CIVIL Society Scaling UP Nutrition (CSO-SUN) Zambia national coordinator Mathews Mhuru says K20 increment on the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) in the 2021 budget is irrelevant in removing beneficiaries from their vulnerabilities.
In an interview, Mhuru said that K20 increment proposed to the SCT in next year’s budget was negligible, as the K90 currently being disbursed to recipients cannot buy a 25kg bag of mealie meal given the current economic challenges afflicting vulnerable citizens.
“You know, the biggest problem that we have had, especially stakeholders that are working in the nutrition or the social protection sector, with our Social Cash Transfer programme, is the fact that social cash from the government side, they are giving K90, which can hardly buy anything. But now, with the current economic conditions that the country is going through, we are seeing an increase of K20 from K90 to K110 so a number of stakeholders, including CSO-SUN, we feel like this amount, which cannot even afford to buy a bag of mealie meal, cannot deliver what social assistance programmes like the SCT programme should deliver, which is removing people from their vulnerabilities and just removing them from poverty,” Mhuru said.
He added that the new K110 amount proposed in next year’s budget was way below what donors would allocate, as evidenced with the emergency COVID-19 fund.
“In its current state and amount that government is allocating, which are way below what donors would allocate in times that we have emergencies, including COVID-19. We saw the COVID-19 fund going as high as K400, which was more realistic. In times of drought, we see donors putting allocations of K400, but on the government side, they still emphasise on giving monies that are very little, that cannot even afford a single meal, even just a five litre container of oil cannot be bought from the K110. So, this programme would not really yield the intended goal, which is rescinding vulnerabilities and removing people out of poverty do in its current state, we are not going anywhere as a country and we won’t achieve that,” Mhuru added.
He, however, proposed that given the earlier fallout with donors, government should establish a mechanism that would see donors provide support directly to beneficiaries and supplement its efforts.
“So, government, if they know that they can’t afford to implement the Social Cash Transfer programme that really addresses the needs of the people and you know, is focused to address the challenges that the people are facing, they need to engage the donors and if at all they don’t even know how to manage the monies themselves because of the previous relationship and the previous thing that happened, government has to ask donors to put up systems that will enable them to provide social cash to the vulnerable households. Even as government is providing the K110, that the donors can supplement what government would not supplement so that at least we can reach something close to K400, which is a reasonable amount to give to vulnerable households just to reduce the shocks of vulnerability,” he added.
He further noted that a lot of donors remained willing to support the SCT programme, but we’re still concerned with government’s persistent lack of transparency and mismanagement of funds.
“So, going forward, you know there are a lot of stakeholders and a lot of donors that are still interested in supporting the Social Cash Transfer programme. We saw the withdrawal from the British government because they were among the main donors when it came to Social Cash Transfer programme in Zambia, but just the lack of honesty on the government side and the lack of transparency and the mismanagement of these funds are the ones that caused the donors to lose their trust in government and to just withdraw their funding to the social cash programme,” observed Mhuru.