Minister for Works and Transport
Mr. Speaker Sir and Honorable Members of Parliament, we the Opposition would like to thank the Government, and particularly the Ministry of Works and Transport (MW&T) for a well structured and thought out Policy Statement for the Financial Year 2006/07.
As we do this we would like to recognize and appreciate the role played by our Development Partners without whose contribution Uganda would have no transport system worth talking about. Permit me Mr. Speaker to expand, but not limit, my thanks on behalf of the Opposition to the following Development Partners who have played a significant role in financing infrastructure development in Uganda:
1. The International Development Association(IDA),
2. The European Union (EU),
3. The African Development Bank (ADB),
4. The Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA),
5. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA),
6. Germany's Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KFW),
7. The United Kingdom's Department for International Development(DfID),
8. The Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) and
9. The Nordic Development Fund (NDF).
In 2005/06, international donors contributed about 67.6 per cent of funds towards the Ministry's development expenditure. This year's Policy Statement indicates a higher percentage.
2.0 THE STATE OF UGANDA'S TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE
Analysis of the current state of transport in Uganda suggests that road transport is the dominant mode of transportation, carrying over 90 per cent of passengers and freight, as well as providing the only means of access to rural areas.
2.1 Road Infrastructure
The Government has made substantial investments in road transport. During the period 2002/03 to 2004/05, total expenditure on national road improvement and development amounted to $365.8 million. Nevertheless, the road network remains inadequate, given that the growth of traffic exceeds the growth of roads and that insufficient maintenance is leading to deterioration of the state of existing roads. With respect to national roads, for example, 20 per cent are rated as "good", 62 per cent as "fair", and 18 percent as "poor/bad".
The Government's inadequate regulatory capacities at both national and local levels are also contributing to the poor state of the road network. For example, according to a 1998 study, insufficient enforcement of axle load and traffic flow regulations allowed about 40 per cent of heavy vehicles to travel with loads exceeding the permitted limits.
2.2 Rail Infrastructure
The country's railway network, originally 1241 km long, is now in abject condition. Only about half of the system is in operational condition, and about one sixth is in use at the moment. The tracks, locomotives and other equipment are old and in poor condition, resulting in falling cargo hauling capacity.
As a result of this minimum utilization of the rail, the contribution of rail transport to the economy in 2004-05 was 0.13 per cent of value added at constant (1997/98) prices, while average annual growth was 0.4 per cent in 2001-04.
The Opposition observes that no meaningful growth of the economy can be realized without an efficient and cost friendly railways system. This is especially true for a landlocked country like Uganda, most of whose exports currently goes by road. Besides this, some of the traffic needs to be taken off the road as this would relieve the road infrastructure of the high cargo bearing traffic plying the roads, which contribute to increased road maintenance costs.
Although the Ministry of Works and Transport has reported the concessioneering of URC, it is highly doubted by the Opposition that the resultant commercialization of rail services will not lead to services being suspended on the Western, Northern and Busoga lines.
The Opposition wishes to strongly recommend that GoU offers limited subsidies to ensure that the less financially attractive lines start offering services to the population. It should also urgently consider linking the Northern part of the country to the Southern Sudan capital of Juba, which is a priority of the Opposition.
2.3 Water Transport Infrastructure
Inland water transport in Uganda is characterised by obsolete and uninsured vessels, poor landing facilities, and incoherent oversight. With the exception of the construction of a $5 million ship (MV Kalangala) to operate on Lake Victoria between the Kalangala Islands and Port Bell, and a few ferries, for which the Opposition congratulates Government, inland water transport in Uganda is dysfunctional. There is therefore need for urgent measures to be taken, and the Opposition wishes to invoke the Ministry to immediately implement the following four recommendation.
i. Procure insurance cover for MV Kalangala (although the ship operates, it is not yet insured - ref: D-60 of Policy Statement)
ii. Carry out comprehensive repair of the lake landing site infrastructures.
iii. Provide more ferries (Kayunga-Amolatar, Amuru- Rhino Camp, Kamuli- Bugondo, Kumi -Magoro, Rwampanga- Namasale).
iv. Improved enforcement of safety regulations.
