CSPR says the 2018 national budget is insensitive to the needs of poor the people because it has focused more on resource mobilisation through increased taxation.

Responding to a press query from News Diggers! today, CSPR executive director Patrick Nshindano urged government to introduce universal social protection coverage so that all citizens could be covered.

“It has been observed that despite the budget increase in social investment, the 2018 budget has remained insensitive to the poor and focused more on resource mobilisation on the fiscal measures with regards to taxation, which has failed to provide relief, both in terms of the PAYE and also other tax measures that affect the poor despite the increase in the cost of leaving. We are urging government to introduce universal social protection coverage so that all citizens can be covered both under non-contributory and contributory systems including pensions that extend towards the informal sector where most of the labour force is,” Nshindano stated.

“Further, it should be noted that the country is far from being out of the current fiscal challenges and continues struggling to reduce a fiscal deficit with a target of 6.1% of GDP for 2018, and growing public debt of 47% per cent of GDP. Therefore, the 2018 national budget should continue to respond and address these economic challenges to maintain stability and investment in essential public services such as health and education.”

He however, commended government’s continued investment in social sectors as announced in the 2018 national budget by finance minister Felix Mutati.

“The Civil Society for Poverty Reduction welcomes the continued path of fiscal fitness and investment in social sectors in the 2018 budget. In keeping with the objectives of the 7th National Development Plan, the 2018 budget focuses on growing the economy but also ensuring that the poor are not left behind. We are pleased to note the increase in allocations to key social sectors such as health and water and sanitation accounting for 9.5 per cent and 0.78 per cent from 8.9 per cent and 0.68 per cent respectively. Noted also is the nominal increase in budget allocation to education which has however recorded a decline as a share of the budget from 16.5 to 16.2 per cent. Further to this, allocations to basic social protection which is key for the provision of necessary safety nets but also social investment for the poor and vulnerable, has continued to receive an increased allocation. This not only builds resilience but also the household and local economy,” Nshindano stated.

He further noted that the increased budgetary allocation to school feeding programs would enhance the ability by children to excel in their education and to escape the poverty trap.

“Under basic social protection all key programs such as the Social Cash transfer, the Public Welfare Assistance Scheme and Food Security Pack have seen an increase in budgetary allocation. For example, the social cash transfer program has seen an increase in both the amount and coverage of the transfers from 590,000 to 700,000.00 beneficiaries. Further to this, the scale up of the school feeding program from 956,000 to 1,500,000 children is commendable given the high level of poverty and malnutrition in the country. School feeding programs have continued to encourage school attendance for children coming from poor households but also assist in reducing malnutrition and increase cognitive ability of children to allow them excel in their education and become productive citizens in future as well as escape the poverty trap,” Nshindano stated.

Meanwhile, Nshindano urged government to accelerate the enactment process of the planning and budgeting bill.

“We urge the Ministers of Finance and National Development Planning respectively to accelerate the planned fiscal reforms in line with planning and budgeting, especially the enactment of the planning and budgeting bill and also the review of the public finance act to ensure adherence and also punitive measures for erring officers respectively. These reforms were mentioned during the 2017 national budget but are yet to be actualised and it’s critical that we do so, as these provide for a legal framework for successfully implementing the of the budget and indeed the 7th NDP,” stated Nshindano.