Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR) Resource Governance Coordinator Chimuka Nachibinga has urged Zambians to brace themselves for harder times amidst Zambia’s impending failure to achieve and fulfill the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP).

And Nachibinga has urged government to channel resources to areas mentioned in the Vision 2030 agenda as opposed to spending more on infrastructure, which is not currently contributing to poverty reduction in the country.

Vision 2030 states that achieving middle-income status requires: increasing annual health expenditure per capita to a period average of US $150, comparable to middle-income economies like Botswana, Gabon, Panama and South Africa in addition to pursuing prudent fiscal, financial, monetary and exchange rate policies that are consistent with the nation’s socio-economic development objectives.

In an interview, Nachibinga noted that Zambia had only been able to achieve just 23 per cent of the 7NDP in over two years since it was officially launched, adding that it remained unlikely that the country would reach the desired 100 per cent after another two and half years.

The 7NDP was rolled out in 2017 and runs up to 2021, when government will be expected to initiate an eighth successive plan.

“We need to tighten ourselves for hard times! For example, we have the Seventh National Development Plan, which is supposed to be implemented for five years. So, from 2017 up to now, we have only implemented up to 23 per cent of the 7NDP! And the 7NDP outlines the priority areas that are supposed to be implemented and resources are supposed to be channelled in that area so it means that achieving, we are almost halfway to the end of the 7NDP. So, if we are going to go at that rate of 23 point something per cent implementation for two years, then it means that we can only add another 23 percent that we have and we will have 46 per cent. So, in terms of implementation of the priority areas that we have, we have not done much, and as a result, we are suffering from these high levels of borrowing because we are not able, as a country, to have our own resources,” Nachibinga said.

And Nachibinga urged government to consider channelling more resources to areas mentioned in the Vision 2030 as opposed to spending more on infrastructure, which was not currently contributing to poverty reduction in the country.

“Of course, we are losing a lot of resources through illicit financial flaws, and as a country also, we have not prioritized the programmes that can empower poor people. Much of the government spending is going to infrastructure and those are not programmes that can empower local people. If government would have prioritized the areas that have been listed, there are about 20 plus areas that have been listed for us to be listed as a middle-income country in the Vision 2030. If there were resources that were being channelled towards (that), then definitely, we would have seen the poverty levels reducing, but now, the poverty levels are going high because there are no resources that are being channelled into areas that are supposed to lift the living standards of the poor,” he noted.

“There are so many factors that are causing that, like I mentioned, in Africa, we are losing a lot of resources, for example, we are losing about US $60 billion a year of which those resources were supposed to be channelled into economic programmes that can help to alleviate the poverty in the country. In Zambia only, we do not have resources to channel into economic activities that can help uplift the living standards of the people. And there are so many other factors that are contributing to that, for example, we are talking about the hunger situation, which is coming as a result of climatic changes; we are talking of energy shortages, and you know that energy shortages when you have got power deficit, it has got negative effects in terms of poverty reduction because now what is happening is the production costs of the goods and services that are being produced in the country has shot up! Poor people without disposable incomes were struggling to have three meals a day, so what happens now when prices of goods and services have gone up?”

He added that poverty levels will continue to rise if nothing was done to increase social sector spending amid high debt repayments in the forthcoming 2020 national budget.

“First of all, when you look at the high levels of debt that the country has contracted, for example, the external debt now stands at US $10.23 billion and the domestic debt stands at US $6 billion and that is a very high level of debt. So, what is happening now is that 70 per cent of the budget is going towards debt servicing and paying emoluments so only 30 per cent will be channelled towards other social protection programmes. So, definitely, we expect social protection programmes to be affected in terms of spending. Picking it from the 2019 budget, you already saw that there was a reduction in terms of funding to the education sector and also to the health sector,” explained Nachibinga.

“So, this will definitely have a detrimental effect when it comes to access to basic services; access to healthcare; access to education and other services that protect the poor. So, in terms of poverty reduction, we are seeing a negative correlation because there is no way you can reduce poverty if you are not channelling resources to social protection programmes, such as the FISP (Farmer Input Support Programme) programmes and other programmes that are meant to protect the poor.”