The Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR) has expressed hope that President Edgar Lungu will address a number of national issues to cushion the plight of poor Zambians as he opens the 4th Session of the 12th National Assembly this week.

In a statement to News Diggers, CSPR board chairperson Isaac Ngoma hoped that the Head of State would provide clear direction regarding government’s stance on the hunger situation, escalating mealie meal prices, economic stabilisation, legislation, domestic resource mobilisation, and the country’s debt levels, among other pertinent issues.

“Some parts of this country have been hit by hunger as a result of the drought that led to poor yields mostly in Southern, Western and parts of Eastern provinces. The issue of hunger has been extensively debated by various stakeholders in the country. We expect the President to outline a clear government position that will address this problem. Of late, mealie meal prices have been on a rise to levels that are unaffordable by majority of the poor. In some places, a 25kg bag is costing between K150 and K175. These prices have not only contributed to inflation but also food insecurity around the country. CSPR is expecting to hear the short to long term solutions to this issue,” Ngoma stated.

“Poverty levels have also remained high at around 54.4 per cent at national level and around 76.7 per cent in rural areas. The most vulnerable people who are found in rural areas mainly depend on government programs such as Social Cash Transfer and other food relief programmes. However, allocations towards social sectors have continued to dwindle as can be observed from the 2019 budget where allocation to health and education was reduced. This affects the poorest of the poor, hence the need for the Republican President to highlight how budget allocations to Social Protection programs will be ring fenced.”

He stated that CSPR was also expecting President Lungu to address domestic resource mobilisation strategy that would see the country settling all its outstanding debts.

“It is clear that the country’s domestic resource mobilisation is weak and largely ineffective, a situation that has contributed to the high debt burden that the country is faced with. We, therefore, expect the President to outline a clear and robust strategy to enhance domestic resource mobilisation to provide for developmental activities and public service delivery that safeguards the majority poor and vulnerable without contracting more debt. Zambia’s external and domestic debt has remained high thereby affecting public service delivery as government continues to channel resources towards debt servicing. We, therefore, expect to hear comprehensive measures on the practical road map to address this issue,” Ngoma stated.

“Reports of mismanagement of public resources have also continued to be a source of concern as these undermine efforts towards poverty reduction. In view of continued reports of corruption in the public sector, CSPR expects the President to inform the nation of a clear mechanism that will foster transparency and accountability, curb corruption and money laundering. Our hope is that he will also push for austerity measures to be implemented diligently in the management of public resources. Transparency and accountability must therefore be emphasised as key tenets of good economic governance.”

He stated that CSPR also expected to hear the President’s views on the energy crisis that the country was faced with, unemployment and other related issues.

“We expect the Republican President to give a comprehensive statement on the short and long term solutions to resolving the power crisis. The incidence of load shedding is negatively impacting the income generation means of the people hence increasing poverty and constraining growth of the economy,” Ngoma stated

The CSPR further stated that it was expecting a strategy that would restore budget credibility and foster investment confidence in the country.

“Budget credibility remains a source of concern as fiscal deficits remain persistently high as containment measures have generally not been adequately applied. We observe that savings from reduced FISP subsidies were not channeled to priority areas like social protection programmes. CSPR, therefore, expects a strategy that will restore budget credibility and foster investment confidence,” stated Ngoma.

“Further, the National Planning and Budgeting Act, Loans and Guarantees Act, Access to Information Act are among the important pieces of legislation that were cited in the Zambia Economic Stabilisation and Growth Strategy 2017 – 2019. However, none of these Acts have been put in place. We, therefore, expect the President to highlight the way forward on these important pieces of legislation as they border on transparency and accountability in the country.”