- New special report. The Promise Tracker is Daily Monitor’s weekly special feature that will track the promises made by leaders of all categories as well as public agencies to the people. The aim is to cause accountability, show status and analyse whether it was a realistic, unrealistic or empty promise.
- Budget. The initial budget for the implementation of the plan over a five-year period beginning with the Financial Year 2012/2013, which was meant to see Shs71.16 billion.
In the run up to the 2016 General Election, the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) committed to put in place a mechanism for ensuring that the nation’s elderly persons live more decent lives if it was handed a fresh mandate.
The party undertook to take action on three fronts, one of which was to “fully operationalise the National Plan for Older Persons”, which had been drawn up by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in July 2012.
In making the promise, the party boasted that it had in the period between 2006 and 2010 put in place, as part of the process of implementing the Plan, the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE), through which more than Shs2.75 billion was on a monthly basis being extended to elderly persons by Mobile Money. The party also said it had involved elderly persons in decision making by creating councils for the elderly at local government level.
Under SAGE, the elderly in about 55 districts, receive monthly grants of Shs25,000 for basic needs.
It also boasted that it had ensured that the elderly persons could access the necessary medical attention in government health facilities.
The National Plan for Older persons had been born out of the need to make operational the Uganda National Policy for Older Persons, which had been drawn by the same ministry in 2009.
The policy itself had been informed by research which revealed that most of Uganda’s elderly live in rural areas where a huge majority are involved in crop farming with about 92.9 per cent of them living without any form of remittance from provident funds or pension schemes.
An analysis of the conditions under which they lived revealed that Uganda’s elderly persons care for about 63 per cent of the country’s orphans and other vulnerable children.
A situation analysis report issued by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in 2009 had revealed that many of Uganda’s elderly often face challenges including lack of access to proper shelter, poverty, ill health on account of mostly non communicable diseases associated with age, food insecurity, malnutrition, gender equalities and abuse.
It was at the same time discovered that many a financial institution’s policies tend to discriminate against them. The elderly are often regarded risky borrowers and therefore unworthy of credit.
The tale of discrimination had also been traced down to the drafting and implementation and policies around HIV/Aids. Many of the HIV/Aids programmes were found not to have targeted them yet many of them are not only sexually active, but also taking care of children orphaned by the scourge.
It was also discovered that while age contributes to many psychosocial problems, the requisite support structures that society had previously depended on to tackle those problems had been whittled away by socioeconomic changes associated with urbanisation and development.
As a result, the report noted that many elder persons were living in isolation and suffer the brunt of stigma and stereotypes, while in other cases their rights to ownership of property, legal protection and work are violated.
The National Policy for Older Persons 2009, was formulated to help government address those challenges, while the National Plan of Action sought to guide actors in the area of care for the elderly in providing equitable services to improve their wellbeing.
The overall objective of the plan was said to be to “empower older persons with information, knowledge and skills to access services and participate in development programmes for improved standard of living”.
Documents from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development indicate that the plan, which provided for various interventions at various levels to ensure improved quality of the elderly, was to be achieved by focusing on 15 priority areas which included economic empowerment, social security, food security and nutrition, healthcare and lifestyle for older persons, HIV/Aids, education, training and lifelong learning, psychological support and care for older persons.
Others on the list of areas of intervention included conflict and emergencies, water and sanitation, shelter, gender, elder abuse, accessibility to physical facilities and information, research and documentation, and capacity building for service delivery.
The initial budget for the implementation of the plan was meant to cost Shs982.9 billion over a five-year period beginning with the Financial Year 2012/2013, which was meant to see Shs71.16 billion.
Shs134.1 billion was meant to be spent in the Financial Year 2013/2014, Shs197.45 billion in the Financial Year 2014/2015, Shs261.44 billion in the Financial Year 2015/2016 and Shs381.79 billion in the Financial Year 2016/2017.
The promise to fully operationalise the plan would therefore mean that government would be providing more funds beginning with the Financial Year 2017/2018 and that many activities have been carried out in the local governments and communities where the elderly live.
Failure by the government to follow through with the plan has meant that the dire conditions that it had been formulated to cure have not only persisted, but increased over the last seven years in which the policy has been into an abeyance occasioned by lack of finances.
Uganda’s elderly continue to face challenges around lack of access to proper shelter, water, electricity and proper health facilities. They continue to suffer economic exclusion and remain sitting ducks in the face of famine, rights violations and malnutrition.
Improvements in living conditions and provision of better health services has over the years led into a drop in mortality. People are living longer with an average life expectancy of about 64 years now, but that has also meant that an increase in the aged dependency ratio (number of persons aged 65 years and older per 100 persons aged between 15 and 64 years).
Figures from the National Housing and Population Census 2014 show that the overall Age Dependency Ratio for 2014 was 103.2 per 100 persons aged 15-64 years. But with an increase in life expectancy, the figures could have shot up.
That can only mean that the number of people depending on crop farming has shot beyond the 85 per cent mark and that the number of people living without any form of pension has shot above the 92.9 per cent mark.
More than two years since the promise to fully operationalise the plan, no move has been made.
Even the activities that had been planned for the period between 2012 and 2017 were never implemented.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Mr Pius Bigirimana, told Daily Monitor on Monday that the Ministry is having a second look at the plan.
“We are in advanced stages of having the plan reviewed in terms of looking at what the elderly persons require in terms of medicines and other logistics. The other day I handed over a car. If we get the funds, we shall implement the plan,” he said.
The National Plan for Older Persons and the National Policy for Older Persons from which it was born are both great documents with great ideas on how Uganda could improve the living conditions of its senior citizens. But failure to implement the plan is once again testimony that there is a disconnect between the policy makers and planners and the men who keep our money.
The Plan was unveiled with a very clear list of activities planned and with corresponding budgets for every financial year since 2012/2013, but the planned activities did not see the light of day.
It is clear that our planners in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development did not keep their counterparts in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in the loop as they went about work on the policy and the plan. It, therefore, followed that the plans were not followed up with funds allocations.
This kind of approach to planning and budgeting must come to a stop. If it does not, very many good working documents will continue gathering dust on the shelves of government ministries and agencies as the citizenry continue to wallow in a situation of need that could have been avoided. The citizenry deserve way better than that.