PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says his government has taken over an empty Treasury and will therefore need a progressive budget which will begin to realign public resource management away from consumption and wastage but more towards investment and revenue generation.

And President Hichilema says vigorous expenditure and large delegations to meetings will not be allowed for government officials.

Meanwhile, President Hichilema says he understands the anxiety among citizens who want to know who he will appoint to several positions but he has asked for patience so that he can choose people on merit.

Speaking when he swore in Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane as Finance Minister at State House, Friday, President Hichilema said the country had failed to service debt because there was no money in the Treasury.

He said Dr Musokotwane had a task to ensure that there was fiscal discipline.

“I want to congratulate you Minister for accepting to serve in this very important fundamental office which is critical to advancing the reason that the people of Zambia especially, the youths voted us into office in a dramatic manner. This is the core of our agenda. The office of Minister of Finance is the core of our agenda to turn around this country’s economy. We are taking over a country whose treasury is empty. The treasury is empty. There is no money. That is why we failed to service our debt. We defaulted. So, we need to dismantle the debt mountain. We need a progressive budget that will begin to realign our way of managing the public resources away from consumption, away from wastage and more towards investment. Towards revenue generation,” he said.

And President Hichilema said in doing so, his government would not allow any government official to travel in first class or have large delegations to any meeting.

“Vigorous expenditure has no room. Large delegations to meetings will not be there. Traveling on business class, first class, something many of us have never done for ourselves but because now we work in government, we want to travel in first class, business class, that will not be there. The Minister knows the deal. Delegations will be smaller and only as necessary. If we preserve the resources, then will make them available to be spent in areas that will better that child in school. Even with this empty treasury, we expect to drive and send a message to the people of Zambia that there is a new way of doing business for the people of Zambia,” he said.

The President said he believed that Dr Musokotwane with his experience and competence would work with other ministries to serve the people of Zambia.

“I believe and we believe, the people of Zambia believe that with your worth of experience, and competence, you will be able with our team in the line ministry and other Ministries, the public service, the business community and the people of Zambia, will work as one towards serving the people of this country. Bring merit on the table so that we can deliver to the people of Zambia. I have known this gentleman for many years. Lecturer of economics at UNZA. Deputy governor Bank of Zambia. Special assistant to the President for economic affairs under President Banda. Secretary to the treasury, deputy secretary to the Cabinet for economics and finance, advisor to the IMF and many other roles. And you
can agree with me that because he is Zambian, he deserves the appointment. Because he qualifies and this will be the tradition of this government going forward,” he said.

And President Hichilema cautioned the local authority against misusing the revenue collected in markets and bus stations.

“You are already seeing order in the market. Councils are beginning to get revenues from the markets. Order. And so we don’t want them to be the new misusers of revenues. They must deliver services to the citizens. Salaries must be paid, there must be water in the markets, garbage has to be collected,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Hichilema asked citizens to be patient with him as he tries to appoint the best team for his Cabinet.

“Appointing the Minister of Finance first and alone makes some people nervous and some people are saying I am waiting for too long for my appointment. We are sending a message that first it’s to reconstruct the economy then, we can look at social services and fund them. I see social media getting impatient and I say, be patient with us we are trying to do the right thing,” said President Hichilema.

“We understand the anxiety for us to make appointments but we appeal to you to bear with us as we want to appoint people on merit and therefore, the first qualification for one to be appointed in your government must be a Zambian, qualified and also capable of delivering your expectations. By the time we are done, you won’t be disappointed with our team.”