The Ministry of Finance Permanent Secretary, Ramathan Ggoobi has said government is ready to hit the ground running with the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway.
“We are beginning the construction of the Standard Gauge Railwa(SGR).The talk( about SGR) has been on for a long time. We have studied and over studied and now we want to hit the ground running in the next financial year,” Ggoobi said.
The Ministry of Finance Permanent Secretary was speaking during the post budget dialogue organised by Absa Bank at Serena Hotel in Kampala on Friday.
East African from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan and Rwanda in 2014 broke the ground for the construction of the SGR which is meant to link the member states with the view of boosting trade in the region.
Whereas government in 2016 signed an agreement with Chinese firm, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) for the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway, almost seven years later, there is nothing to show of the project.
This has been blamed on failure by government to get funds from the China Exim Bank which was hoped to bankroll the project.
Neighbouring countries including Kenya and Tanzania have on the other side made good progress on the project.
For example, Kenya’s first phase between Mombasa and Nairobi is up and running after opening passenger rail service in June 2017, and freight rail service in January 2018.
On the other side, Tanzania has also made good progress on the construction of the SGR.
Earlier this year, Uganda signed an MOU with Turkish firm Yapi Merkezi for the construction.
Speaking on Friday, the Ministry of Finance Permanent Secretary said government is committed to making the SGR a reality noting that $2.2 billion has been set aside for the project.
“Uganda is locked in the land of Kenya and Tanzania and for us to be able to transform ourselves, we need competitive transport system. Moving cargo 800 miles on these small routes like the Jinja road is a joke and that why the road is now cut on the left hand side as you are coming from the border to Kampala.”
“Our balance of trade in Uganda is stamped on our small road which connects us to Mombasa. We must sort out it out to ensure that we get cargo off these smaller roads. That’s when our businesses will be contagious. That’s when we shall be able to produce and export our manufactured products. So we are starting the SGR.”
The Ministry of Finance Permanent Secretary said apart from the SGR project, government is in the new financial year prioritizing road maintenance around the country.
“We have constructed roads in Uganda in the last 10 years. Most of the roads which connect to the country now you move on tarmac from border to border but we have not been maintaining them. We have allocated money for this function in the coming financial year.”
Ggoobi also noted that government will be focusing on maintenance of dry weather roads which connect the villages, gardens and farms to the main roads.
The Managing Director of Absa Bank Uganda, Mumba Kalifungwa underscored the role of infrastructure development as a critical driver of economic growth in the country.
“The next financial year’s budget prioritizes upgrading our transport infrastructure by beginning the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and road maintenance which is good news for everyone. A robust transportation network is crucial for facilitating trade, connecting regions, and supporting economic activities. Well-maintained infrastructure enhances connectivity, reduces transportation costs, and improves accessibility to markets, thereby stimulating economic growth,”Kalifungwa said.
He also expressed happiness with the allocation of shsshs4.4 trillion , an increase of shs186 billion to the integrated transport infrastructure and services programs in the coming financial year.