PEOPLE’S Alliance for Change (PAC) president Andyford Banda says the UPND campaign pledge of providing free education from primary to tertiary level is unattainable at the moment.
And Banda says President Hakainde Hichilema should not be rushed into selecting his Cabinet.
Speaking when he featured on Hot FM’s Hot Seat programme, Thursday, Banda said the country had no revenue to sustain free education for all.
“This is a very hard one. I will be very honest [for] this promise to be fulfilled, it will be hard. First of all, in as much as the President may have relied a lot on the fact that there was a lot of money that was being wasted through corruption, we must remember that almost over half of that money that we lost was borrowed money. We borrowed a lot of money in the last 10 years, which went through overpriced contracts and this and that. So now we need to seal those loopholes so that we can deal with the issue of paying back the debt,” Banda said.
“Now there are a lot of areas which need money including this promise of free education from primary to university, now where is the money going to come from? This money is not available, so it is important that for such promises to be fulfilled, it can only be fulfilled if we start generating revenue. To give education to 100,000 children, it is not going to be attained. In as much as we were campaigning, we were allowed to say things that can’t be attained, I think this is where we need to change our politics. This cannot be attained.”
Banda said free education could only be attained once the country recovered from debt.
“It can be attained maybe after 10 years once we have cleared the debt, once we have ensured that the loose ends of corruption have tightened, once we have ensured that the agriculture is booming and we are exporting, once we invite investors in this country and we are collecting a lot of taxes. But this won’t happen overnight, we expect it to happen before the fives years lapses. This we shall hold the President to account before 2026, but we know this will not be attained,” he said.
Banda, however, said it was possible for the UPND government to reduce the cost of living.
“Reduction in farming inputs and the reduction in the cost of living, these ones are attainable, because we know that when it comes to fertilizer and other inputs there were a lot of middlemen in the previous regime. We need to start looking at producing fertilizer locally so that it is cheaper. The other thing is that mostly because this fertilizer was imported and our exchange rate was not performing is why these imports became expensive,” he said.
“The exchange rate has started performing and I believe that it will continue performing because of the confidence in the markets. We believe that this can also affect the cost of imports. When we remove corruption in the system, a lot of overpricing of services, that can also affect the reduction.”
Banda said with the change of government, creditors were ready to renegotiate debt repayment.
“Fixing the economy is attainable if there is the right team put in place. Of course, there is the issue of debt management which is already being looked at from what we have seen. The only way we can renegotiate the debt and get favourable terms is by changing government. I am sure that beyond reasonable doubt our creditors did not have the confidence in the PF government. The only way they could come to the negotiation table was a change of government,” he said.
“Politics is quite complex; we need to understand that it is dependent on the reforms that the UPND are going to put in place in the running of government. Obviously, with the corruption that was there, it slowed a lot of things. We hope that it is going to be a free government.”
Meanwhile, Banda said President Hichilema should not be rushed into selecting his Cabinet.
“The issue of the Cabinet, I think let us not be in a hurry, I think President HH was just sworn in two days ago. Let us give him a bit of time. He needs to come up with a team. He needs a bit of time. Let us give him a few more days and we see what happens,” said Banda.