By Henry Neondo
East African Community governments gave varying pictures on how they intend to handle issues of older persons during the next financial year beginning July 1 when Finance ministers of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi read their customary budgets on the same day before their respective Parliaments on Thursday, June 11.
Built around the desire to leave a good legacy for the outgoing government, Tanzania?s Finance Minister Saada Mkuya Salum appeared to focus her budget on four key areas namely; financing the oncoming general elections set for October, completion of ongoing projects, energy and human resource development. President Jakaya Kikwete is to be replaced in the election he is not eligible to stand having served ten years as president of the United Republic of Tanzania
That notwithstanding, Saada increased the minimum monthly payment for retirees from Tsh 50,000 to Tsh 85,000 which is an increase of 70 percent (1USD=TSh 2022).
Noting that the government recognises contributions older persons make to the national building, Saada told the parliament that the Government is committed to its goal of giving monthly stipends to all older persons.
?Currently, the Government has put in place means of identifying all the older persons to get their exact number through local governments and local community?s participatory systems. This will ensure that beneficiaries are identified and those eligible get their cash transfers on time,? she said.
Saada said the government will begin facilitating such payments in the financial year 2015/16.
In Kenya, Cabinet Secretary for Finance Henry Rotich set aside KSh 7.4 billion for elder persons when he read 2015/16 Financial estimates in Parliament (1USD=KES 97.25).
Speaking while reading the budget before Members of Parliament, Rotich said the budget is a testimony of a Government that deeply cares for its most vulnerable members of society. ?The money has been set aside for affirmative action interventions and social safety nets so as to empower these Kenyans and enable them actively participate in our economic development agenda,? he noted.
Given other budget lines that the minister provided, the older persons also stand to benefit from 2.1 billion for Affirmative Action Social Development, KSh 1.2 billion budgeted for those with severe disability, and KSh 0.3 billion for people with disability under coverage of cash transfer.
The older persons that are guardians to orphans and vulnerable children may also benefit from KSh 9.0 billion given to orphans and vulnerable children and KSh 1.3 billion for Hunger Safety Net.
The older persons who live on streets may benefit from KSh 0.3 billion set aside for street families.
However, point of concern is the Finance ministers? plan to move all the transfer payments to beneficiaries to a digital platform in bid to improve transparency, accountability and reduce costs may create room for missing out older persons. Few old persons have know-how in the use of technology let alone gadgets.
In Rwanda, old persons issues may be covered under any of the four thematic areas the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Claver Gatete used to base his budget estimates. The four thematic areas include economic transformation for rapid growth, rural development, productivity and youth employment creation as well as accountable governance.
The exemptions appear to be in Uganda where Minister Of Finance, Planning And Economic Development Honourable Matia Kasaija never mentioned the term ?old persons? once. However, in his budgetary estimates, Kasaija?s Social Protection for Vulnerable Groups headlined as Vote Function 1004 sets aside USh 1 billion to support people with disability and the elderly. (1USD=USh3163.00)
Welcoming the announcement by the Finance Ministers,
Dr Prafulla Mishra, HelpAge international?s Regional Director for East, West and Central Africa welcomed the announcements by the governments in East African Community.
He said it is encouraging to see Tanzanian government acknowledging role of older persons in its economy and also other governments allocating funds on issues of the older persons especially coming just days before the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day set for Monday, June 15. He however added that the needs of older persons are still many and more need to be done to ensure that they live dignified and productivity lives.