PRESIDENTIAL Spokesperson Anthony Bwalya says the UPND did not criticise the number of trips taken by former president Edgar Lungu, but the huge delegations and lack of value to the country.

And Bwalya says President Hakainde Hichilema shares the frustrations of unemployed doctors and all youths in the country, adding that recruitment in the public service will be done once administrative processes have been concluded.

Meanwhile, Bwalya says the country has to be in an anticipatory mood in an event that there is an adverse upset of oil prices triggered by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Speaking when he featured on Diamond TV, Thursday, Bwalya said while in opposition, UPND never criticised the quantity of Lungu’s trips.

“In what substantive value are they delivering for this country? Are they being carried out at a cost which is as efficient as possible? Back in the days when we criticised our colleagues over Presidential travels, we were very categorical. It was not the number of travels that we were criticising, it was the manner and the demeanor around these travels especially in around the two areas mentioned. Are you able to recall the substantive value that any single Presidential trip taken in the past delivered for this country and its people? You are also aware of how huge the delegation under the previous regime was. These are the two aspects that the President is particular about. Today Zambia has decisively been able to deal with covid by getting the number of vaccinated people on high,” he said.

“This is not by accident, we traveled to New York and the President spent every minute engaging his colleagues at a bilateral level to commit as much vaccines to this country. The President traveled to Glasgow and the one billion Pound was as a result of the direct engagements the President had with his counterpart from the United Kingdom. That is not a joke. This is not a President who when he travels wants to hold parties. This is a President who works till the sunset. It is an issue of cost and I think now we have been able to establish to show that this President and his entire delegation are spending much less than a third of what it used to cost under the previous regime. Back in the days for every K100 that they used to spend on Presidential travels, we are spending much less than K40, whether the President is using the challenger or the Emirates.”

And Bwalya said President Hichilema understood the frustrations of the unemployed.

“The President has always been very clear from the start that we needed to improve our ability to create employment for our young men and women, many of them who have been educated at their great expense by their families. So the President understands and shares the frustrations of their families. This is an issue that we are looking to get over with as quickly as possible. It is not a question of being tight-lipped. We also have to understand that these are not things that can or were ever born to be delivered in a vacuum. There are administrative processes that must be put in place and be anchored down even before the first health personnel or teacher is on board,” Bwalya said.

“Those processes are being worked on. Over the 10 years of the previous regime, was there ever a promise of any number of jobs on the table supported by a national budget? For the first time, this President and the administration were honest and transparent. We are saying in this year’s budget, we aim to onboard 41,000 public service workers, which is a combination of health workers and teachers. Part of that process means that we anchor down all the administrative mechanisms that will allow both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to partly be able to transition and onboard to serve the country.”

Bwalya said government would not hold anything against the protesting unemployed doctors because they had the right to express themselves.

“What the President never wants to see is when people were employed but for years on end they did not receive their salaries. We do not want that. The President understands the frustrations of these young men and women eager to serve. We need to be quick about the process of onboarding them. We are urging our colleagues across all line Ministries to get on with what they need to do and make sure that we bring to a conclusion this process of these young professionals. I have been in touch with Dr Sampa over the issues. I expressed my empathy to him and his entire team. Of course, this is something that we are getting on with. We also emphasized that it is important that we allow government the time and space that they need to make sure that we go about this process in a manner that is right,” he said.

“Everyone is free to express themselves where you can praise the government when it does good and you are free to hold us on our toes. We are not going to hold that against you. I assured the young doctors that this government is not going to hold against you because you decided to express yourself in the manner that you did. But also understand that this is a standing commitment from the President that we aim to employ as much as 41,000 public employees and it will come to pass. We understand the urgency and impatience on the part of our young professionals but we can say that this is a process that will be concluded. We will have to belong to workstations and not the streets.”

Meanwhile, Bwalya said the country had to be in an anticipatory mood in the event that there was an adverse upset of oil prices triggered by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“The economic ramifications that potentially could arise from that situation is something that all of us should take keen interest in. There is a huge potential that the global supply side of oil might well be disrupted. If that would be the case, the entire global community oil prices will go up. And for a country like Zambia that does not produce its own oil will depend on imports all over the world,” said Bwalya.

“We could be potentially looking at a hike in pump prices in this country. We know exactly how highly sensitive the issue of pump price is to our people. That is an issue causing all of us to be alert, exercise caution and to keep an eye on this situation as it evolves. The President has put all Ministries, especially energy, on high alert. We have to be in an anticipatory mood in the event that there is an adverse upset of oil prices to limit the damage on ordinary people.”