The Finance Minister Matia Kasaija and his counterpart for sports, Hamson Obua have clashed over what the latter described as a meager budget for the sports sector.
Speaking during the 2022/23 budget conference organized by the Ministry of Finance at Kololo Independence grounds on Thursday, Minister Obua said it was appalling that in just two years, the sports budget has been cut by more than a half.
“In two years, the sports budget has gone from shs25 billion to only shs10 billion. It is unfortunate that that sports has been classified under international travel and our budget cut. Sports budget was categorized as travel abroad because government sees Olympics, Commonwealth, All Africa games and other competitions as as travel abroad,”Obua said.
The sports minister said this was wrong since these ventures greatly benefit the country and urged the Finance minister to ensure funding for sports is increased.
However, in response, the Minister for Finance, Matia Kasaija insisted that there will be no increase in the sports budget but urged the Sports Ministry to prioritize.
“We reduced the budget for sports because our revenues are down by shs2 trillion. We are down by Shs2 trillion in revenue collection. What do I do now? The next option is borrowing, which also has a limit. The solution is doing what the budget can.Money will never be enough but you must prioritise. If I gave you money to go and win medals, you must prioritise to see what to do and what not to do. The issue of prioritization is what I am talking of,”Kasaija said.
The minister said the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio has gone up and this has ensured not many development partners are willing to lend to government and in case it happens, the money has high interests.
He insisted that there is need for prioritization of the various ministries to ensure sustainability of their sectors.
Debt-to-GDP ratio is a measure that compares what a country owes (total debt) and what it produces and this ratio indicates a country’s ability to pay back its debt.
Obua fires back
Speaking to Nile Post at the sidelines of the conference, Minister Obua said a number of sports activities are affected by the reduction in the budget.
“The participation in sports activities in international championships in East Africa, Africa and the world has been affected by the budget cuts. For us we are saying is that what they call travel abroad is representation of Uganda in where we have international obligation to participate,”Obua said.
He mentioned the Commonwealth games, Olympics, Afcon and world cup qualifiers and All Africa games among others.
“These budgetary cuts and budget suppressions were done on the assumption that major sporting events had either being cancelled or postponed(due to Covid) but the world is now reopening.”
The minister blushed off the claims of prioritizing as advised by his finance counterpart, Matia Kasaija saying it is impossible with sports.
“These are major sporting events. The shs10 billion is also meant to cater for staff within the sports sector for the whole year. It is extremely difficult to prioritise. Whatever amount of prioritization you go for, it is like squeezing juice out of a rock,” Obua said.
“We want to appeal that progressively, the budget of sports sector be reconsidered to be taken back to where it was two years ago because we have lost shs15 billion.”
In the past, national teams have cried foul over low funding for participation in international sports events.
The latest was the national basketball team, the Silverbacks that had to wait for a bailout from First Son and UPDF Commander of the Land Forces Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba after being stuck in Kigali where the team had impressed in the FIBA Afrobasket 2021 tournament.
Many have since accused government of not having a heart for sports despite reaping big from the same.
It remains to be seen whether government will bow to pressure and increase the budget.