PANOS Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) has expressed concern over Zambia’s reduced budgetary allocation to the education, health and social protection sectors as proposed by Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu in the proposed 2021 national budget.

In a statement, Wednesday, Panos Southern Africa executive director Vusumuzi Sifile observed that poor funding to important sectors such as education would stunt the country’s socio-economic development.

“As PSAf, our view is that this poor funding to important sectors, such as education, will stunt the country’s development socially and economically. This is inappropriate and against the guidance by SADC, which stipulates that 15per cent of a country’s national budget should be directed to education. The reduced financing for education, health and social protection also contradicts Zambia’s aspirations of the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP), which speaks to national development without leaving anyone behind,” Sifile stated.

Sifile further stated that over the past five years, funding to the education, health and social protection sectors had constantly been reducing, with funding to the education sector having reduced to 15.3 and 12.4 per cent in 2019 and 2020, respectively, from about 20.2 per cent in 2015 and other previous years.

He said most people were opposed to the contents of next year’s proposed national budget, saying it was unresponsive to the needs of the vulnerable, especially children in rural areas.

“Last week, in collaboration with the Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR) and through funding from Save the Children, we facilitated discussions among school-going children in Kasama, Northern Zambia. During the interactions, the children raised concern that the proposed 2021 budget has been inconsiderate of their needs. The pupils bemoaned the slow pace of construction and operationalisation of health facilities and schools over the years,” stated Sifile.

He, however, called on members of parliament emphasise the need for government to tighten measures to ensure that funds allocated to various sectors were given to the intended beneficiaries as they debate the budget speech.

And Panos called on the media and other CSOs to continue providing an oversight platform that will ensure the reduced funds allocated for education, health, and social protection were used for their intended purposes.