Ugandan MPs have rejected the projected budget cuts in the tourism sector, saying it is a key contributor to foreign revenue and a remedy to debt burden.The legislators are dismayed that the government is moving to cut the tourism budget from Shs195 billion in 2022/2023 Financial Year to Shs89.29 billion.
“With these cuts, the budget for the Uganda Tourism Board reduces from Shs26.45 billion to Shs4.3 billion. This contradicts the government’s focus on promoting and marketing the country’s tourism to earn more foreign exchange and create jobs,” said MP Mwine Mpaka, the Chairperson of the Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry.
Mpaka made these remarks as he presented his committee report before the Budget Committee on Tuesday.
He was irked that whereas the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) had planned to collect Shs10 billion from tourism activities in the next financial year, the budgetary cuts of Shs8 billion from Shs21 billion will constrain the authority from running its operations.
“UWA will not sustain itself; its revenue targets will not be realised. Wages for UWA alone are Shs44 billion. UWA has just recruited 900 rangers; these will not be sustained if the cuts stand,” said Mwine Mpaka.
He also mentioned the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) whose budget has been reduced from Shs9 billion to Shs1.9 billion.
MP Dicksons Kateshumbwa (NRM, Sheema Municipality) said he hoped the government would in the next financial year address the infrastructural challenges faced by the sector.
He said construction of tourism roads, extension of piped water and internet to the national parks remain a challenge.
“The quality and reliability of internet in parks is a problem; in Tanzania, they can do live streaming on Mt Kilimanjaro. They are talking of upgrading hotels; how are you going to upgrade a hotel when there is no water? When you go to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest hotels, there is no water and internet,” Kateshumbwa said.
Sheema County South MP, Elijah Mushemeza said the flourishing tourism sector seen in the neighbouring countries is largely tagged to the quality of infrastructure.
“Because of lack of facilities, a tourist will stay more days in Tanzania and stay in Uganda for like two days. The visitors are more or less the same but the amount of money that will go to Tanzania will be more,” said Mushemeza.
MPs recommended a more comprehensive marketing strategy for the sector whose potential they said is still not sufficiently utilised.