A group of Parliamentarians is working on a motion which when accepted and passed by Parliament, will require the government to waive water and electricity bills for at least six months to allow consumers to recover from the Covid-19 lockdown.
The motion is sponsored by Masaka Municipality MP, Mathias Mpuuga, and is seconded by MPs, Maurice Kibalya (Bugabula South) , Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo Municipality) and John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya), Andrew Aja Baryayanga (Kabale Municipality), and Monica Amoding (Kumi Woman).
Their planned motion is hinged on the argument that since March 21, 2020, when the lockdown took effect, many Ugandans have been incapacitated and unable to foot utility bills due to loss of employment, failure to run their businesses and the transport restrictions.
Citing the example of Ghana among other countries that gifted their citizens with three months of free water and electricity connectivity, Mpuuga argues that to jump-start the economy, power and water bills waiver are very important and will help businesses start.
“Provide a waiver for utilities particularly for water and power. These are key services enlisted as critical in buttressing the fight against Covid in this country but more so, give key relief that households that have no income at the moment can start with, before and after the lockdown has been lifted,” Mpuuga said.
In Kabale Municipality, for instance, many households are in the dark, according to the area MP, Aja Baryayanga, because they lack the financial capacity to service their Yaka accounts.
“The money that they had on their Yaka finished and they are now in darkness yet you are talking about people turning on their radios and TVs to do learning. We are saying that people should receive messages about Covid-19 on those TVs and radios but they do not have electricity,” Baryayanga said.
Concerning water, Baryayanga said that much as water is not being disconnected, the bills are enormous because children are at home and therefore using the water much more given the directive to wash hands regularly.
To address the situation, Karuhanga said, the government needs to use the money it intends to use to print and distribute T-shirts for President Yoweri Museveni’s re-election campaign to waive off the citizens’ utility bills.
“These are essentials, we are not talking about any luxurious items…water and electricity especially in these Covid times. You are telling people to wash your hands, wash your hands but they can’t afford the water now,” said Karuhanga.
He said that if government cares about Ugandans, this is the time to think deeply about the well-being of the people.
Amoding advised her colleagues to broaden the focus of the motion to include free access to different television channels for Ugandans since they cannot currently afford subscription fees.
She argued that for a sector greatly controlled by third parties in terms of access, there is a need for the government to intervene because many Ugandans cannot access TV out of a failure to pay the monthly TV subscription fees.
Over the past few weeks, sections of the public have been calling for a stimulus package from the government given that the majority of the population is locked up at home without access to their businesses while others have been laid off.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda told Parliament that the Ministry of Finance was preparing a comprehensive report on the performance of the economy and the different interventions to be made by government. He says that this will soon be presented to Parliament.