2.4 Air Transport Infrastructure
Air transport and allied services accounted for 0.4 per cent of GDP at constant (1997/98) prices in 2004-05, following three years of growth at a brisk annual average of 13.7 per cent. Despite this strong growth, the airline sector suffers from the absence of a strong domestic airline which would raise traffic volume and help to make Entebbe Airport a major regional hub. Other challenges include the heavy burden of maintaining non-commercial services at regional airports and under-funding of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The Opposition encourages the Government of Uganda to support Public-Private partnership to expedite the registration of a flag carrier for Uganda. Hon. Speaker we are desperately embarrassed when nationals of Kenya, Rwanda,Tanzania,Ethiopia etc. welcome us aboard their national airlines.
2.5 Cost of Transportation
At present, the costly and slow transport system imposes a high economic penalty, especially on rural areas, in terms of shipment of produce to markets. The urban dwellers find themselves in an equally challenging situation. For example one round trip on a minibus costs unskilled workers about 30 per cent of their daily minimum wage. The very high fuel costs contribute to raising transport costs.
Studies carried out in 25 African countries during the period 1998-2002 revealed that Uganda had the 5th highest gasoline price and the 23rd highest price in the world for the same period. This has not changed much for the better. The view of the Opposition is that there is a big contradiction between Government policy to fight poverty and the exorbitant fuel prices in the country.
From the observations above, it is only fair to describe the transport sector performance in Uganda as inadequate and requiring greater attention from all stakeholders.
3.0 POLICY ISSUES
Mr. Speaker Sir, Hon. Members, let me now turn to some specific Policy issues that the Opposition considers important to the sector.
3.1 COST EFFECTIVENESS (VALUE FOR MONEY) OF ROAD MAINTENANCE AND CONSTRUCTION
Mr. Speaker Sir, the unit cost for road construction and maintenance works are higher in Uganda than elsewhere in East and Central Africa. This is confirmed by studies both commissioned and conducted by the GoU and actual figures obtained from Road Agency Formation Unit (RAFU). For example, the upgrading of Kabale-Kisoro -Bunagana-Kyanika road will cost an astronomical U$811,000 per km.
The Opposition is quite disturbed that, although strategies to mitigate high construction cost have been identified and presented to Government, these have not been put to good use. This sluggishness by Government creates a high risk to projects that have waited far too long for physical construction work to start. One such project is the Kabale-Kisoro -Bunagana-Kyanika road which, in the admission of the Ministry of Works and Transport (2006/07 Ministerial Policy Statement- pg xii), has run to some trouble and requires the immediate attention of Government to salvage. This scenario has manifested itself in different forms on different road projects throughout the country.
Mr. Speaker and Honorable Members some of the projects that run into problems include:
Jinja-Bugiri (Contractor dismissed/terminated),
Malaba/Busia- Bugiri (serious road failures),
Nebbi- Packwach (excessive delay/ slow completion),
Hoima-Kiboga, Kiboga-Busunju where the Government has no more excuses to make.
Although the Opposition reluctantly supports the Ministry's bid for extra funding, we do not accept the practice of rushing for extra funds without exploiting the various avenues for bringing down construction cost. To show our concern, we demand for justification for the sudden increase in the unit cost of Kabale-Kisoro -Bunagana-Kyanika road and other road projects that have stalled so far.
To address what constitute souring road maintenance and construction costs, the Opposition also offers the NRM Government the following alternative policy proposals:
i. A tax waiver on imported road construction materials and equipment, until such a time that the road network reaches a threshold of 60% paved road on our National road network.
ii. A tax waiver on all petroleum products used in road construction and maintenance, and
iii. More project-based insurance and technical specifications to be well defined in tender documents.
3.2 LOCATION FOR THE HOUSING SECTOR IN THE MoLHUD
With the restructuring by Government of Ministries and the creation of new Ministries, the former Ministry of Works, Housing and Communications (MWH&C) was relieved of the Housing and Communication Directorates, and reduced to the Ministry of Works and Transport. This the Opposition believes was meant to reduce the work load on the Ministry and spread it out in an organized manner, with some Departments transferred to either new Ministries or restructured Ministries. We think this was done in good faith, and we thank the Government for realizing the need for the Ministry of Works and Transport to concentrate on the Road and Transport sector of the economy.
