In Uganda, a recently released report suggests the government is spending about 54 billion shillings or about 30 thousand dollars on fuel and maintenance for its 11 thousand luxury car fleet. Some believe the luxury cars are unnecessary, particularly since the average Ugandan cannot afford three meals a day. The report says the government should devise a central, more economical managing plan for the upkeep of the fleet. It cited Rwanda’s government as an example, which did away with its luxury cars and put those funds towards development projects. However, in a recent debate, Finance Minister Ezra Suruma defended the expenditure saying it reflected the challenge of delivering service to the people.
Ugandan Minister of Information Kirunda Kivajinja spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about the report.
“You know we are running a transparent government, at the expense of the government because it come from the taxpayer is subject to scrutiny. So apparently, both the cost of maintaining the vehicles to move the ministers around and the people who are engaged in the management of government, that is not a big news as it were. The 54 billion shillings is quite a small proportion of the national budget. If you know that, if you don’t move these people around, there would be no government.”
Kivajinja says the luxury vehicles are a necessity.
“Well the government’s reaction and my own reaction is as follows that, first of all, we are living in a different situation, even in the Kampala itself, because of the history we’ve passed through, maintenance about the road you pass through…. If you move just 11 kilometers away from the center and you are in the countryside, you will not be able to go there by any other means. You need quite a car that will enable [you] to reach the destination. So this is not a question of wanting luxury, but it is out of necessity.”
The Ugandan official explains some of the economic problems facing his nation.
“Well you are talking to the right person. Because when it comes to sacrifices, some of us are ready to show how some people have been sacrificing for this country. I remember have just come out of the bush in 86, we opted for Kalawure, a very simple car. And it was small we thought it would work. Within a very short time, all these cars could not even move outside Kampala. And then they crushed within a short time and were bound to be replaced…But these are cars have in fact been functioning and I’m sure if one is given a good car, it will last for more than five years. And you spread the cost of fuel; the greater part is being controlled by the machine. And once you buy the machine, it would be better and it will run for more than five years. And there is cost effectiveness in it. The only thing is that, we only need to work on strategy that would be able to transform our society, so that we begin to stop arguing about the poor people… poor people are everywhere. But at least you know that 80% of our people are in the rural. And unless you have a strategy that will be able to transform that part so that they become industrialized.”
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