Parliament has tasked the government to fast-track the rehabilitation of the Kampala – Malaba metre gauge railway as a way of enhancing trade and transport. This, Members of Parliament said, will place Uganda in tandem with her sister East African Community partner states.
The call follows the unanimous adoption of a report presented by the Chairperson of the Committee on National Economy, John Bosco Ikojo on the proposal by the government to borrow up to 147.69 million Euros from the African Development Fund and 25.9841 million Euros from the Corporate Internationalisation Fund of Spain.
Ikojo said that the refurbishment of the railway line targets to increase transport interconnectivity, enhance trade competitiveness, and support production in agro-processing, mining, timber, petroleum and manufacturing industries.
According to the Committee, the government should facilitate the Uganda Railways Corporation and railway police adequately so that they can patrol and protect the railway infrastructure from vandalism and theft.
The report also implored the government to provide Shs79.93 billion to compensate affected persons within the railway corridor so that the much-required land is freed from encroachers to allow for timely project implementation and curtailed expenses of future compensation.
The Committee further guided that the government invest in a concrete sleeper production plant fully equipped and owned by the government of Uganda to facilitate the production of concrete sleepers for rehabilitation and construction for other rail lines across the country.
The House, chaired by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa on Wednesday, 23 August 2023, extensively deliberated on the recommendations of the report with several MPs calling on the government to ensure that the loan is utilized appropriately for the benefit of Ugandans.
“We come with the appetite of supporting loans and yet they get diverted to other things that are not essential. How do we stick to the reason for borrowing?” asked Mawokota County North MP, Hillary Kiyaga.
Speaking to the report, Bernard Onen, the Eastern Region Youth Representative emphasised that with 70 per cent of inland goods being transported through the Eastern part of the country, the establishment of the railway line would be a game changer for the transport sector.
The Minister of State for Bunyoro Affairs, Jenipher Namuyangu, appealed to the House to approve the loan, saying that it would change the transport sector while connecting many districts.
However, the Member of Parliament for Butambala County, Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi, queried why the money for counterpart funding by the government was almost the same as the money to be borrowed yet the money was not budgeted for.
Muwanga Kivumbi expressed concern that the interest for the loan was too high and encouraged the House to scrutinize the loan request properly.
The Minister of State for Finance in charge of General Duties, Henry Musasizi, informed the House that the money will also be used for feasibility studies, physical planning, resource revenue improvement, waste management practices, asset management, and traffic and environmental assessment among others.