Owing to the restructuring, the communication sector was smoothly transferred to the new Ministry in charge of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Housing was also expected to enjoy the prominence it stopped enjoying since it was moved to the then Ministry of Works, Housing and Communications in 1998. However, there is evidence of friction between the Ministries of Works and Transport (MWT) and that of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (MoLHUD) as to where the Housing Directorate of the former Ministry of Works, Housing and Communications (MWH&C) should be.
Mr. Speaker Sir, we are reliably informed that the confusion has drawn the attention of the Appointing Authority who has accordingly given instructions that as Cabinet considers the matter, "Public Works" should remain the domain of the Ministry of Works and Transport, suggesting that all public buildings should fall under the restructured MW&T.
The Opposition rejects attempts to retain any component of the Housing sub-sector in the Ministry of Works and Transport, without significantly changing the functions and formation of the Ministry. Besides, historically, the housing department has always been housed in the Ministry in charge of Housing.
It is also known from the previous five Ministerial Policy Statements that the Housing Directorate under the Ministry of Works and Transport was starved financially and almost rendered dysfunctional. It is only wise to let the Housing sector go in totality to the Ministry in Charge of Housing because the components of this sector which are the Human Settlement and Buildings are closely related and compliment each other. Retaining the Housing sector in the Ministry of Works and Transport is unjustifiable, unless motives beyond functions (financial or political) are at play behnd the scenes.
The Opposition is therefore commanded by strong reason to request, through you Mr. Speaker, the Honorable Members of this August House to reject the Ministry's proposal for funding to the Housing sector under it. These funds Mr. Speaker and Honorable Members should instead be put to use by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, to which all the personnel managing the housing sector should be moved by the Ministry of Public Service. We also wish to propose that the Ministry of Works and Transport be renamed "Ministry of Transport" in order to clearly define its role and clarify ambiguities caused this far.
3.3 ROAD RESERVES AND LAND OWNERSHIP
There is a realization by the Opposition that the country operates at the risk of losing road reserves. This is manifested by the rampant developments sprouting within the road reserves, Jinja, Entebbe and Masaka roads being the most affected. The MWT have conducted a study on road reserves and has produced a report. It would be interesting to see what is in the report for a problem that is so glaring to require a study.
It is sad to note that, although a lot of money is being invested in roads, the legal ownership of both road and rail and their reserves is in the grey area. There is no evidence by way of land titles defining the extent of the road areas. This makes the road reserves very vulnerable to abuse. It has also been noted that even persons who might have previously been compensated, at the time of construction of a road, do not remove their properties and find it easy to make fresh claims in case of planned expansion of roads. Compensated road reserves have continued to be occupied because there is no enforcement of eviction.
We in the Opposition view this as a serious failure on the part of Government. We accordingly propose the following remedial measures:
i. Funds be secured to mark out and document all the national roads and rail inclusive of reserves.
ii. Notice be given to property owners who could have encroached on the road reserves for them to demolish their properties and leave the sites within six months.
iii. Forceful demolition at owner's expense be effected for non-compliant landlords.
3.4 ROAD CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT FOR DISTRICTS
The MWT has previously implemented a policy of providing a road construction unit to every district. Over time this policy was quietly abandoned, and at the moment there seems to be no policy on the supply of road equipment to districts. The ever increasing number of districts has even generated anxiety from potential beneficiary communities. During 2006/07, MW&T has allocated Ushs. 1bn for this purpose. This money can buy only 2 pieces of grader. At this rate there is no chance that the policy of road unit per district is tenable.
We in the Opposition ask Government to avoid ambiguities that heighten speculation at local levels, with the result of stifled infrastructure development. Given the high cost of road equipment, we wish to advance a change in policy on equipment to encourage sharing of road equipment between districts.
3.5 KAMPALA CITY ROADS
Kampala City Council (KCC) is inadequately funded to enable the Council to carry out maintenance work on the extensive city road network. Persistent congestion in the city has remained an ever increasing challenge. The situation is made worse by the almost permanent potholes on the roads. Much of the work on the roads are done in haste to try to meet the demands of the Common Wealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM) meeting next year. One wonders what would happen with the roads if there were not to be CHOGM in Kampala next year.
