DEFENCE Minister Davies Chama says people criticising the budgetary allocation to his Ministry are arguing from an ignorant point of view because defence personnel need resources to continue safeguarding national security.
Last Friday, Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu unveiled a K119.6 billion 2021 national budget, which proposed to spend over K5.6 billion, representing 4.7 per cent of the total budget, in defence services and around K3.1 billion, representing 2.6 per cent of the budget, on public order and safety.
But the UPND has argued that the continued huge budgetary allocation to defence, security and public order showed that the ruling PF was preparing for a “possible war during the 2021 general election.”
In an interview, however, Chama said operational funds were allocated to ensure that security personnel were being well looked after to continue maintaining national security.
“We have our men and women in uniform. They need wages, they need to maintain their equipment, they need to maintain their operations, capabilities and they are spread out in all parts of the country. In manning our borders, they are involved in disaster management and a lot of other operations. So, for those who are criticising…unless they want to do away with defense forces, which is undesirable. I think we need peace and the security of this nation to be maintained. The allocation is not that much in comparison to last year and the years before,” Chama said.
“Whenever the budget is out, people want something to critic the budget for and sometimes they single out the Defence Ministry that ‘there is no war in this country.’ But it is critical for the maintenance of peace and security for our nation. Do you want the men and women in uniform to move from Lusaka to Mpulungu and to other border areas on foot? They need equipment. And to operate in these areas, they need food. That is why operational funds are allocated to make sure that our troops are looked after. Unless they (critics) are saying, ‘they should not move around with guns and ammunition.’ Is that how you maintain the defence force? Not at all. So, those arguments do not hold water.”
Chama said those who criticised the Defence Ministry budget allocation were also arguing from an ignorant perspective.
“Do a comparison, look at the figures for last year and for this year, then you can argue from a very informed position. Don’t look at the overall figure that has been provided, but go through the details of the budget, personal emoluments. Our desire is to provide them accommodation, but because of scarcity of resources, we can’t provide for each and every one in uniform to the desired level,” said Chama.
“Those who are criticising have not looked at the details of the budget, that is why for lack of a better term, maybe they are arguing from an ignorant point of view. In comparison, with other ministries, like the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education, I don’t think they are at the same level in terms of allocation. You know, we have been losing soldiers through death, retirements and resignations and we have not recruited for a number of years now. So, we intend to make sure that we recruit and we need to make sure that there should be money provided for recruitment. People will always want to find something to talk about and criticise instead of looking at the positive aspect of the budget.”