Ministries of Religion, Gender are straining treasury – Hamududu

Party of National Unity president Highvie Hamududu says Zambia must have a sustainable fiscal path consisting of comprehensive expenditure reforms that will sustainably reduce the budget deficit.

And Hamududu says the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Gender must be reduced to advisory desks at State House of Cabinet Office because they are just sucking government funds.

Speaking in an Interview, the former Bweengwa UPND member of parliament also noted that the IMF window was still open but that it was slowly becoming smaller and that if the current opportunity was not made use of properly, Zambia would have to go to IMF in the near future begging for a bailout package.

He said the sustainable fiscal path would reduce pressure to borrow more, and further roll back the national debt both in the short and long term, adding that apart from the unprecedented debt uptake in the last six years of the PF administration, is because there has been an expansion of government expenditure base not commensurate to revenue collection.

“Zambia’s quest for an IMF package depends on how convincing and sustainable the fiscal path the government has put in place is. The fiscal path the government should put in place must involve comprehensive expenditure reforms that will sustainably reduce the budget deficit and therefore reduce pressure to borrow more, but actually begin to roll back the national debt both in the short and long term. Apart from the unprecedented debt uptake in the last 6 years of the PF administration, there has been an expansion of government expenditure base not commensurate to the revenue side of our budget. So many government structures and programmes have been created without due regard to the capacity of our revenue base to finance them. Simply the government has been living beyond its means. This is where the government is failing, to reform and downside the structures and programmes so that they fit in the country’s current financial capacity,” Hamududu said.

Hamududu further noted that the formation of some structures like the Ministries of Religious Affairs and Gender were more like advisory bodies and not fully fledged ministries, and were aimed at sucking the country’s funds instead of directing funds to actual service delivery,

“What is saddening is the fact that some of the new structures and programmes are a mere duplication and unnecessary. For example, some ministries like Religious Affairs and National guidance should not be fully fledged ministries, but just a desk at State House or Cabinet Office. So is the gender ministry. These are not delivery ministries, but just advisory. When you check further in the sector ministries, you notice creation of structures and programmes that suck funds instead of directing funds to actual service delivery, say funding for farmer input support programme, affordable education and health services delivery for all, and investing in enabling infrastructure for productivity and market access among the majority of our people. It is possible to bring back our economy to fiscal fitness, but there must be political will and appropriate actions for a more sustainable fiscal path,” he said.

He regretted that government was not doing enough to convince the IMF to come to the aid of Zambia, emphasizing that the country would soon be on it’s knees.

“It is unfortunate that very little is being done by government to craft a convincing fiscal path to get the nodding of the IMF. Government must be reminded that procrastination or simply lack of appropriate actions to access the IMF package will be catastrophic at least for now when no viable alternatives to IMF route seems not to be in sight. So the IMF route must be taken so seriously and the government must fully come through on this one by 2019, by creating clear precursors to the 2019 budget whose pronouncement must be the final nail on the details towards definite qualification,” said Hamududu.

“The qualification to IMF package is so important for Zambia at the moment as it is a key barometer for the health of our economic recovery programme and therefore, an indicator to the global capital markets and development partners, that are so crucial for the inflow of international capital and development funds. The IMF package of US$1.3 billion for balance of payments support might not be big, but it the message that it sends that is so crucial to our country. So non qualification is a big negative message about our country that will have severe economic consequences. So government must become serious about it, as this is a big test on their ability to manage the economy. The IMF window is still open but slowly becoming smaller and smaller. If the current opportunity is not made use of properly, Zambia might have to go to IMF in the near future begging on her knees. It is better and more dignified to get things right now.”

         

Mirriam Chabala

About Mirriam Chabala

Mirriam Chabala is a Zambian journalist who covers current affairs and writes in-depth feature articles on social issues.
Email: mirriam [at] diggers [dot] news

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