Potential beneficiaries of a new government funding scheme for specialised enterprise groups have expressed scepticism towards the initiative barely after its kickoff.
The new “Presidential Wealth, Job Creation Initiative”, commonly known as “Emyooga”, aims to identify specialized-enterprise groups from the parish level upwards that will be directly funded by government to boost their production capacity.
At its launch late last year, President Yoweri Museveni indicated that government had earmarked at least 100 billion shillings for the scheme.
Under the project, each enterprise group with a minimum of 30 members is required to form a SACCO which will then receive up to 30 million shillings in funding. The funds received will revolve amongst the members, at interest rates as low as 5 percent annually, to boost their respective income-generating ventures.
However, in a recent training on the project held in Masaka Municipality, leaders of various enterprise groups and SACCOs expressed scepticism about its viability, citing disappointing experiences with similar government initiatives in the past.
Norah Namukwaya, a member of Kimanya Women Briquettes Enterprise group, is afraid that systematic extortion by project implementers could render the funding worthless for the intended beneficiaries.
“We have experienced incidents where a group signs for Shs. 5 million, but actually receives only Shs. 3 million, yet it is supposed to pay back the full sum. Such inconsistencies have scared many of us from government programs for fear of losing our properties to unscrupulous individuals,” she said.
She demanded that the project be insulated from extortionist staff if it is to truly benefit entrepreneurs.
The tedious bureaucracy characteristic of such projects was also cited as a major challenge.
“Many of our members have lost trust in government financing projects after they were frustrated by the long bureaucratic tendencies involved,” said Reuben Kasumba, Treasurer of Nyendo-Zaire BodaBoda SACCO.
Jude Mulindwa, another intending beneficiary, re-echoed this sentiment, decrying what he described as government’s chronic delays in releasing funds channelled through such wealth creation schemes.
He observed that some enterprise groups have resorted to privately-owned credit suppliers despite their exorbitant interest rates, because of their swiftness in disbursing needed funds.
“We cannot afford to pursue government funds for months- sometimes even up to a year. By the time the money is released, people have lost morale to carry out the intended projects,” he said.
‘Policy more important’
However, in a departure from the general clamour for expedited release of the project funds, Denis Bwanika a dealer in agricultural produce in Masaka central market, advocated for a greater focus on policy initiatives aimed at creating a favourable working environment for existing enterprises.
“People are already engaged in various commercial activities even without government’s direct financial support, but our frustrations are the lack of markets for our produce, inadequate value addition facilities, and costly inputs among others. Government should first sort out such limitations instead of issuing out cash handouts that will most likely fail to realize return on investment,” he argued.
In his submissions, Peter Muteesasira, one of the project trainers reassured the group leaders that government is committed to ensuring that the new project is a success. He indicated that they are also gathering public feedback which will be incorporated at higher decision making levels for the betterment of the project.