Zambia Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers (ZUFIAW) president Ackim Mweemba has asked newly appointed Finance Minister Margret Mwanakatwe to review the high taxes which he says are milking workers in the formal sector to the bone.

In a statement, Mweemba said the President had once again demonstrated his desire to assign women to senior positions in government, but observed that Mwanakatwe had a huge task ahead.

“We are alive to the fact that Honourable Mwanakatwe has not just been appointed because she is a woman but because of her immense experience in the financial sector. However, we note that she is taking over the mantle of the ministry at a time when workers are badly hit by high taxes, as a labour movement, our advocacy in this area has always been that no nation has ever developed with its citizens suffocated with high taxes,” Mweemba said.

“The citizens are supposed to be given latitude to spend to stimulate activities in the economy. Our expectations therefore, are that with her coming in the ministry, the government will seriously relook at the issue of high taxes in the country to alleviate the difficulties the workers are currently going through by widening the tax base as opposed to milking to the born those workers in the formal sector. She should also ensure the diversification agenda becomes a reality especially in agriculture where Zambia has great potential.”

He challenged Mwanakatwe to use her banking expertise in coming up with monetary policies in the banking sector that would contribute to national development.

“Honourable mwanakatwe comes from the banking sector which is a very critical player in the economic development of this country, however, for a long time now, the banking industry in this country has not lived up to expectations in terms of economic growth and development of the country. The economic fundamentals show that they are relatively stable as seen from the central bank’s 2017 interventions in terms of reducing the monetary policy rate, the statutory reserve ratios, the overnight interbank lending rate, curbing the volatility of the exchange rate and containing the inflation rate to a single digit,” Mwemba said.

“Our major concern is that despite the above developments, the interest rates have stubbornly remained high. We wonder whether commercial banks are colluding in this area or there are issues other than the ones outlined above which are responsible for the high interest rates in banking sector. As a labour movement, our strong belief is that having been at the helm of one of the multinational banks which are reaping huge profits in the country, she will now use her expertise to address the drivers of these interest rates for the betterment of the nation. It must be born in mind that the high interest rates croud out the private sector thus limiting expansion of the economy.”

Mweemba Further called for urgent measures in public financial management by the government, saying it was the only way Zambia could achieve a long term sustainability of the public sector and ensuring poverty reduction.