Beautiful sceneries not enough to save Uganda tourism ministry as it chokes on debts

Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities is choking on debts in subscription fees to international bodies. The Ministry owes the Lusaka Agreement and the United Nations World Trade Organisation- UNWTO over Shillings 5.6 billion in unpaid arrears.

As a result, Uganda could be eliminated from the decision making process in both bodies. Currently, Uganda holds the position of the vice presidency of the UNWTO. However, the country risks being expelled from the organisation should it fail to meet its obligation like it happened earlier.

Uganda started actively participating in the organization activities after negotiating to clear its arrears amount to over US$ 1million in 2013. Margaret Ojara, the Under Secretary Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, says the problem is real.

She says Uganda owes the Lusaka Agreement up to 1,655,747 US Dollars about Shillings 5 billion and UNWTO Shillings 661 million. She says over the years, they have been budgeting for this money under unfunded priorities but no funding is availed to offset the debt.

Maria Mutagamba, the Tourism Minister says the burden with the Lusaka Agreement is that East Africa was operating under a single party, meaning that all the money had to go to the secretariat in Nairobi, which created a big burden for the country.

She says they have now agreed that each country takes the burden of catering for its staff and only pay jointly for the basic necessities.

On the United Nations World Trade Organisation debt, Mutagamba says Uganda suffered for over 10 years when it was suspended from taking part in the activities of the organisation over debts. She says after negotiations Uganda is now on course to clear the debt. From over two billion Shillings the country owed in 2014, the burden has reduced to about Shillings 661 million.

According to the payment schedule, Uganda agreed to clear the debts in 15 years, starting from 2013.  Tourism officials are hopeful that within the remaining years, they will be able to offset all the arrears. Uganda is also a member to several other obligations, though it’s not clear whether it has cleared its obligations with those bodies.