On April 3rd, representatives from the Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) met with the State Minister for Industry, Hon. David Bahati, to express their concerns over the recently issued National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) regulations. UMA cited issues with the regulations, including the failure to clearly distinguish units of measure for specific items and penalties, a lack of sector-specific consultations, and the administration of penalties that leave room for extortion from the business community.
UMA proposed several changes, including the need for consultative engagements to develop policy frameworks and a six-month period for stakeholders’ consultations before implementing the regulations. They argued that the current penalties increase the cost of doing business and cannot be sustained by the economy.
Hon. Bahati acknowledged the need to protect the environment while also recognizing the concerns raised by UMA. He noted that the NEMA regulations were not made in a consultative manner and agreed that some of the penalties, reaching up to a billion shillings, are excessive. He mentioned that 70% of SMEs were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, making it crucial for regulations to be sensitive to their needs.
The minister emphasized the importance of dispute resolution for business continuity and the need to monitor the ease of implementation of the regulations. He called for addressing the defects within the law, such as penalties, measurements, implementation, and duration of implementation, as they are hurting the economy. Hon. Bahati acknowledged that regulations can be amended by the Minister and agreed to halt the implementation of the NEMA regulations for the next few months. This pause will allow for consultative engagement with stakeholders and necessary amendments to be made.
This meeting between UMA and the State Minister for Industry signifies a step towards a more collaborative approach in creating regulations that consider the needs of businesses while also protecting the environment. The halted implementation and consultative engagement process aims to strike a balance that benefits all stakeholders involved.