Finance Minister Matia Kasaija has reaffirmed Uganda’s ongoing communication with the World Bank on various matters. Despite the suspension of new lending to Uganda by the World Bank in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Act, Kasaija emphasized that the two entities maintain a constructive dialogue.
During the signing of a $30 million development loan from the Saudi Fund for Development, Kasaija expressed the government’s commitment to engaging with the World Bank, asserting that their relationship remained robust. This statement followed questions regarding how the government planned to address the World Bank’s suspension of new loans due to concerns about declining human rights following the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
Kasaija stated, “We are on very good talking terms. We are working very well together [Uganda and World Bank]. We have understood each other,” but declined to provide further details regarding the discussions with the World Bank.
It remains unclear whether the government has initiated talks with the World Bank regarding the loan suspension. President Museveni had previously indicated that while foreign aid and loans were welcome, they were not essential for Uganda’s socioeconomic transformation.
At the signing of the $30 million loan, Kasaija explained that the government continues to seek funding from various sources. He noted that the $112 million loan was part of the $271.9 million required for the construction and equipping of the Uganda Heart Institute.
Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng disclosed that the project had secured funding from the Arab Bank for Economic Development and the OPEC Fund for Development, each contributing $20 million, while the government had pledged $3 million. The government’s reliance on loans for development financing persists due to budget shortfalls resulting from stagnant or declining tax revenues.
Sultan Al-Marshard, CEO of the Saudi Fund for Development, stated that the project was part of a broader initiative to strengthen Uganda’s healthcare system and improve the lives of its citizens. He expressed the fund’s commitment to supporting sustainable development in sectors such as health, with a focus on preventing heart diseases.
The Saudi Fund for Development has invested $81 million in Uganda over the past four decades, financing projects in energy, health, agriculture, and education.
Uganda faces significant challenges related to heart diseases due to inadequate healthcare facilities. Currently, the Uganda Heart Institute can perform only 1,000 heart surgeries annually, a fraction of the more than 5,000 cases requiring surgery each year. The new heart institute is expected to increase its capacity to more than 5,000 patients annually, potentially saving the country over $25 million previously spent on overseas heart surgeries.