-19 pandemic.
Early in May, the IMF approved $ 419.5m (Shs1.9 trillion) for Uganda under the Rapid Credit Facility to address the ‘urgent balance of payments and fiscal needs’ arising from the COVID-19 outbreak.
Reports that the better part of the funds would be used for Balance of Payments (BOP) purposes ignited a social media firestorm with many saying it was not the right thing to do.
However, BoU officials recently said the borrowed funds would shore up the reserves whose main aim is supporting government import of goods and services plus stability of the exchange rate.
Reserves cover also has implications for investor confidence in the economy.
Additionally, BoU experts observed, the bulk of infrastructure projects require counterpart funding requiring reserves; external debt servicing requires reserves; government imports require forex and for government to support all those without depleting reserves at a time when some of the sources of foreign exchange like tourism are affected, then this BOP support from IMF were necessary.
Commissioning Lida Packaging products, a manufacturing company that has started producing face masks in Mbalala, Mukono District this week, President Museveni said the IMF portion of the loan will be used to support the manufacturing sector as the best way of balancing payments.
“I cannot borrow money to import more so the Shs 1 trillion of that loan from IMF has been put in Uganda Development Bank (UDB) for us to enhance our capacity to produce more. This is what I told the IMF boss Tao Zhang in Washington DC,” President Museveni said.
“We have the capacity to produce many things here because most of the raw materials are here. People in the west have bananas (embiire) we can use to produce alcohol. This same alcohol that has been killing you is the same we are using to produce the sanitizer which is now helping us fight coronavirus. So from killing you to now saving you. This is the kind of production we can enhance,” said Museveni.
“I appeal to local businessmen to use this opportunity to borrow this money from UDB and set up more plants to produce more here. This money is yours,” he said, adding, that the government would protect local producers by imposing a heavy tax levy on similar products that are imported into the Ugandan market.
Uganda’s economy is expected to grow at 3 per cent this year, a huge cut from the pre-pandemic projection of above 6 per cent.
Businesses that have been adversely affected need government support to get back to normal workings.
The president hinted that Uganda has been producing so much sugar due to the ample availability of sugarcane (ebikadho) in Eastern Uganda.
He however, called upon manufacturers and investors to use the excess sugar as raw material to manufacture more products.
He further assured investors both local and foreign that the issues of electricity have long been sorted.
“We have so much electricity now, that will never be an issue again and it should not bother you.”
Speaking at the same event, Ms Evelyn Anite, the minister for investment and privatization commended the president for supporting Ugandan businessmen through UDB.
“Right now if you go to UDB, you will see very long queues of Ugandan businessmen borrowing money. This is because of your visionary leadership. The issues of electricity and security are no more,” she said.
Anite said Uganda’s production level in masks has ensured export of 50,000 masks to neighbouring Kenya, urging more production internally.
Lida Packaging Company chairman Mr Li Shiqing requested the President to protect local manufacturers under the BUBU policy by imposing import duty.
The company already employs 315 Ugandans, 220 of whom are women and has a production capacity of 56,000 masks a single day.
They also specialize in non-woven fabrics, plastic packaging products, woven bags and other packaging products.