Abraham Byandala, the Works and Transport minister has criticized the Social Assistance and Grants for Empowerment-SAGE program saying it is unsustainable. Under the SAGE program elderly and vulnerable people receive a monthly stipend of 22,000 shillings. The program currently covers Nebbi, Nakapiripirit, Kyenjojo, Napak, Kiboga, Zombo, Kole, Kaberamaido, Kyegegwa and Katakwi. Other are Kyankwanzi, Moroto, Apac and Amudat districts.
There are currently an estimated 1.3 million elderly persons in the country expected to benefit from the five year program. However, Byandala who also doubles as the Katikamu North MP says the program is unsustainable and seeks to turn Uganda into a Welfare state. He made the remarks over the weekend after a group of elderly people petitioned him to lobby government to include Luweero district on the list of beneficiaries to enable them get free money.
80-year-old Diriisa Kawooya, a resident of Nansaka village in Butuntumula Sub County told the minister Minister that he was unable to work for his survival. Kawooya explained that he was finding difficulties to access basic necessitates like food, sugar and salt since he can’t afford paying for them. Fred Bulega, another elderly man from Kyawangabi parish in Butuntumula Sub County told Byandala that he was living in abject poverty since he had no body to fend for him following the death of his children.
Bulega said that his life was in danger adding that, whenever he fells sick, he can’t even hire a boda boda to transport him to nearby health center for treatment. John Tomusange, a youth at Nakakono village in Butuntumula Sub County backed the petition by the elderly citizens saying that even those with families can’t afford looking after them due to abject poverty.
But in his response, Byandala said he was personally opposed to the program saying it is unsustainable since it is largely donor funded under through the British Department for International Development – DFID, Irish Aid and UNICEF.
He said that the free money would make families of the elderly people to abandon their traditional role of looking after them and turn Uganda into a welfare state. Byandala argued that people must be encouraged to save and invest for their old age rather being encouraged to expect support from donors.