CIVIL Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR) programs manager Chimuka Nachibinga has called on government to setup practical measures in the 2021 budget to cushion the high cost of living.

In an interview, Nachibinga said high inflation rates, depreciation of the Kwacha and the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic had negatively affected the economy.

“First of all, we have seen that a number of people have actually fallen into a poverty trap due to the adverse effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought. Most of the people have lost employment, they have lost income, businesses have been lost, businesses have closed, production itself has become very expensive. Even just to put food on the table as we speak right now, it has become very difficult for the common Zambians. In addition to that, we have also seen free fall of the Kwacha itself. As we speak right now, I think the Kwacha has depreciated so much that to an extent, that it has become so much difficult for common Zambians to actually do business especially those that are importing goods from outside. Then inflation also goes up, it is very difficult for now for the consumers to be able to access these good and services because the prices have gone up,” Nachibinga said.

“Survival will be very difficult because as we speak, a lot of people have actually fallen into poverty. So survival would be very difficult. We will have a situation where people go for days without having meals because even what they had saved has been depleted because of the high cost of living. Government needs to scale up and help its people at this particular point in time.”

Nachibinga called on government to consider allocating five per cent of the 2021 budget to social protection programs like the social cash transfer in order to reduce poverty levels.

“Government should come in and cushion this high cost of living which has gone up due to inflation, high production costs and so on and so forth. We have seen some efforts which government has made, especially in the introduction of the emergency social cash transfer where even in the nominal figures have actually been increased to around K400 monthly. What we wish as an organization is to see that all the eight million, even those that have fallen into poverty due to the COVID-19 are actually safe guarded. This calls for government to actually scale up all the social protection programs especially those that are related to hand outs such as social cash transfer,” Nachibinga said.

“Government should take social protection as an economic pillar in the post COVID-19 [period]. Government needs to allocate more resources to social protection programs. We have been advocating that five percent of the total budget for 2021 should be actually allocated to social protection programs; because of the potential that these programmes have to contribute to economic growth and also to safeguard the living standards of the majority poor people.”

And Nachibinga said there was need for the government to upscale the fight against corruption to ensure that public resources are safeguarded.

“In terms of illicit flows, everything has to start with the governance that we have, it has to start from the helm where by the President himself needs to condemn issues of corruption in our country, because if this is unchecked then it will become a habit and it means that people will believe that corruption is he order of the day. Corruption has actually affected us adversely. Like you can see, last time as indicated through the FIC, we lost above K6 billion. That money was supposed to be channeled into other profitable ventures that would have contributed to generating income in the country but it has gone into people’s hands. So if we were to fight corruption and illicit and financial flows, it has to start with the people who are at the helm,” said Nachibinga.