Parliament has approved the increase a motion that will allow the President to increase the number of ministers from 79 to 80 in order to cater for the portfolio of the elderly.
The Constitution under Articles 113 (2) and 114 (3) gives the prerogative to the president to increase the number of ministers with the approval of Parliament.
Whereas the motion was initially opposed by by some MPs on the basis of saving, majority of legislators supported the move by the President to have the elderly represented in cabinet.
West Budama North East MP, Hon Fox Odoi Oyweloyo who moved the motion, said that for effective running of the state, the president needs a minister to champion the issues affecting the elderly.
“The current population is above 45 million people; the view of the president is that there must be per capita increase in the number of ministers to service effectively the growth in our population,” Fox Odoi Oywelowo said.
Kwania County MP, Hon Tonny Ayoo said he has been approached by the elderly on their plight and says this is timely. “I have been meeting the elderly and they told me that when I get to parliament, I think about their plight; they said we pay taxes but when we grow up we are neglected,” he said. Oyam District Woman MP, Hon Santa Alum said the elderly is a unique interest group with unique challenges which she said necessitates representation in cabinet.
“We need a minister who will focus his or her mind on the issues that affect the elders of this country. One way we can do it is to permit the president to add one more position,” said Santa Alum.
Hon Cecilia Ogwal (FDC, Dokolo District) said that the elderly have been neglected in the legal frameworks since 1995.
“When we were debating the 1995 Constitution, we did not realize the unique needs of the elderly. It is important to have legal frameworks and legislations supporting them,” she said adding that, ‘you know there are many people who have reached the age of 65 and are suffering. There is no legal requirement that takes care of their needs’.
Legislators opposed to the motion said the cost of sustaining ministers puts pressure on the already weak economy. “Most parliaments are discussing how to revert the recession caused by the covid pandemic but here we are discussing how to increase the number of ministers. Experience shows that increasing the cabinet will increase the burden on the tax payer,” said Hon John Baptist Nambeshe (NUP, Manjiya County).
He added Uganda should take the example of the former Tanzania President, John Magufuli who operated with only 19 ministers and was able to elevate Tanzania to a middle income status in one presidential term.
Jinja South MP, Hon Timothy Batuwa said the effect of Covid on the economy is great adding that any other should be deferred to a time when Covid has been dealt with.
“So many things have been affected; the working time has been reduced, the education system and businesses are under performing, I propose that we at the moment permit only 21 cabinet ministers as it is in the constitution,” Batuwa said.
Hon Gilbert Olanya (FDC, Kilak South) said that Parliament should instead focus on how to mitigate the pressure on the economy emanating from the Covid lockdown.
“Given the situation as it is, it is not viable for Parliament increase the number of ministers. Right now the economy is down, in hospitals there are no oxygen cylinders, people are dying,” Olanya said.
Kalungu West MP, Hon Joseph Ssewungu said there is no evidence that an increase in the number of ministers meets the increase in demand of the population.
“I have been in this Parliament, ministers are rarely available; some of them have never laid a statement in Parliament. 80 ministers is an additional cost to government,” Ssewungu said.