The Head of the Economics Department at Makerere University Business School Dr. Ronett Atukunda, has asked Government to involve economists in seeking solutions to combat the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda.

Dr. Atukunda, explained that sometimes government’s economic and social welfare programs are not known to the public or are seen to help a few people.

“As economists, we feel it is wrong to keep quiet on important issues relating to COVID-19 that affect a large number of people in Uganda and the world,” Atukunda said.

She made the statement during an Online discussion organized by the Department of Economics, in the Faculty of Energy Economics and Management Science, under the theme, “Social-economic welfare: Government’s welfare packages to the vulnerable.”

Meanwhile the Guest speaker, Mr. Aggrey Kibenge the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development explained the different programs the government has come up with during COVID-19. The Ministry has been implementing programs targeting children, youth, elderly women and people living with disabilities who are traditionally vulnerable.

UGx. 25,000 given to elders 80 years and above might be little but there is evidence that the elders have achieved from it.

Kibenge said some elders without National Identification Numbers (NINs) missed the social assistance grant of Ugx.100,000 cash transfer during the second lockdown. He however appealed to the National Identification Authority to issue people with NINS as they wait to be given National Identifications cards.

Mr. Aggrey Kibenge

Kibenge said the target was 501,107 homesteads and 498,979 beneficiaries were registered. The target was to pay sh53.5b in addition to mobile phone charges of sh1.2b. 87,000 beneficiaries have still been rejected due to using unregistered mobile telephone numbers, using telephones inherited from dead relatives or using numbers not registered in their names.

In response, the Principal Prof Waswa Balunywa, said that by the philosophical position of welfare, COVID-19 has revealed Uganda’s weaknesses on welfare. The guidance on welfare should come from the economists. During the first lock down there was distribution of food but it was affected by corruption. The government has become wiser and gave out money and removed corruption. But the population is growing, poverty is increasing. There should be planning so that the population can go to school and people have food.

Prof. Balunywa further noted that there is no urban planning and if it is there, it is on paper. Permanent structures are sprouting up in slums, unplanned population growth will be a problem. It is revealed that people living in slums cannot get food if they do not work for a day. Meanwhile a market vendor at Nakawa market by the name, Senoga, in his contribution to the discussion said they need Internet connection in the market to access customers.

On the other hand, one of the COVID-19 survivors Bernard Wabukala, appealed to the public to remove the stigma against people who have recovered from COVID-19.

“We should normalize the COVID-19 disease. I have suffered malaria but I am not stigmatized,” he said. Social welfare extends beyond relief measures and cash transfer to the vulnerable, giving out cash has brought the inclusion error which involves including those who lie to get money.