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Experts call for urgency on trade barriers

The potential that Uganda’s economic sector presents far outweighs the current attempts to exploit it. In fact, all the country’s economic sectors are still virgin—save for oil and gas where there is currently serious development by a private oil investor, who is currently making the best out of the sector.

And the reasons behind the under exploitation of the country’s economic sector or lack of it, to a large extent boil down to sheer lack of commitment.

At the moment, all the country’s economic sector is plagued with 45 non-tariff barriers (NTB), with 15 of them relating to the transport sector alone.

These have not only frustrated the local investors who expects a much better economic terrain to operate in but has also seen them lose the much-valuable time they could have used to widen their profits.

Importantly perhaps, with the NTBs the investors lose much more not just in terms of time but also money. It is common scenarios for road blocks, normally set with a view to extort the shippers or the manufactures moving their commodities from one point to another. This partly explains why products that should be affordable end up being expensive. This among other NTBs, have raised the cost of doing business in the country compared to other regional nations like Kenya and Rwanda.

“There should be a political will if we are to get rid of NTBs,” Mr Omar Kassim, the co-chair, National Monitoring Committee on NTBs in Uganda, said last week while presenting a paper on doing business in East Africa at Munyonyo.

In a separate interview last Thursday, Mr Kassim, an accomplished business man himself and a trustee, Uganda National Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said: “Political leaders should ensure that implementation of recommendations and plans (already available) to bring an end to NTBs are implemented. That is all that is lacking.

Like Mr Kassim, the Uganda Manufactures Association executive director, Ssebagala Kigozi, said NTBs can be addressed from the national budget point of view because it has an implication on the national kitty.

“Things to do with the weigh bridges, varying axle load specifications and other tolls are pertinent in terms of government revenue. So if the budget pronounces itself on them in a manner that is not impacting on the operations of manufacturers and industrialists, then the better for the private sector,” said Mr Sebagala.

Meanwhile in her keynote address last week while officiating an international supply chain seminar at Munyonyo, organised by among others Freight Watch, the Minister of Trade, Amelia Kyambadde, admitted to the numerous challenges posed by various NTBs, promising that government will do its part as she also urged the private sector to help the State get rid of these vices—NTB.

By:  ISMAIL MUSA LADU,
Daily Monitor
19 June 2012