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What explains the exponential rise in budget allocation for classified expenditure?

Over the past four financial years, Uganda has been witnessing a steady rise in budget allocation for classified expenditure, also referred to by some scholars as “black budget”. The reason they refer to it as black budget is because citizens never get to know how funds allocated under classified expenditure have been spent. Spending is shrouded in darkness because it does not get to be subjected to public scrutiny.

For Uganda’s case, classified expenditure refers to funds allocated in the budget for confidential operations, often utilized at the discretion of the commander-in-chief, Gen. Yoweri Museveni.

Whereas during the financial year 2017/2018 the entire budget for classified expenditure was UGX 300 billion, within just four financial years, it has shot up to UGX 4.8 trillion ($1.3 billion) for Financial Year 2021/2022. Most of this is embedded in the budget for ministries of Defense and Security.

What justifies this exponential rise in the classified budget at a time when the country is not at war? Whose interest does it serve? Is this intended to satiate the Uganda of the young peoples’ dreams?

Who are the main beneficiaries of the classified expenditure? Whereas it is legitimate for the head of state to have flexibility in spending in order to ensure that the national borders are secured all the time and that national tranquility prevails, the exponential rise in budget allocation towards classified expenditure raises some concerns.

The secret known is that because classified budgets are not exposed to public scrutiny, there is a sense in which the regime has resorted to classified budgets as a source of funds to sustain the expansive patronage network that serves the very purpose of regime maintenance and political survival.

Citizens further suspect a possibility that some of the budget allocations to classified expenditure finds its way into financing politics and election campaigns. And if that is the case, then Ugandans will have to suffer the burden of servicing loans obtained to finance such classified expenditures.

There is a possibility that part of classified expenditure further ends up buying-off political opponents among others. This manner of utilization of public funds imposes a burden on the taxpayers’ who must bear the brunt of paying back the money if it was borrowed.

Amidst the escalating figures of the classified expenditure, the government of Uganda is grappling to demonstrate fiscal responsibility. According to www.economicshelp.org, fiscal responsibility implies that a government pursues the appropriate level of government spending and tax to: maintain sustainable public finances; ensure fiscal policy aids the optimal rate of economic growth, and maintain appropriate levels of public investment.

One of the reasons why government of Uganda finds it difficult to manage and sustain her public debt is because a big portion of the finances is channeled towards servicing non-productive sectors that barely help in adding stimuli to boost economic growth. This explains why Uganda is still dependant on loans and grants to meet the budget costs.

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