The SCG is a component of the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) in which over 110,000 beneficiaries who is 65 years and above get a monthly payout of 25,000 Shillings. Various reports suggest it has had great social and economic impacts in the 14 districts in which it is being implemented.
The sentiments were expressed at a public dialogue on social protection called to discuss the rationale, potential and challenges of establishing a comprehensive social protection system in Uganda.
This came against the backdrop of government's apparent disinterest in rolling out the Senior Citizen's Grant (CGS) throughout the country despite the success stories and benefits that have been realised in the 15 pilot districts.
The SCG is a component of the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) in which over 110,000 beneficiaries, who are 65 years and above get a monthly payout of 25,000 Shillings. Various reports suggest it has had great social and economic impacts in the 14 districts in which it is being implemented.
Since 2009, the programme has been implemented by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development with majority support from British development organisation DFID and Irish Aid.
The donors had hinted at reducing their funding as the government increases its quota. The grants require an annual budget of 32 billion Shillings.
In the National Development Plan, Vision 2040 and the NRM manifesto of 2011, the government, which has been counter-funding the programme with two billion Shillings per year, had promised to increase funding and roll out the grant throughout the country.
Subsequently, the government pledged to increase its funding to 10 billion Shillings only for it to cut it back to seven billion Shillings for the 2015/16 financial year, citing inadequate funds.
Luckily, the donors have now promised to fund a second 5-year phase of the programme ending in 2020 to the tune of 290 billion Shillings. This would also include support towards the national roll-out and policy and institutional development.
The donors have, however, said their funding is hinged on government's demonstration of a firm commitment to the roll-out plan with clear promises to release the resources required over the next five years. They want it captured in the budget.
Social protection activists now want the government to come out clear and demonstrate goodwill towards social protection.
Delivering the keynote speech on the topic "An Investment case for social protection in a national growth and development strategy", Dr. Michael Samson, the Director of Research at South Africa's Economic Policy Research Institute, said social protection should be put at the centre of national planning.
Dr. Samson said there is near consensus that prioritising social protection actually contributes to national growth, national development and prosperity, adding that political will is crucial in driving this through.
Stephen Kasaijja, the head of Expanding Social Protection Programme in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, said government plans to roll-out the programme to all districts in the medium term.
Dr. Frederick Golooba Mutebi wondered why if the government had goodwill towards social protection it wasn't providing money for the programme, particularly its roll-out throughout Uganda.
Alfred Nuamanya from the Uganda National NGO Forum said the 32 billion Shillings needed annually for social protection can actually be got if the government got its priorities right.
Mzee John Orach, the Chairman of National Network for Older Persons in Uganda said the elderly matter because they helped in building the foundation on which the country stands.
Orach said unlike the youth and women, the issues of older persons are not taken care of by the government which is, ironically, headed by their own. He gave examples of the president, the vice president, the prime minister and his deputies who belong to the three-million strong club of the silver heads.
State Minister for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities, Suleiman Madada, said the government is committed to rolling out the programme as is demonstrated by the increase in funding from two to seven billion Shillings.
Madada explained that the cut-back from 10 to seven billion Shillings was due to unforeseen financial constraints and demands.