MR Edgar Lungu says taxes will be lowered if everyone pays on time and regularly. As he commissioned the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) Chinsali Office, Wednesday, Mr Lungu who is the Patriotic Font presidential candidate in next week’s elections says when the PF promised to lower taxes, they meant that this would only happen if all citizens paid taxes on time.

President LUNGU: “It is, therefore not surprising that the Patriotic Front government has put tax collection as one of its top priorities since it is through our tax revenue, that this nation shall be developed. I know those who are opposed to me and PF will say ‘President Lungu and PF, you promised us lower taxes, what’s your story?’ Yes, if we all pay our taxes regularly, on time, submit our returns, we will end up paying lower and lower taxes. If we improve our economy and growing our tax base, and all of us pay tax, indeed the taxes will be lowered.”

We are not economists, but there is no school of economics in the world that teaches this kind of theory. First of all, President Lungu must be ashamed for jumping from one excuse to another over his failure to deliver on campaign promises. PF promised to put more money in people’s pockets, but when you ask President Lungu to explain why this has not been done, he says ‘it’s because people are not working hard’. Today he is telling people that taxes have not been lowered because citizens are not paying ZRA on time. What a shame!

Mr Lungu’s pontifications about the state of the economy under him reminds us about the analogy of a driver in a non-runner vehicle. Leadership and the concept of driving walk hand in hand. When we talk about driving, we make it appear like the action of steering a car is the most important aspect. But we forget that without wheels the car can’t move. First there has to be a car, and the car has to be in a good enough condition to move with the right amount of pressure in the tyres and correct lubrication to the engine. That’s when a car needs a driver to steer it in a particular direction. You cannot steer a non-runner vehicle.

Leadership is the same; a country first has to have a conducive environment for business and its economic wheels in place before a leader can take it anywhere. You have to first get the country on the move. But Zambia is a non-runner country at the moment and the economy is stagnant. Talking or bragging about where you want to take the country is meaningless unless you first unlock the economy and get it to start moving again. You cannot steer an economy that is motionless, and when you do that you are simply fooling yourself.

Times are getting hard in this country. Money is scarce, businesses are closing and the cost of living is skyrocketing. Every Zambian from the aged to the infant is feeling the impact of the harder economic realities that Zambians have to face. It’s so expensive to get by in Zambia, it doesn’t matter if you are alive or dead, because even the cost of dying is too high. People are now having express funerals because no one can afford to feed mourners for days as was our tradition.

All these challenges that businesses, families and individual citizens are facing can be traced back to the policy inconsistencies that are coming from the government and the leadership that is in charge of the economy. We can prove to Mr Lungu that his regime has been the worst when it comes to tax policy, implementation and management.

In 2018, we saw how the government decided do away with Value Added Tax and replace it with sales tax? To everyone’s shock, immediately after laying out the revenue structure of this tax policy, the decision was abolished. We saw how, immediately after presenting the budget that year, the Minister of Finance was announcing the reconstitution of a Tax Policy Review Committee, appointed “to deal with technical issues related to tax implementation matters raised by the public”. What kind of confusion was that? Can such a country expect to have lower taxes for citizens? How can leaders who can’t come up with a solid, consistent tax policy create lower taxes for the people?

One of the biggest threats to Zambia’s economy and growth prospects is not even the debt burden but the failure to exercise good economic judgment and fiscal discipline by those in charge of our economic affairs. The sooner Zambians realise the source of their diminished income, their failure to find employment, their growing destitution, increase in water borne diseases and many other problems that point to failed leadership, the better. For now, ours is an economy in incompetent hands. PF economics is on the mouth, not in practice.