Zambians would regard their President as a man of honour and integrity if he ordered the reduction of his own salary, says former Secretary to the Cabinet Dr Sketchley Sacika.

And Dr Sacika says President Edgar Lungu should cut down on the number of embassies the country has in various parts of the world if he is serious about the austerity measures he recently announced.

According to the latest salary adjustment, President Edgar Lungu has increased his annual salary from K447,599 to K487,839, backdated to January 2018. This means that the President will now receive K487, 839.00 as an annual salary, plus a special annual allowance of K129,413.00.

Others whose salaries have also been raised are the current Secretary to the Cabinet and his deputy, Permanent Secretaries, Auditor General, Director of Public of Prosecutions, Attorney General, Solicitor General and the Public Protector.

In an interview, Dr Sacika condemned the recent salary adjustments for the Head of State and other selected government officials in the face of austerity measures.

He said Zambians would be proud of President Lungu if he slashed his own salary in the spirit of abiding to austerity measures.

“In the situation in which we are, Zambians would regard their President as a man of honour and integrity if he ordered the reduction of his own salary and salaries of his ministers. And if he took other austerity measures to mend the economy, such as closing a third of our embassies abroad, most of which are completely unproductive. Zambia does not need a number of embassies abroad. Secondly, the government bureaucracy is too big and expensive to run! We have too many ministers, too many permanent secretaries and to many bureau chiefs who are doing very little, but getting paid fat salaries. It is actually a shame that the Social Cash Transfer scheme is supported by the donors. Such programmes should be supported from our own resources,” Dr Sacika said.

He observed that President Lungu was failing to give national direction on critical matters.

“The challenge President Lungu is facing is that, he does not want to manage situations, he wants to be managed by situations. He also does not want to appear to be politically-sensitive to the situation. Leaders are not ordinary workers like doctors in our hospitals. Leaders have a sacred duty to lead their people and to manage situations in such a way as to safeguard safety and the welfare of the people they lead. That is why leaders must make sacrifices in order to achieve the common good. While our President may feel that he is entitled to a salary increase, this is not the time for him to entertain such ideas because our economy is hurting for the ordinary people,” Dr Sacika said.

“Retirees are not getting paid their retirement benefits. Pensioners under the Public Service Pensions scheme are receiving pension from as little as K200 per month. The country is in serious debt right now [and] the economy is also under-performing. At the bottom of all this is that the government is cash strapped! The government has no money, the demands being made on its coffers exceed what is available in the coffers. These are the problems that the President must find answers to. If, as a leader, he does not make sacrifices, how does he expect the ordinary Zambians to make sacrifices? Leaders must lead by example. If the situation demands austerity, leaders must be in the forefront making sacrifices.”

Dr Sacika also said the austerity measures that the President recently announced were non-existent because they were not being implemented.

“The austerity measures that the President announced are not [even] there, I can’t see any austerity measures. Making an announcement and producing a result are two different things. As an ordinary Zambian, I don’t see that there are any austerity measures being applied in order to mend our economy. To me, it looks like business as usual. For the austerity measures to be effective, they must be done on a larger scale. Why do we have so many Zambian Missions abroad? Do you know how much we are spending just to run one embassy? We are spending huge sums of money just on running one embassy. If the President wants to be seen to be a person who is concerned, those are the areas he must be touching on. There is absolutely no reason why Zambia should spend so much money on maintaining a huge number of embassies, which are largely unproductive,” said Dr Sacika.

“There is no reason why the President should have such a big Cabinet; there are too many Ministers and Permanent Secretaries who are doing very little. He needs to cut down on the size of Cabinet he has. Those are tangible austerity measures that will produce the desired result, not cutting down on trips, and he hasn’t cut down on trips, anyway. Himself, civil servants, his ministers are traveling everyday drawing huge allowances! So, taking cosmetic measures or talking about austerity measures, which will have no impact whatsoever on the economy is a complete waste of time. In short, the President’s austerity measures are not sufficient and they are not assisting our economy.”