AD141: Social services rank tops in Ugandans’ priorities, but not in national budget

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Graph: Most important problems that government should address | top 10 | Uganda | 2015
John Martin Kewaza and Joseph Makanga

Ugandans view social services as the most important problems facing the country and the areas in greatest need of additional government investment, according to citizens’ responses in national Afrobarometer surveys. Yet government budget allocations have not reflected the high priority that citizens assign to these problems.  Over the past eight years, budget allocations for health care, education, and water and electricity supply have barely increased, despite observed annual growth in the national expenditure (National Budget Information Library, 2008-2016).

Regarding public health care, for example, Uganda’s allocation totaled 9% of the 2016/2017 national budget (Uganda Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, 2015) – far short of the 15% commitment in the Abuja Declaration (World Health Organization, 2011). Government efforts over the past two decades to ensure high-quality health care for Ugandans through a national network of health centers have been undermined by operational budget levels that are inadequate to recruit and retain qualified staff, provide basic equipment, or put an end to drug stock-outs (Uganda NGO Forum, 2016).

Afrobarometer survey data show that while most Ugandans have access to public schools, many lack access to other basic services: Only 59% live in areas containing a health clinic, 30% have access to piped-water systems, and only 39% have access to an electric grid. (Armah-Attoh, Selormey, & Houessou, 2016; Walker, 2016; Oyuke, Penar, & Howard, 2016). Six in 10 Ugandans went without needed medicine or medical care at least once in the previous year, and close to half of Ugandans went without enough clean water (Mattes, Dulani, & Gyimah-Boadi, 2016).  

This dispatch highlights the high priority that Ugandans assign to health care, education, and other public services as problems that need government attention. They are willing to play their role as citizens – most say it’s important for citizens to be able to hold government accountable and to pay their taxes. Almost half would even be willing to pay more taxes or user fees in order to increase government spending on public health care.