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Elderly to Get Five Seats in Parliament


By Emmanuel Gyezaho, The Monitor

October 2, 2008




Parliament yesterday adopted a report recommending the creation of five seats for the elderly, a new electoral college that would see taxpayers shoulder extra burden meeting the ever escalating cost of public administration.

And while the development follows in the path of the government's worrisome move of creating new districts, another political decision that increases the cost of running government, MPs defended the move saying there was urgent need for affirmative action for the elderly.

Although there is no clear definition of "old persons" in the constitution, the 2002 Census puts the figure of people above 60 at 1.1 million.

The report of the committee on Equal Opportunities, endorsed by the House yesterday, followed a May 2007 petition by the Aged Family Uganda, a local NGO advocate for older persons and their dependants.

In that petition, the elderly begged Parliament to provide room for the election of older persons' representatives "where at least five members of Parliament should represent the older persons."

Committee chairman Alex Ndezi defended the move as critical in promoting democracy. "If we have provided for the youth, women, people with disabilities, what about the elderly?" he asked.

Parliament would have to amend Article 78 of the constitution to effect the change that would see the number of MPs rise from 333 to 338.

MPs also heard that only 5 per cent of the country's present elderly are getting pensions, leaving 95 per cent of the older persons to survive on their own or on the goodwill of the community.

Mr Ndezi reported to the House that the government was planning to "pilot a cash-transfer scheme" in efforts to reverse the statistic, where the poorest old people will be given Shs18,000 per month for upkeep. That detail drew the wrath of a host of MPs.

"I don't support handouts to these so called senior servants who mismanaged their time," said MP John Arumadri.

"What was the yardstick for measuring this 18,000/=" asked MP Betty Aol. "I am very sad about this."

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