ActionAid Zambia country director Nalucha Ziba has described 2019 as a depressing year both economically and governance wise.

In a statement, Ziba recounted various governance scandals of 2019.

“As the year 2019 ends, ActionAid Zambia describes 2019 as depressing especially where socio-economic and political governance is concerned. On the economic front, economic growth projected to be 4% was cut to 2% compared. to 3.7%. As of November 2019, the Zambia Kwacha had depreciated by 17 percent on a year on year basis. Inflation rate broke the single digit of 6% – 8% bracket. As of November 2019, the inflation rate stood at 10.8% (the worst since 2006). This led to an increase in both fuel and most food commodities prices with the mealie meal prices almost doubling. The unsustainable and high inflation levels coupled with a rapid deprecation of the kwacha made the Bank of Zambia respond with tight monetary policy (increase in the monetary policy rate and commercial bank’s statutory reserve ratio). On the other hand, the government has responded with contraction fiscal policy in austerity measures. While the monetary policy adjustments were timely by the Bank of Zambia these measures did not yield much on account of poor fiscal intervention,” Ziba stated.

“Unsustainable debt levels without a clear debt management strategy, led to increased debt service payments at the expense of adequate investments in capital expenditure. For instance, huge amounts were spent to service debts at the expense of capital investment in production stimulating sectors such as Energy and Agri processing. Additionally, while there was so much emphasis in reducing expenditure through austerity measures such as suspending of travel to save on resources. To the contrary, we saw huge delegations of government officials undertaking foreign trips such as the 24-member delegation that traveled to the United States to receive a donation of fire trucks.”

Ziba asked government to take into consideration stakeholder submissions in handling Zambia’s challenges.

“Lastly, public finance management was very poor with highlights of theft public funds in some government departments. For instance, it was in 2019 that the Zambian public was informed of the 51 controversial houses reported to have been built by a civil servant without any know record of business history. With regard to rule of law, 2019 demonstrated that Zambia has deficit with regard to the rule of law. Political violence seen through the Sesheke, Kaoma and Roan by-elections was a violation of the Electoral Code of Conduct. The Proposed Amendments of the Constitution (Bill 10) a process that started without adequate consultation of the public through the disguise of a national consultative forum to promote dialogue and reconciliation ahead of the 2021 elections turned into a constitution making process through a National Dialogue Forum (NDF). In the same vein, 2019 saw the most brutal attack on the freedom of expression and association. We witnessed unnecessary suspension meant to weaken and intimidate the media from playing the watchdog role and informing the public,” stated Ziba.

“There were a few notable positives such as the withdraw of sales tax bill was a major win of 2019 in terms of public finance management. The other wins include; commencement of parliamentary legislation process to review and repeal of procurement act as well as commitment to enact the long-awaited budgeting and planning bill. In conclusion, ActionAid wishes to remind the government to work and address the socio-economic and political malaise Zambia is experiencing. Government should act on the submissions that people have made in terms of improving the performance of socio-economic management.”