To ensure long-term, proactive development and maintenance of roads in KCC, we in the Opposition propose a major policy shift so that the Central Government takes over development and maintenance of major/ key city roads. In order to reduce congestion in the city, a policy of restricted entry into the city should be explored and peripheral bus/taxi parks be developed as a matter of urgency.
3.6 DEVELOPMENT OF ALTERNATIVE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS.
Uganda's central setting in the Great Lakes Region needs to be taken advantage of. With peace returning to the region and the EAC expected to accommodate new entrants, Rwanda and Burundi, and with a great trade potential being realized due to the demands in Southern Sudan, there is an urgent need to upgrade some of our airports to international standard. This intervention would also reduce dependency on only Entebbe International Airport in case of emergencies.
We in the Opposition urge Government to upgrade the following airfields:
i. Kasese airfield for which we hail and support Government position, to cater for cargo links with DRC and southern Africa
ii. Gulu airfield to link Uganda with the Sudan, North and west Africa
iii. Soroti airfield to link the country to Kenya, Ethopia and the Middle East.
We also reject attempts by Government to prioritize development of an International Airport elsewhere when the above ready to upgrade airfields and many existing aerodrome continue to be neglected.
3.6 TRANSPORT REGULATION
This Financial Year, the Ministry of Works & Transport (MWT) plans to carry out activities intended to improve on the safety of roads. Modifications of identified black spots on Kampala -Entebbe and Kampala- Jinja roads is stated as one such activity. The number of accidents that resulted in death in the month of August 2006 along Jinja -Kampala road alone, reached a high of over sixty. This is a very high rate of loss of lives and Government needs to pay more attention to this.
Despite this grim picture, budgetary expenditure on road safety at all levels of Government in Uganda is about $0.07 per capita, which in the opinion of the Opposition amounts to gross under funding to the department. It is also clear from the Policy Statements, present and past that the transport regulation department is either understaffed or not staffed at all as is the case this financial year. The opposition therefore wishes to propose the following policy considerations:
i. The GoU immediately fills up all the vacancies in the Ministry's Transport Regulation Department
ii. GoU deliberately retains and ring fences some percentage of funds of licensing fees in order to boost the road maintenance and safety functions of roads.
iii. Government strengthens National Road Safety Council (NRSC) and the Transport Licensing Board (TLB) by merging them under a proposed Road Transport Regulatory Authority which needs to be established immediately.
Due to the CHOGM, the country will over the next 18 months be receiving large numbers of State officials from all over the Commonwealth, including Her Majesty The Queen of England and many Heads of State and Government. The issue of their security, easy movement and comfort must be paramount, if we are to project a good image of our country. It is obvious that our capacity as a country ahead of CHOGM requires improvement. Facilities for the safe entry and exit of guests at our point of entry and their movement within deserve urgent attention. The following remain of great concern to the Opposition:
i. The absence of a radar system to ease navigation in poor weather at Entebbe Internal Airport
ii. Negotiations that have taken place between the GoU and the Kenya and Tanzania Governments for the use of Nairobi and Mwanza as parking and alternative landing airports. The proposal is disturbing to the Opposition given that this amounts to revenue loss to the country, especially given that Jinja and Soroti airfield facilities could be improved to handle excess air traffic. The explanation given by the MWT and CAA is that Soroti lacks landing light for aviation after dusk and that the run way in Jinja is unpaved. It is the firm belief of the Opposition that these facilities can still be improved in time for the CHOGM meeting.
Although the Ministry is well intentioned and we in the Opposition believe that its Vision and Mission statements are adequate, the Ministry is still a very long way away from achieving either of the two. It is understood that the Government views improved transport services as a central part of its strategy for creating a more favorable environment for private sector development without cause to making road transport a political matter. In the mid- term however MWT needs to concentrate on the big backlog of work requiring their urgent attention.
Mr. Speaker Sir and Honorable Members , I pray that you consider our proposed amendments on Vote 016 arising from the proposed transfer of the Housing sub-sector in its entirety to the MoLHUD.
I thank you for this opportunity and your kind attention, and I beg to move.
For God and My Country
Hon. Eng. Patrick Amuriat
Shadow Minister for Works and Transport