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Despite the ban imposed on exportation of nonferrous scrap by government four years ago, reports of vandalism of utility properties has continued to rise.
But with just about three weeks to the budget reading, business groups across the country dealing in the globally-lucrative scrap metal business are moving to fight the export ban imposed by government.
The scrap dealers who have petitioned President Museveni are wondering why despite the ban, there is an enormous rise of vandalism.
Umeme last week announced that it had so far lost 72 transformers to vandals since the beginning of the year, reflecting a loss of over Shs10b. New Vision has learnt that President Museveni has instructed Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde to look at the scrap dealers' petition and come up with a solution.
"It is rather unfair for scrap dealers to be accused of harboring criminals and for vandalizing key state and private sector installations. We have not been in business for the last four years, so who is stealing the transformers?
And where are they being taken since exports were banned," asked James Kato the Chairperson Uganda Scrap Metal dealers and Exporters Association
He pointed out that as scrap dealers they proposed to government that anybody found stealing any utility properties should face severe punishment according to laws of Uganda. "We are also recommending that our legislators pass stringent laws that will hand harsh sentences to such culprits," said Kato.
Uganda banned the cross-border trade on nonferrous materials in 2009. The items included copper, brass and radiators. The ban announced by then Finance Minister Syda Bbumba followed complaints raised by utility providers, Umeme, National Water and Sewerage Corporation, Utl and steel manufacturers who felt threatened due shortage of raw materials.
The scrap dealers have been accused of raiding for scrap on facilities ranging from transformers, tombs in cemeteries to railway lines and NWSC water pipes and meters.
New Vision has learnt from Senior Ministry of Trade officials that the issue of lifting the ban of exportation of nonferrous materials is likely to be referred to cabinet before the budget reading.
Bernard Mwesigwa the General Secretary Uganda Scrap Metal dealers and Exporters Association said they don't condone vandalism as scrap dealers. 'We are agitating for the lifting of the ban, but we are also saying that we need tough laws for thieves who vandalise utility properties," he said.
He noted that in most scenarios, the theft involved ex- workers of Umeme and NWSC who connive with the current workers. "We also know that some steel manufacturing plants connive with thieves to have materials as raw materials. Security should investigate rather than blaming scrap dealers," he told New Vision.
A cross section of scrap dealers in Kisenyi, Katwe, Kibuye and Kiseka are boiling with rage because police is not doing much to nab vandals.
"Umeme says it has lost 72 transformers but who is stealing these transformers? Why can't police arrest these thieves? Shouted the dealers at a meeting in Kalitunsi.
"We are in support of the government's drive to curb vandalism that is taking place in this country. However, consideration must be taken and dialogue should be given to us, as scrap dealers," said Abdul Musoke, a dealer.
Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde says the industry needs to be regularized before exports can resume.
Statistics from Uganda Revenue Authority indicates that revenue shortfalls were registered since the ban was slapped four years ago.
According to statistics, Uganda was exporting between 4.5 to 5.3m metric tons of nonferrous materials to Europe and the far East earning revenues of $3.8b annually.
Reports are rife that following revenue shortfalls at URA over the recent months, the agency is seeking wider alternatives of increasing its tax revenues and base.
Analysis says if these shortfalls are not contained in the weeks to the budget reading, may impact on the 2012/13 budget process.
The URA Commissioner International Trade, Richard Kamajugo says the cumulative basis net revenue out turn for the period beginning July 2011 to April 2012, was Shs4.9 trillion against a target of 5.3 trillion posting a deficit of Shs44 billion.
"Net revenue out turn for the month of April 2012 was Shs483 billion against a target of Shs513 billion, posting a deficit of Shs29 billion. Net collections grew 15 per cent translating into a Shs65 billion compared to the same period in 2011," he said.
BY PATRICK JARAMOGI
The New Vision Newspaper
28 MAY 2012
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