COVID-19 Offers Government a Great Opportunity to Improve Service Delivery
The World is faced with a looming negative impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic which has so far caused deaths, illnesses and economic despair.
The World Bank estimates that the pandemic is most likely to cause the first increase in global poverty since 1998 when the Asian Financial Crisis hit. With the new forecasts, global poverty—the share of the world’s population living on less than $1.90 per day—is projected to increase from 8.2 percent in 2019 to 8.6 percent in 2020, or from 632 million people to 665 million people.
Compare this with the projected decline from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent over the same time period using the previous World Economic Outlook forecasts.
The slight change from 8.2 percent to 8.1 percent for 2019 happened because the revised growth forecasts also changed for non-COVID-19 reasons for some countries.
Taking this into account, this means that COVID-19 is driving a change in world bank 2020 estimate of the global poverty rate of 0.7 percentage points — (8.6 percent-8.2 percent)-(7.8 percent-8.1 percent).
The world bank figures so far suggest thatSub-Saharan Africa Uganda inclusive so far has been hit relatively less by the virus from a health perspective, further World Bank projection suggests that Africa will be the region hit hardest in terms of increased extreme poverty.
A total of 23 million of the people pushed into poverty are projected to be in Sub-Saharan Africa and 16 million in South Asia. However, in my opinion this global challenge presents an opportunity for Africa to forfend the above. Again, it will depend on the ability of the system to develop and implement measures aimed at addressing the devastating effects to the economies.
Back to the point, Uganda has been applauded worldwide for its bold decision to lockdown that saw people staying home and key entities closing including schools.
This was enforced with stringent guidelines known as Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs). To date despite its impact to underprivileged people who survive from hand to mouth, it has yielded results in terms of containing the virus. Applause to President Museveni’ decisive measures. Similarly Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) operationalized SOPsand scaled it to local governments. This exhibited commitments and ownership and in a way has for the first time enhanced coordination by MDAs as they are working together through the COVID-19 national joint taskforce.
The shrug is not only good to avert the virus but also significant in optimizing the utilization of scarce resources something that has been a night mare in the past.
Wow, I imagine at one point anti-corruption entities in Uganda coordinating like COVID-19 task-force? They would do wonders. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) for example, is one of the entities that are most affected. Education is a pillar for any nation as it contributes substantially in boosting economic growth and increases the GDP of a country, reduces infant mortality rate, increases human life expectancy (Kudroli Foundation, 2019).
Developed economies like USA, Germany, China, and Denmark among others are as a result of huge investment in education. For Uganda’s case, in the 2019/2020 financial year, the education budget was Shs 3.397 trillion and it is expected to reduce to only Shs 3.286 trillion in the coming financial year. This is a deficit of Shs 111.17 billion.
This is not good news at all as it poses a strain in the provision of quality education and will worsen with the COVID-19 disruptions given that the MoES has to deliver learning materials to approximately 15million Ugandans (pupils/students) who are currently at home because the schools were closed.
However, the Ministry’s initiative of delivering materials to pupils/students is brilliant and should be embraced. However, the MoES has to rethink the methods of using RDCs, Sub-county Chiefs, Parish Chiefs, local council one to deliver the learning materials to the learners. It would rather use the opportunity to reactivate its structures i.e. DEOs, Inspector of schools, Head teachers, school management committees, teachers perhaps LC1s to learners.
With clear guidelines, this strategy would be efficient and more accountable as opposed to using RDCs and chiefs who are already pre-occupied with other duties including the Covid-19 related activities.
Government should therefore reflect on the challenges encountered in this period to increase budgetary allocations to the education sector for proper management and improved service delivery.
Government should also improve rural areas’ access to electricity and internet connectivity to to facilitate access to online learning opportunities, enhance coordination among MDAs, develop a system that is known to students to facilitate online learning and finally enable access to affordable internet.
The author works with Transparency International – Uganda.