CIVIL Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR) says government should lessen the tax burden on citizens and increase social protection programs to cushion Zambians against the escalating cost of living.

CSPR programs coordinator Chimuka Nachibinga said reducing the tax burden would increase disposable income, which would cushion the cost of living that has soared to K7,195.60, according to the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection.

“I think government needs to lessen the tax burden on the citizens meaning that they have to reconsider reducing or reconsider increasing the non taxable threshold, maybe to about K4 000, so that people can have more disposable income on their hands. As you are aware that the dependency ratio has also gone up amidst those people who are working, they are feeding a number of mouths and the little disposable income that they have is being shared by a number of people against the poverty levels and also escalated the poor living standards,” Nachibinga said.

“The other strategy that we would want to recommend to government is investing in all social protection programs that would go a long way; and also investing in the agriculture sector, so that agriculture becomes self reliant and people are able to produce one or two things. So it calls for even increasing the prices of maize as it is now so that the farmers can be empowered in one way or the other. The long term strategy we can recommend is that government think of investing in shock responsive social protection programs. This calls for them to come up with specific sinking funds for money that will be channeled towards social protection programs.”
He added that government should also widen safety nets in terms of social cash transfers in order to cushion the burden on the vulnerable people in society.”

He lamented that more people were slipping into the poverty line.

“The Unfortunate part is that the disposable income for the people has remained as static. It has not increased actually it has decreased to a situation which is unbearable and most of the people have actually dropped into the poverty line. So, government should widen the safety nets in terms of the cash transfers themselves. Government should scale up in terms of the beneficiaries because there are a number of people that have actually fallen into poverty. So, if they scale in terms of beneficiaries and also ensure that they disperse the money at the right time , so that the beneficiaries can appreciate the values of that money, it will try and cushion the cost of living,” he said.

Nachibinga said there was need for government to prioritise economic growth programs like social protection programs and forego infrastructure development projects for the time being.

“The resources are there, it is an issue to do with priorities. When you look at the 2020 budget there is a lot of money that has been channeled to infrastructure development, especially roads. At this particular point in time I think government should be looking at the priority areas which are the priority areas that they are supposed to invest in. When we look at our economic growth from 2012, ever since we started investing in agriculture heavily especially the roads our economic growth has been shrinking, now we are talking about a negative growth,” said Nachibinga.

“So it is a wake up call to government to ensure resources are channeled to priority areas that can stimulate economic growth. We are not saying that roads are bad but let us look at what are the priority areas. So, the same resources that are remaining after the debt payment and so on have been put aside we can channel those resources to priority areas that can stimulate the economy; and one of those areas is the social protection programs, agriculture and other sectors that can stimulate the economy.”