The Jesuit centre for Theological reflection (JCTR) social and economic development programme manager Innocent Ndashe has called on the Head of State to reduce on his frequent travels so that the real effect of austerity measures can be seen.

And the JCTR has advised the government to ring-fence the social sector in the 2020 budget to reduce poverty levels.

Meanwhile, the JCTR has also called for an upward adjustment of the non-taxable income threshold to K4,000 in 2020 budget from the current K3,300.

Ndashe said the Head of State must seriously reduce on his trips as they cost the government Treasury a lot of money.

“Then secondly, like in the recent past, we see that government has said we need to ensure that we move with austerity measures and possibly we will see a situation where for example, some of the trips that the president has taken, where he has carried more people than necessary, can those people be reduced? Then we have also seen where the President, yes it is good to monitor programmes in different parts of the country, but the question here is: in situations where possibly you don’t have adequate resources, can’t a provincial minister, the permanent secretary in that province, you have technocrats in those provinces, cant those people do their duties? So it calls for prioritization unless where need be, then they can undertake those. The President needs to minimize movements,” Ndashe said.

And asked whether government should continue to sideline the social sector in an effort to meet debt obligations, Ndashe said the social sector needed protection.

“For the social sector, I think this is where you have most of our people; I wouldn’t want to recommend that possibly, as we move forward actually, we reduce on the social sector. Actually, we might want to see a situation where the allocation to this sector is ring-fenced or protected,” Ndashe noted.

“So meaning when we are looking ahead, we need to prioritize where we need to allocate adequate resources. I think government needs to prioritize. One of the immediate things that we wouldn’t want to see, which we have actually complained about ourselves, we have said, okay, it might be good to ensure that we maintain this peace and security that we continue to enjoy in the country but it doesn’t call, for example, for government to annually continue increasing on safety and security component of the budget, for example increasing the budget [allocation] for defense. Maybe for interventions that are meant to curb chaos and all those things but that shouldn’t be a priority at the moment.”

And Ndashe has said the rising cost of living in the country demands an upward adjustment in non-taxable income threshold to a minimum K4,000.

“Government needs to adjust upwards the non-taxable income threshold to a minimum K4,000 from the current K3,300. Overtime, the cost of living has drastically increased whilst generally, income levels for most citizens have remained static or somehow low. For example, the JCTR basic needs basket as at July 2019 for Lusaka stood at K5,979.57,” said Ndashe.