By Prossy Namiiro
Parliament’s Committee on Budget has asked Uganda’s High Commission in Kenya to maintain government properties in good shape so that they can generate sufficient revenue to finance the national budget.
In a meeting with High Commission officials in Nairobi led by Head of Mission, Ambassador Hassan Galiwango, MPs said the diplomats should put in the necessary shifts to ensure Uganda’s trade and commercial interests are safeguarded.
Committee Deputy Chairperson,Ignatius Wamakuyu said whereas Parliament will play its part in ensuring the High Commission is sufficiently funded, the diplomats are duty-bound to ensure the trade links between Uganda and Kenya remain strong.
“We are looking at our properties which are abroad; once these properties like Uganda House are rehabilitated, it is going to generate more Non Tax Revenue (NTR) to finance the budget. This is one of the ways to finance our budget and reduce dependence on debt,” Wamakuyu said.
Otuke County Member of Parliament, Paul Omara said Parliament will support the High Commission so that it can look after properties in Kenya given its centrality in Uganda’s trade and commercial diplomacy.
“Kenya is one of the key foreign missions that we have. If you look at London, Pretoria, Ottawa and Addis Ababa, can we work on regional peace and security [to ensure seamless trade] ,” he said.
Hon. Dickson Kateshumbwa MP, Sheema Municipality, asked the diplomats to ensure fairness in trade with Kenya citing frustration of mainly poultry farmers by Kenya.
“Kenya is our second largest trading partner after the United Arab Emirates both in terms of exports and imports. You [diplomats] are sitting on a very big economic base and opportunity. The challenge I want to set to you is that when you are here, you must think about how we grow our economy by taking advantage of the opportunities here,” he said.
He added “We need to grow the exports to this country but also we tap into the tourism because Kenyans have a developed local domestic tourism industry. I don’t know if you still have a commercial attaché but there is a lot of work for that person to do’.
Galiwango said the mission will ensure Uganda’s interests are secured in Kenya, but decried poor funding. He thanked the committee for supporting efforts to renovate the Uganda House in Nairobi, which he said will return over Shs40 billion annually in revenue to the Consolidated Fund.
“This renovation of the Uganda House was supposed to be done in 2012; the renovation is beginning. We thank the Budget Committee for providing funds for that renovation,” Galiwango said.
Lulume Bayigga MP, Buikwe South, said the High Commission should create a department to advise Ugandan businesspeople on matters of trade.
“I wonder whether you have a separate department which can assist Ugandans to come and scan the environment in Kenya, see what we have comparatively in advantage,” Bayigga said.
The committee is undertaking an oversight visit to Kenya and were in Mombasa last week to assess the state of government properties managed by the Uganda Property Holdings Limited.