The Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR) says the 7th National Development Plan (7NDP) can contribute significantly to the achievement of sustainable development in Zambia if well implemented.

And CSPR says there is need for the country to sought assistance from financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for growth and sustainable development to be attained in the country.

In an interview with News Diggers! CSPR executive director Patrick Nshindano said that he was anxious to see how government would go about its economic recovery programme without compromising the poor and vulnerable people of this country.

“Zambia recently launched its five year 7th National Development Plan (7NDP) under the theme ‘Accelerating Development Efforts towards vision 2030 without leaving anyone behind’. This comes at a time when the country is in discussions with the IMF on an economic recovery program. Both the plans for an economic recovery program and the 7NDP have been well received so far and if implemented well, they could contribute significantly to the achievement of sustainable development in Zambia,” Nshindano said.

“As Civil Society, our main call has been to see how the poor and vulnerable are protected during the recovery period and that the aspirations of the nation as contained in the National Development Plans, especially on poverty reduction and reducing inequality are not compromised in the name of economic recovery programme.”

Nshindano also said that international financial institutions like the IMF were key to the attainment of sustainable development, growth and eradication of poverty in the country.

“The IMF published a policy paper on social safeguards and programme design in poverty reduction and growth which considers how poor and vulnerable groups can be protected in Fund supported programs in low-income countries by using measures that safeguard and improve public spending on these groups. The paper highlights among other things Poverty reduction, which is a core objective of IMF programs in low-income countries and it also talks about IMF-supported programs in low-income countries such as protecting health and education spending and to strengthen social safety nets.”

“This is not the language one would traditionally expect from an IMF paper and as a position of the Fund given the public negative historical perceptions of the Fund towards the protection of the poor. It is increasingly evident that the Fund like many international financial institutions have come to the realisation that sustainable development and growth cannot happen without ensuring that poverty is reduced and that as many people as possible are uplifted out of it, especially the vulnerable groups such as women, children and differently abled,” said Nshindano.

He however regretted that it was difficult to meet the country’s economic needs at once as there were scarce resources to meet all the economic challenges the country was facing.

“It is however easier said than done as resources to meet the country’s needs are always a challenge and each country provides different dynamics that would need to be taken into consideration. Zambia for example, is seeking balance of payment support from the Fund and one of the reasons for approaching the fund is that the country is faced with a budget deficit of over 9% amidst a shrinking economy due to drop in copper prices and with an increasing debt burden currently standing at 56% of the GDP,” he said.

Nshindano further observed that a number of reforms had to be put in place to ensure prudent expenditure and reduced wastage of resources by focusing on high impact areas in order to manage the economy.

“The IMF policy paper emphasises improved targeted spending and social safety nets. It also demonstrates the protection of social spending especially to health and education during IMF programs. This is extremely important as social safety nets are very limited in terms of reach. In the case of Zambia, implementing social assistant programs such as unconditional cash transfers universally would imply having to cover 40% of the population, which is the population leaving in absolute poverty,” said Nsindano.

“It can further be observed that despite incremental allocations towards the social sectors in Zambia, the level of resource utilisation has remained low, in some cases as low as 45% of budgeted allocations, hence the need to ring fence social sector spending especially during recovery periods. Further to this, an enhanced targeted mechanism for social protection will promote the use of various mechanisms to identify, and distribute the bulk of benefits to the poor and vulnerable to shield them against the negative effects of structural reforms.”