The Zambia Tax Platform ZTP says Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu’s update on the country’s expected growth rates shows that Zambia will not achieve its 2030 vision.

And the ZTP says Zambia’s economic outlook presented by Dr Ng’andu offers no hope for ordinary citizens as it is silent on critical issues, which include outstanding monies owed to retirees and financial institutions, among others.

In a statement issued by ZTP Coordinator Ibrahim Kamara and its chairperson Leah Mitaba, the organisation stated that the attainment of the Vision 2030 would only come about if government revises its investment strategy to achieve the needed growth.

“In aspiring to be a middle-income nation by 2030, the observed economic growth rates provide evidence that Zambia will not achieve its vision by 2030 if significant adjustments are not made. Government therefore needs to revise its investment strategy. Investment must be made not only on collecting more revenues but also on stimulating the economy. Despite the potential that the agricultural sector has, why has government still not unlocked this potential?” the ZTP wondered.

“The reduction in grants by cooperating partners is another thing government may need to pay close attention to. Government may need to undertake a serious introspection to understand the reasons behind low disbursements on grants from cooperating partners. This is critical as most of these resources are meant to support social sectors.”

And the organisation stated that Dr Ng’andu’s speech reconfirmed fears that the economy would continue to deteriorate.

“The Zambia Tax Platform welcomes the speech delivered by the Minister of Finance, Dr Bwalya Ng’andu who gave an update on the state of the Zambian Economy. As a consortium of Civil Society Organizations interested in fostering transparency and accountability, we have gone through the speech and make the following observations. To begin with, we must make mention that the speech does not offer any hope to ordinary Zambian citizens that things will get better any time soon; the speech reconfirmed fears many have had that things will continue deteriorating. The speech is basically a reminder that Zambians should brace themselves for tough days ahead. There is great need for government to call for a process that can lead to tangible solutions to the problems this country is facing,” the ZTP stated.

“ZTP is encouraged that government is fully aware of the factors behind the current challenges the economy is experiencing. We also commend government for the steps taken towards improving accountability by taking the Budgeting Act [to parliament], reviewing the procurement Act because this is progressive. It is, however, disappointing to observe that government does not seem to have solutions to address the various challenges the country is facing looking at the measures it plans to undertake.”

It called on the government to be more transparent on the country’s debt situation.

“As ZTP, we are saddened that public debt continues to rise. This is worrying because debt threatens spending towards critical social sectors. We therefore call on government to be more transparent on the country’s debt situation. We further note that government has been silent on key information around debt, especially with regard to the value of pipeline debt – both domestic and external. We also wonder why government is announcing domestic arrears without including the VAT refunds. With regard to government’s announced plans to re-scope debt, ZTP urges government to provide clarity on the specific projects it intends to re-scope in an attempt to reduce project costs and undisbursed loan balances, even as they relate to underspends in key social sectors from the 2019 fiscal year,” stated ZTP.

“As the country continues to grapple with debt, the slow rate of dismantling domestic arrears, which is central to the 2020 national budget, has impacted negatively on the private sector, leading to delayed wage payments and postponed investments, ultimately reducing the private sector’s contribution to GDP growth as it has hit hard their cash flows. This has made private sector investment to slow down. ZTP notes the effort Government has made to dismantle domestic arrears through the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) which has settled a significant amount owed to local road contractors and consultants. However, ZTP wonders why the dismantling of domestic arrears seems more biased towards road construction and the sector in general. Is that the only strategy towards unlocking private sector participation? How about money owed to the financial institutions and retirees? Can Government disclose how much it owes to financial institutions for the loan deductions it’s been collecting from civil servants? Can they explain why they are failing to remit on behalf of the civil servants?”