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Invest oil money in infrastructure, health-Survey

Image: RVR repairs

A 2012 photo showing repairs to the railway network operated by RVR in Kenya and Tanzania. Whereas such infrastructure upgrades are vital for the oil and gas sector, some Ugandans would like the government to invest oil proceeds in upgrading rural road networks.

A survey commissioned by Oil in Uganda in Western and Central Uganda has revealed that a bigger percentage of Ugandans there would like the government to invest oil proceeds in improving road and transport infrastructure. 

The survey was conducted in the three districts of Ntungamo, Mbarara and Masaka to identify what sectors ordinary Ugandans in non-oil bearing areas would like to see prioritized when the country starts earning from its oil and gas resources in the near future.

Out of a total of 595 respondents that our team randomly interviewed in the three districts, 21% said they would like the government to spend oil money on improving feeder roads in the rural areas. 14 % said they wanted to see improvements in the health sector, 12 % vouched for education while 11.6 % revealed they would prefer if the oil money was used to create more jobs and employment for Ugandans. 11 % of the people our team spoke to suggested that government takes advantage of the additional revenue from oil to institute subsidies that would reduce Ugandans’ cost of living.

Regarding the health sector, the respondents proposed that government uses oil money  to build more hospitals and health facilities especially in the rural areas; equip the existing ones with modern equipment and drugs, increase the salaries of the medical personnel and also consider recruiting more medical personnel.

Some of the respondents suggested that a new anti-AIDS campaign is introduced to counter the current high HIV prevalence rate in the country. They also would like to see similar campaigns to create awareness about cancer.

Education and Employment

The respondents want government to inject more money in the education sector, particularly in increasing salaries for teachers, building more schools or renovating the existing ones, stocking libraries with books and reviewing the school curriculum to make it more practical. They lamented that obtaining a good education in Uganda remained a preserve of the rich due to the extortionate school fees.

Similarly, respondents felt that oil money should be used to build industries which in turn would open up employment opportunities for the youth.

Fuel subsidies

Many respondents decried the high costs of living which they believe are a result of the high transport costs that stem partly from high taxes associated with petroleum products. They therefore proposed that government offers subsidies on refined petroleum that the country will be producing from its crude oil refinery which in turn would significantly reduce transport costs.

In line with government’s priorities

Uganda government officials, including the President, will be happy to learn that a significant section of the public supports their plan to use oil money to build infrastructure to boost the country’s economy.

Uganda’s Vision 2040 also identifies oil, gas and minerals among the fundamental opportunities the country can harness to finance its development as well as building energy and transport infrastructure to maximise their exploitation.

President Museveni has repeatedly stated this vision on several occasions. “Oil money should be used for development of power generation and other critical infrastructure like bio gas,” he told Uganda’s Parliament in 2012.

However, according to the respondents, electricity generation was the least of their priorities.

Oil is a scary topic

Many respondents who were approached by the survey team declined to answer their questions because they were scared of discussing oil issues in public, while only a few of those that agreed to respond allowed the team to publish their names and photos.

Although the team easily got the permission to proceed with the survey in Ntungamo, they faced difficulty in Mbarara and Masaka Districts where authorities expressed uneasiness with the exercise. The authorities in Mbarara later allowed the team to proceed after lengthy negotiations but in Masaka, they were out rightly turned down.

Look out for the full report in our April quarterly newsletter due out next week.

Report by Flavia Nalubega and Chris Musiime