CHIEF Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya says the Patriotic Front government has been able to provide a 2021 budget that is based on resilience, growth, food security and hope for young people.

But Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo says the 2021 budget does not address the hardships which people are facing.

Debating the 2021 national budget in Parliament, Tuesday, Siliya said despite the many economic challenges experienced since 2014, government was still able to provide hope in terms of growth.

“Mr Speaker, to many of us, the 2021 budget is about resilience. Resilience considering that in the last five years, this country has gone through a lot of challenges. We had the Copper prices collapsing in 2015, we had the power crisis in 2015, we saw most extraordinary droughts due to climate change in 2019/2020 resulting in us having to feed two million people in the country. But we are still able, Mr Speaker, to provide hope in the 2021 budget in terms of growth. As you have seen Mr Speaker that the government in the budget has committed to supporting entrepreneurship, and understanding that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. And the Government has responded by making sure that it supports entrepreneurship and that the fruits of this entrepreneurship, especially from the support in 2020, will bear fruits in 2021 with the incentives such as in the tourism sector,” Siliya said.

Siliya said the combination of the new Bank of Zambia Governor Christopher Mvunga and the Ministry of Finance would relieve the country from economic challenges in order for the people to benefit.

“Mr Speaker, we are happy to see in the 2021 budget, proposals of increased support to food security. That is the basis for all economic growth in the country, and support to the Agriculture sector, especially in terms of FISP programmes that are social programmes, is extremely critical for the country to maintain health of the economy. Mr Speaker, the 2021 budget was being presented at an opportune time. Again we are saying extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. I heard people debating that it is very important to have micro-economists to make things work very well. But I believe that the combination of the new Bank of Zambia Governor and the Ministry of Finance should see us through the challenges because we have to do things differently in 2021 for our people to be able to benefit,” she said.

Siliya said the 2021 budget was for the young because as it responded directly to their needs.

“I believe that the budget for 2021 is a budget for the young people. It has directly responded to the call of the young people in this country that they want to do well in their own country. And the best our colleagues from your left, Mr Speaker, is to admit that for a change, under extremely difficult circumstances, not just in Zambia but the whole world, we have been able to do the best that we can with the cloth that we have to provide a budget that is based on resilience, growth, food security and most of all is based on home to the young people of Zambia,” said Siliya.

Debating on the same motion, Youth, Sports, and Child Development Emmanuel Mulenga said the increment in allocation of funds under the Food Security pack programme would drastically reduce levels of unemployment among youths.

“The budget has outlined the priority programmes in line with the Patriotic Front manifesto and the Seventh National Development Plan. The budget is also inspirational and has brought hope to many youths and Zambians. The PF Government remains committed to its pro-poor policies as been demonstrated by the increased allocation to the protection programmes by 167 per cent and prioritizing youth empowerment. For this, the Honourable Minister of Finance must be commended. Further to enhance the food security pack programme, the Ministry of Finance increased the allocation for the Food security pack programme from K1 million to K1.1 billion. Mr Speaker, under this, 50 per cent or more than 50 per cent of beneficiaries are youths, which simply means that levels of unemployment among the youths is going to be reduced drastically,” said Mulenga.

And Gender Minister Gender Minister Elizabeth Phiri said the PF Government had been tested and proved that it can survive amidst so many economic shocks.

“Mr Speaker, I want to thank the President for driving Zambia under very difficult conditions with a lot of shocks. It is the only government that has been tested and proved strong. When we just came into power, it wasn’t easy Mr Speaker. We had experienced droughts. And with the droughts, this government has proved that we can stand the shocks. Mr Speaker, it was not only the droughts. Talking of Kanyama we had cholera, and through the office of Her Honour the Vice President we came out from that strong shock. We have had the gassing period, we have COVID-19 now, and with this budget Mr Speaker, it is giving Zambians hope that come 2021, with all the stimulus packages that have been given to different sectors by this government, it is a government that means well. Mr Speaker, talking as a Minister of Gender, I think women and the girl child have been given a fair share through economic empowerment. Mr Speaker, Ministry of Gender has received a fair share,” said Phiri.

But Nkombo said the budget did not address the hardships which citizens were facing.

“Last year, you (Minister of Finance) came here together with the President and lamented that climate change had ravaged the economy. We gave it to you and now you are boasting that you have a bumper harvest. Was it the same spiritual healing for the economy that now your friends are saying that ‘now let’s go to pray for the economy. It was as a result of the hard work of the Zambian people that we got a bumper harvest. I did lament to you here when you brought a supplementary budget about the loftiness of your allocation on Public Order as well as Defense. And I am shocked today when I look at your budget of only K119. It has actually diminished because of inflation, the exchange rate and all the economic fundamentals that we have gone through, and now you are telling us that is because of COVID-19. Don’t hide behind your fingers. The acts of these allocations define who you are,” said Nkombo.

“Your budget to me does not address the hardships of the people of this country. It is unheard of that you can equate the budget of public order Honourable Minister of Finance together with Defense equals to the budget of health in the midst of you saying ‘we are challenged with COVID-19 [which is] a health problem.’ Explain to me how you could actually present this to us equating public order and health? That’s what it is. Public order and health K8.6 billion, health K9.6 billion, social protection K4.8 billion. The problem you presented to us of the environmental protection Vis-a-vis climate change, you come and allocate 0.8 per cent of the budget. So, who is fooling who? Sir, I encourage the minister to go even here at Soweto market and see how people are suffering and how this budget is not going to have any positive effects on the people of this country.”

And Liuwa UPND member of parliament Situmbeko Musokotwane said it was not true that the economy was poorly performing because of privatization but that it was due to PF’s over borrowing.