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Ugandan MPs winning argument to make Senior Citizen's Grant national, event hears

The political discussion about the future of Uganda’s piloted Senior Citizen’s Grant has progressed to how the pension can be introduced nationally, an event heard last night.

The Hon. Flavia Kabahenda Rwabuhoro, speaking at the London event, revealed how the political argument in Uganda was won to secure the cabinet’s approval of Government funding to gradually take on the financing of 15 piloted districts, while extending it to 40 more of Uganda’s 112 districts.

Rwabuhoro, the founding chairperson and coordinator of the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Social Protection, which a quarter of MPs are members of, said that the forum had provided a platform to build political will. She said that the ministry of finance had been impressed by evidence on the economic impacts contained in a report.

This point was emphasised in a keynote speech at the Age International, Development Pathways and Help Age event by Hon. Alex Ndeezi, MP for persons with disabilities and chairperson of the sessional committee on gender, labour and social development. “This is not charity, this is an investment,” he said.

The argument was not only made on economic grounds, however: Rwabuhoro gave an insight into the political dynamics that created momentum for the extension of the Senior Citizen’s Grant. “Many MPs lost their seats in the last elections where they had not brought the Senior Citizen’s Grant to their communities. People had seen the benefits in neighbouring districts, and attributed the fact that it was not introduced in their areas to their leaders."

“The new MPs are not going to risk the same happening to them.” The fact that the grant, piloted from 2011 with support from DfID and Irish Aid, has also increasingly become associated with President Yoweri Museveni had also proved pivotal, she added, and the argument was now about how to introduce the SCG nationwide, while support from DfID and Irish Aid gradually reduces. "Members of Parliament are saying it must be everywhere... the debate now is national roll-out."

The event also heard from Bjorn Gelders, Development Pathways Senior Social Protection Specialist, who outlined the multiplier effects for the economy, and Charles Knox-Vydmanov, Global Advisor on Social Protection at Help Age.

Knox-Vydmanov said that national leaderships advancing inclusive social protection had received political benefit, while targeted schemes tended not to gain national ownership. In questions afterwards, a representative from Irish Aid said that the grant was an example of a programme that was helping the vulnerable.