The act of the Government borrowing to finance infrastructure development is aimed at economic development, the Minister of State for Works, Gen. Katumba Wamala, has said.
“If you want the economy to grow, you must develop the infrastructure. That way, the economy will thrive. Loans secured for this purpose should not worry you. You should instead worry about the duration of the infrastructure being put in place,” Katumba said.
The minister justified the Government’s continued borrowing for the construction of roads, railways, as well as airport expansion, insisting that a well-developed infrastructural network is a driver of economic development.
“Roads have been built and facilities are in place. It takes about six hours for a farmer to transport their produce from Bundibugyo to Entebbe Airport for export. Infrastructure development is now a regional effort being undertaken by all East Africa Community member states,” Katumba said.
He made the remarks during a stakeholders’ engagement forum organized by the Uganda National Association of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors (UNABCEC) at Kingdom Kampala Hotel on Thursday.
The meeting was themed, Capacity building for Uganda’s physical construction sub-sector. A recent IMF report predicted that Uganda’s public debt will have moved into the danger zone of a debt-to-GDP ratio of over 50% in the next financial year.
According to the American ambassador to Uganda, Deborah Malac, infrastructure projects tend to be very expensive. She advised the Government to adopt the public-private partnership model, which will enable private companies to undertake infrastructure projects.
The envoy cited the consortium of the American private companies that will be building Uganda’s refinery as an example of how useful private companies can be in helping a country get financing for big infrastructure projects.
Katumba implored the contractors to build capacity for satisfactory works to enable the Government to ringfence some contracts for local firms.
“You must demonstrate capacity because some of the funders for these projects are strict on which company should do the works based on the quality of work,” Katumba said.
UNABCEC president Francis Karuhanga noted that the construction sector requires sh1.2 trillion worth of equipment for works by local contractors in the roads sector over the next five years, which is so huge that no single banker and equipment supplier can satisfy the need.
He expressed dissatisfaction over the Government’s failure to pay attention to their demand geared towards streamlining the industry.
“We are over a million voters in this industry, I find it extremely irritating and frustrating when the Government turns a deaf ear. Let the voice of our constituency be on the national agenda,” he said.