DEMOCRATIC Party president Harry Kalaba says Zambians should brace for tougher times because government doesn’t seem to have a grip on the economy.

And Kalaba says that Zambians must forget about mealie meal prices and other commodities reducing and must brace themselves for an even higher cost of living.

Meanwhile, Kalaba has urged government to ensure that contributions from well-wishers go in ensuring that citizens have basics like face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu estimated that Zambia’s budgeted revenue would fall short of target by at least K14.8 billion, which is 19.7 per cent of the approved 2020 budget.

He also said that Zambia’s economy had been revised downwards and projected to grow at -2.6 per cent on account of the COVID-19 impact.

But speaking when he featured on Hot FM’s Hot Seat programme, Thursday, Kalaba said Dr Ng’andu’s projection meant that Zambians should brace themselves for harder times amid a spike in commodity prices.

“…This means that the ordinary Zambian must forget about the price of mealie meal, about the price of cooking oil [and] rentals from their landlords coming down. They must brace themselves for harder times. They are basically telling you that, ‘we expect hard times to come ahead.’ They are only giving you an excuse that this is the problem that we have. Government being government must find ways of ameliorating their deficits so that citizens are cushioned. That is why countries all across the globe are now talking to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). That’s why IMF has even relaxed its measures on countries like Rwanda, those that had borrowed from them. In fact, they have even given money to fight COVID-19 because they understand that there will be challenges. So, if you are not talking to IMF, the World Bank, whom are you talking to?” Kalaba asked.

And he said if PF survived 2021, mealie meal would become as expensive as K500.

“For the PF, there is no way out of this. The PF has reached a dead-end! There is no way they can get out of this quagmire. You are planning on how you should win the elections, but you are not telling us why you should win those elections. Because even if the PF was to win elections, civil servants will lose their jobs! You will start buying a bag of mealie meal at K400, K500, one (25Kg bag) because, now, they will say, ‘after all, I’m going, my five years is finishing so it’s okay.’ The PF, as a government, has lost credibility before the international community. The PF, as a government, has reached a dead-end and you don’t expect much from a regime as tired as this one. All they know is to suppress people’s freedom,” he added.

Meanwhile, Kalaba, the former Foreign Affairs Minister, urged government to ensure that contributions from well-wishers went in ensuring that citizens had the basics to fight COVID-19.

“As DP, we had suggested three weeks ago that these face masks, we should include our tailors all across this country. If those tailors begin making those face masks for us, almost every family will have it because government is receiving contributions. The contributions that government is receiving should go in ensuring that citizens of this country have the basics to fight COVID-19. Eswatini, former Swaziland, is able to give its citizens free face masks. You go in the markets, bus stations, they are giving face masks. What is wrong with us here? Because, even us, Jack Ma donated…is it a 100,000 face masks? Those face masks must be distributed in all the areas that we think can cause COVID-19. We have to take them into Kamwala Market, Soweto Market, Lumumba and all these bus stations so that we can fight this COVID-19 once and for all,” said Kalaba.

“When you say, ‘it’s mandatory’ (to wear face masks), put some supporting measures. We don’t want to see people being harassed because of face masks, it’s not correct! We want government to ensure that everybody on the bus has a face mask, at a road block, give the police officers some face masks so that if somebody on the bus is not wearing one, they can give them.”