Working Paper
The politics of promoting social cash transfers in Uganda

In 2015 the Government of Uganda agreed to start rolling out a social pension programme, and increasing its own contribution to it. This was driven by the highly politicized efforts of a transnational policy coalition, led by international donors and national bureaucrats. It was a struggle over ideas as well as resources, with this coalition having to overcome strong resistance from Finance Ministry tendencies until the policy coalition started ‘thinking and working politically’ to help align the social protection agenda with Uganda’s shifting political settlement dynamics.

Government’s apparent commitment to social protection remains meagre; only a tiny proportion of Uganda’s poor will benefit. The evidence presented here raises serious concerns regarding the developmental character of Uganda’s contemporary political settlement and the costs of the ‘going with the grain’ motif of the new ‘thinking and working politically’ agenda. Aligning policy agendas with dominant interests and ideas may render interventions politically acceptable while further embedding clientelist logics and doing little to address distributional problem.