The launch of the 2016 Uganda Poverty Assessment Report by the World Bank Group at Kampala Serena Conference Centre, has stirred complaints regarding persistent poverty in the North and Eastern parts of Uganda which have continued to lag behind when compared to the Western and Central region.


“There are large and increasing regional variations in poverty with most of the poor concentrated in the north and the east,” reads the abridged version of the report. It adds that 68 percent of the poor lived in the north and east by 2006 and rose to 84 percent in 2013 while the central and western region have experienced more rapid poverty reduction. The report further notes an increase in national inequality.
The findings of the 2016, World Bank report are synonymous with the results of an earlier EPRC study that reviewed the extent to which macro level performance impacted on the living standards of Ugandans, regional disparities as well as drivers of poverty reduction.


In a paper titled, “Uganda’s progress towards poverty reduction during the last decade 2002/3-2012/13: is the gap between leading and lagging areas widening or narrowing?” The results showed that despite progress in welfare improvement at national level, poverty reduction remained unchanged in the lagging areas of Northern and Eastern Uganda. The report also showed that poverty was growing in urban areas, while the rising inequality since 2002/3 was interrupted by significant improvements in the distribution of incomes during FY 2009/10 to 2012/13.


Discussing the World Bank report as a panellist, Dr Sarah Ssewanyana the Executive Director Economic Policy Research Centre, raised the need to address the political economy question, which she said often leads to bad decisions and increases regional inequality. “We need to understand how the political economy in Uganda impacts on poverty reduction,” Ssewanyana said.
She said that the failure to sustain growth in the lagging regions amidst several government anti-poverty interventions raises policy challenges, citing the mismanagement of NUSAF and the inclusion of well-off districts such as Soroti and Mbale in the PRDP. She called for sub regional analysis to bring out disparities and the necessary interventions to avoid spreading resources thinly without any significant result.


Similarly, Hon. Lowila Oketayot the Woman Member of Parliament for Pader and Chairperson Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture said, “Regional inequality has saddened me, and the gaps are so wide despite the existence of a number of policies.” Lowila cited the student’s loan scheme, which she says, does not ensure equal opportunities for all Ugandans in attaining higher education. “When you look at the list of students that has been selected this academic year, almost 70-80% come from the Western and Central region,” Lowila observed. She emphasized that such programmes should specifically target the North and the East to bridge regional inequality.
The report examined Uganda’s progress in reducing poverty in the period between 2006 and 2013 and recommends investment in quality agricultural inputs and extension services to rid Ugandan households of poverty.


Christina Malmberg Calvo, the World Bank Country Director called for improved productivity in agriculture and delivery of quality social services particularly to the North and the Eastern region which have lagged behind. However, Hon. Lowila warned that if provision of inputs to farmers is not accompanied by an organised extension system, the money used to buy inputs, shall be blown away.

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