Debt servicing payments gobbled K1.5 billion in December, 2018, the highest single disbursement for an official government function last month, according to Ministry of Finance data.

And Minister of Finance Margaret Mwanakatwe says the 2019 national budget has commenced implementation.

In a 2018 budget brief issued from the Ministry of Finance, Monday, government paid K1.5 billion last month in debt servicing commitments out of a total of K4.3 billion that was released to fund various government operations.

Government’s debt servicing was the highest in terms of the total amount spent, even surpassing personal emoluments for public sector workers that swallowed up K1.3 billion.

The K1.5 billion in debt servicing payments represented around 35 per cent of government’s total expenditure during last month from the 2018 national budget.

“Of the K4.3 billion total funding, K1.5 billion was allocated to service both domestic and external debt; K437 million was spent on financing grant-aided-operations, and a further K1.1 billion went to various government programmes, projects and public service delivery. In addition, K1.3 billion funded the wage bill (personal emoluments) for various public service workers including teaching, medical and security personnel,” the statement read.

“To continue reducing the country’s indebtedness and to ensure fiscal sustainability as charted in the Economic Stabilisation and Growth Programme (ESGP) and the Medium Term Debt Strategy (MTDS), the government released a sum of K1.5 billion in December, 2018. These funds went towards both domestic and external debt obligations. A further K81.4 million was released to liquidate outstanding liabilities related to the consumption of goods and services by various Ministries, Provinces and other controlling bodies.”

And Mwanakatwe announced that this year’s national budget has commenced implementation.

“The Ministry of Finance has commenced the implementation of the 2019 national budget. As we progress with the implementation of revenue and expenditure measures for the current fiscal year, we are cognisant of the interest by rating agencies, analysts, investors and other players in the economy to take our activities into account in their assessment of the economy,” Mwanakatwe stated.

She added that government is focused on dismantling the huge arrears of over K14 billion that are still owed to suppliers and contractors.

“This year, the Treasury will continue to pay special attention to arrears dismantling in sectors that will significantly reduce Non-Performing Loans (NPLs) and release liquidity to the private sector. To promote fiscal consolidation, we will maintain a close watch on activity implementation in Ministries Provinces and Controlling Bodies so that there is strict adherence to programmed domestic financing for the year,” stated Mwanakatwe.

“We will also continue to strongly observe the Presidential directive on constant assessment of the quality of expenditure in the public sector in order to allow the government to take remedial measures as unnecessary expenditures manifest.”