PRESIDENTIAL Spokesperson Anthony Bwalya says President Hakainde Hichilema is aware of the students’ concerns on meal allowances but insists that the economy must first be rebuilt.

In an interview, Bwalya said President Hichilema was also as impatient as the Zambian people when it came to delivering on campaign promises.

“The President is also aware of the concerns by former students from the Copperbelt University and the University of Zambia regarding the issue of loan deductions, as well as the issue of meal allowances for university students. It is important to stress, that in order for there to be a credible review framework for these important issues and many others, we must first rebuild the economy sufficiently and ensure a robust national revenue base on the basis of which we can then extend and expand these important dividends to those who need them the most, and we will. Some of the commitments we made will obviously take a bit more time to actualise than others because we need to create extra capacity within the structure of what has been a broken economy for the past 10 years, it wasn’t working and now we need to rebuild it,” Bwalya said.

He said the Head of State understood the impatience in the hearts and minds of some citizens, and that he was just as impatient in making sure that all the critical work was done.

“The President will not walk away from his commitments to the people. He intends to stay the course until we deliver on the promise of the Zambia the people have been longing for. The President is well aware that he was elected into office, not only on the strength of the campaign commitments he made to the people, but also on the genuine belief that the President can be trusted to pursue and fulfil all campaign commitments for the benefit of the people,” Bwalya said.

“The President fully understands the impatience in the hearts and minds of some quarters of our citizens, and he is just as impatient in making sure that all the critical underpinning work needed to anchor our agenda for job creation, enhanced social protection, enhanced access to quality health and education for all, and ridding our country of the expensive culture of corruption, is quickly done so that we can then get on with the job. This is why the President and his team are intent on identifying and sealing all points of resource leakages and waste so that we can enhance government’s capacity to respond to people’s pressing needs.”

He insisted that President Hichilema was aiming to stay true to his commitments through the 2022 budget.

“And as a sure sign that we aim to stay true to our campaign commitments, the 2022 social budget provides the perfect indication in and around where the President’s heart is, which is with the people: the 30,000 and 11,000 teachers and health workers respectively, previously unemployed for many years but now will have jobs and be able to provide for their families,” said Bwalya.

“Not only this, the President has already made good on his commitment for free education, starting with our children from grade 1 to 12, with the ultimate objective being that of expanding this opportunity for learning to college and university students through an enhanced, means tested education loans system to support more students from underprivileged backgrounds. The enhanced K25.7m per annum per constituency will not only energise participative community development but also usher in a new era of community driven local development, with education support mechanisms fully embedded in this model.”