Chapter One ticks Lungu for admitting economic malaise

Chapter One Foundation says President Edgar Lungu’s acknowledgment of the economic challenges Zambia is facing is a step towards an honest conversation and concrete measures to addressing them.

And the Foundation says the announcement by President Lungu that over 90 per cent of the national budget is used on debt repayment and emoluments is an indictment on government’s policies and lack of fiscal discipline.

Meanwhile, Chapter One Foundation says infrastructure projects being implemented across the country have resulted in the cutting down of trees and ultimately working against the ‘Keep Zambia clean, green and healthy’ campaign which the government is trying to promote.

Commenting on President Lungu’s State of the Nation Address to parliament last week, Chapter One Foundation, however, argued in a statement that Zambia’s economic challenges had not been completely necessitated by climate change as the Head of State wanted it to look like.

“The President’s acknowledgment of the economic challenges Zambia is facing is a step towards an honest conversation and concrete measures to addressing the challenges we face. Although Chapter One Foundation does agree that climate change has had a negative impact on economies globally, we do not believe that it is solely to blame for the many challenges that the country is facing. The alarming statistic that 90.1% of the national budget goes towards debt repayment and emoluments is an indictment on the government’s policies and lack of fiscal discipline. Zambians are looking at the Presidency for leadership and not excuses. The contraction of debt and the increase in emoluments did not happen overnight. This has been a gradual process which had been left to fester. This needs the urgent and brave decision by the President and this government to restructure the debt and emoluments system so that they are more sustainable and reflective of the economic forecasts,” the statement read.

It noted that there was need for the country to revise the system of emoluments, especially those related to the allowances and other benefits.

“Chapter One commends the President’s honesty as well as his directive to the new Secretary to Cabinet to clear up the pay roll. However, we feel the President is being disingenuous about what it would take to reduce the ratio and increase the proportion of discretionary expenditure. There is need now more than ever to revise the system of emoluments especially relating to the allowances and other benefits. Some of the richest countries in the world pay less allowances and do not provide the perks that go with holding public office such as high-end vehicles. We urge the President to consider revising the system of emoluments through clear policy and statutory measures is the best way to reduce the ratio of discretionary and non-discretionary debt. The civil service has made governance too expensive to sustain and therefore the President ought to be brave enough to make tough decisions for the benefit of Zambia and we urge the President himself to lead by example,” the statement read.

It further stated that government needed to do more to ensure policy consistency in the implementation of the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP)

“The President in his address focused on presenting figures that quantify progress. We wish to urge the government to do more with regards to the quality of service delivery. The government is mid-way through the implementation of the seventh national development plan and the economy is still far from being diversified. Chapter One Foundation therefore encourages government to evaluate the implementation of the seventh national development plan and identify the challenges in achieving the indicators and results set out,” the Foundation stated.

It also commended government for the measures taken to provide social protection to the most vulnerable but noted that there was need to consider enhancing the capacities of the most vulnerable to lift themselves out of poverty.

“Government should consider increasing training and support programmes that not only allow for production but provide additional support towards developing an entire value chain. We are concerned by the growing hunger situation in the country. Given the dire financial situation that the country is in, we urge the government to reach out to friends and partners, both locally and internationally, to provide urgent relief food to those affected. Inequality in Zambia has also increased due to number of reasons,” the statement read.

The organization also welcomed the President’s statement that his government was a listening one and encouraged that the statement be reflected in the manner with which national issues are discussed.

“We note with concern the President’s stance on the Constitution and urge him to listen and consider the concerns of the people. We ask that he be selfless once more and not go ahead with the refinement in the manner it is proposed. We also welcome the President’s stance on corruption but caution that strong words alone have not helped curb corruption as shown in the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) trends report. According to that report, corruption has increased. In order to achieve good governance, the President needs to take cognizance of the team he selects to help him achieve his results and targets. Good Institutions need good people. We therefore urge the President to ensure that the people around him are people of integrity and with the best interests of the people at heart,” the Foundation stated.

It also expressed concern over the indiscriminate cutting down of trees in the country.

“We commend the President for initiating the ‘Keep Zambia clean, green and healthy’ campaign. We are however concerned that little to no effort has been made to keep Zambia green. The infrastructure projects being implemented across the country have resulted in the cutting down of trees that both beautified our towns and cities as well as improved air quality. This impacts the health of the people in the most densely populated areas. We therefore call for more policy and legislative consistency on the part of government in finding sustainable measures to address the challenges,” stated Chapter One Foundation.

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