PRESIDENTIAL spokesperson Anthony Bwalya says President Hakainde Hichilema has refused a brand new presidential limousine so that the money can be channeled towards important areas of need.
And Bwalya says no government department has bought brand new VX vehicles as they are all using old ones.
Meanwhile, Economist Professor Oliver Saasa says there is need to find ways of quickly attending to the interests of the young people who ushered this government into power.
Speaking when he featured on Radio Phoenix’s Let the People Talk programme, Tuesday, Bwalya said President Hichilema insisted on the need to reduce on wasteful expenditure.
“The President has said that we need to reduce the amount of wasteful expenditure in government. This is why the President himself has refused to have a brand new presidential limousine bought for him. He refused because he wants money to go to places were money is needed the most. He has stuck to his guns when he said no one is going to buy brand new VXs in this government and I can guarantee you, across government departments, no one has bought a brand new VX vehicle. All of us who are using, if you are driving a VX vehicle, it is an old vehicle, saying these vehicles are usable, use them, there is no need for people to go and start spending public money getting brand new VX vehicles. The President has put a stop and it is a moratorium for now,” he said.
And Bwalya said IMF was a credible partner in the debt restructuring plan.
“We had repeatedly said that we need to make adequate but speedy progress when it comes to resolving the issue of debt, through debt restructuring mechanisms. And the IMF is a credible and absolutely crucial partner in this regard. That is the only way that we are going to narrow the amount of the portion of the budget going forward which is going now towards servicing public debt,” he said.
Bwalya told youths that there were no quick fixes at the moment.
“I want to speak directly to the young people in this country that where we are at the moment, there are no quick fixes. There are simply no quick fixes, no one should ever come to you and tell you that you can have cheaper fuel tomorrow; you can have a job tomorrow. These are things that must be worked through systemically. When it comes to the issue of fuel and the solutions around that, there is no alternative to growing the economy because when you grow the economy, there are two things that you can potentially achieve and we will and we must achieve. Number one, creating capacity for individuals within the mainstream economy and paying decent wages. We are creating an ability for them to be able to absorb the shocks which arise as the consequence of the problem that we are talking about,” said Bwalya.
“This is why for me, I have always been cautious when we talk about competitive cost of fuel in one country relative to another, the ability for individual citizens in these individual countries to absorb the shocks arising from the sort of problems we have at the moment varies incredibly across the board. For example, what a civil servant earns in South Africa is not exactly what a civil servant earns in this country. We are aware of that and this is why we are cautious and this is why we are saying when we grow the economy patiently, but as actively and absolutely we must, we have an ability to be able to raise progressively the wages of our citizens.”
Meanwhile, Prof Saasa said there was need to find quicker ways of satisfying the youths because young people were unforgiving and wanted quick wins.
“Where we are and where the new government found itself was at a situation where you have to look at medium to long term, you have to invest in growth. You have to actually transform, it’s a transformation agenda that we need, you have to look at things that can only yield result in the medium to long term. But having said that, one has to be very careful, young people that put government in power are very unforgiving, they want quick wins. They want short term measures that will inoculate them from the reasons they rejected the previous government and why they voted for you,” he said.
“Essentially, it means that in the short term, you have to target, and you have to skilfully find ways of identifying quick wins that will attend to the interest of the your young because really, they constitute majority of the Zambians and also on the majority of the voters.”
And Professor Saasa said subsidies must only be considered if targeted towards production.
“If there is an adjustment that gets closer to K30 per dollar, that will be more or less closer to where the regime is. I am not saying that is where we should go and I know the effects but of course at the end of the day, you will have to determine as a government, ‘can we afford to continue subsidising so that we can artificially maintain the price of fuel levels that is politically correct?’ The answer is you can only cut your dress according to your cloth. If your cloth is small, that dress that you will make has to be aligned to that smallness,” said Prof Saasa.
“You cannot tinker around with instruments, whether it is exchange rate management or foreign exchange inflows and all if the economy is not growing. You have to look at, under the current circumstances, especially in Ukraine and the war that is affecting us. We are a global village, there is nothing that can happen in our corner of the world that would not directly affect you in one way or the other or indirectly and that is a fact. What it means is that look at where the money is placed in terms of its investment attending to social safety and the likes. We have to ensure that the producer produces. If it means subsidy, it must be subsidy that is targeted towards production.”