Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe has asked the women movement in Zambia not to be preoccupied with identifying wrongs and pulling her down but to support her efforts in the challenging portfolio she was given.

And Mwanakatwe has sympathized with Zambians for the huge taxes they have been subjected to over the years, advising that things would get better once government broadens its tax base.

Speaking at a HIVOS Southern Africa-organized breakfast meeting in Lusaka yesterday, Mwanakatwe noted that women in Zambia were in a habit of attacking one another, especially among those who hold influential positions.

“Fellow women serving in policy making portfolios, we should not be preoccupied with competition amongst ourselves or with men. We must use the opportunity to make a difference to the people that we serve, the institutions that we serve and the societies that we serve. That is the course which I wish to take in my position as Minister of Finance. In the past women have been known for attacking one another when their colleague is in a position of power, they criticise and attack instead of supporting one another. Fellow women are you going to support me with your advise and guidance so that together and succeed in meeting the aspirations of the country and the expectations our people? Are you going to help me and other women in leadership with constructive feedback in order for us to make sound decisions in our portfolios? Are you going to ensure that all resources due to the government are collected, properly managed and accounted for? Will it be your potion to do what women in our societies have been identified with, the ‘pull me down’ attitude? Are you going to pull me down?” Mwanakatwe asked as the women who were in attendance of the meeting pledged their support.

And MWanakatwe regretted that Zambians had been subjected to so many taxes.

“Right now things are hard for our people and there so many taxes for people to pay, I am afraid I can’t take away all the taxes that people are paying right now but I can tell you that things will get better once government broadens its tax base. This year, we will begin our budget consultations early to ensure wider participation of all stakeholders,” she said.

“My advice to all coordination groups of women’s affairs is to work together and conduct an objective assessment of the contents of the 2018 budget. Once that is done, submit your proposals on the 2019 national budget to my ministry. The structure and format of your submission will be a crucial point of consideration for your proposals. Therefore, focus on areas that you think the government could enhance to boost domestic resource mobilisation. Then also, highlight areas that need to be revisited to ensure that government balances social spending with expenditure on growth promotion and income generating programmes. Align your proposals with the Seventh National Development Plan. I trust and believe that you will rise to the occasion and make your proposals on resource mobilisation and expenditure prioritization in a timely manner.”

The Minister also disclosed that government through parliament would endeavour to enact the new Public Finance management Bill as a priority intervention towards safeguarding public funds.

Meanwhile, NGOCC chairperson Sera Longwe said the women movement was convinced that Mwanakatwe would champion policies aimed at mitigating the high costs of living and consequently reduce poverty in the country.

“The increase in the cost of living has continued to deprive Zambians of a dignified and sustained life. This is because life has become too expensive and exorbitant as basic needs have proved unaffordable for an average Zambian in the current state of the economy. It is our hope therefore, that you Honourable Mwanakatwe will champion policies that will aim at mitigating the high cost of living and consequently reduce poverty levels which have continued to carry the face of a woman in Zambia,” Longwe said.

And Longwe said she was hopeful that government would come up punitive measures against public servants that abuse and blatantly steal public resources.

“NGOCC is aware that the country is struggling with unsustainable external debt stock which stands at ‘US$7.9 billion’ according to the Ministry of Finance information. It is our expectation that Honourable Mwanakatwe, you will facilitate the long awaited implementation of the debt management strategy so as to free more resources towards improving social service delivery. As the focal point of the women’s movement, NGOCC remains deeply concerned with the high levels of mismanagement of the public resource as evidenced by the revelations in the annual Auditor General’s report. We hope therefore, that you as new Finance Minister will continue with the Public Finance management reforms in order to stop the leakages of public resources,” said Longwe.