March 31, 2015, Lusaka/– The Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD) notes with regret that the 2015 budget is under siege.
The 2015 budget has continued to suffer significant changes after its approval by parliament. The latest directive to the Finance and Mines ministers to review and reverse the new mining tax regime will significantly impact on the revenue estimated to be raised through mining taxation. The public must also be aware that the President also in his wisdom introduced a new ministry at State House and various other appointments which were not planned have been made.
There has also been an appointment of Special Advisor to the president for Project Implementation and Monitoring, a new position at State House. The creation of such portfolios at State House will adversely affect the national budget.
The government has also announced the re-introduction of maize subsidies in a bid to reduce the retail price of mealie-meal. The ZCSD sees this decision as a move in the right direction, but all these good intentions must never be post budget issues as they would have negative implications on the budget performance.
The high depreciation of our local current will also impact negatively on the national budget especially the implementation of infrastructure development projects which involves the importation of raw materials and equipment.
Matters such as the changes to the mine tax regime and reintroduction of maize subsidies are good for the country, but in future, such decisions must not be unilateral because they affect the nation particularly the majority poor.
ZCSD sees the need for the executive to admit the economic challenges the nation is going through and engage relevant stakeholders especially the people’s representatives. This is in acknowledgement that Parliament spent a lot of time to debate and approved the budget while enormous efforts in research and other preparatory activities and resources were spent which have been reduced into a single executive decision that has decimated the national budget dissolutely.
If the status quo continues, we are foreseeing a lot of supplementary budgets being requested which our parliament will unanimously approve and give credibility to such questionable decisions.
The foreseen changes to the budget call for quick and speedy enactment of the Budget and Planning Bill, which would be able to offer adequate guidelines on the budget planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation processes. This also justifies our calls to have a new republican constitution that will address matters such as the current unilateral decisions being made that affect the national development.
ZCSD therefore calls upon the Zambian people including opposition political parties, private and cooperating partners to support government in transforming the economy.
We also appeal to those charged with their responsibility to manage public affairs to act in the best interest of the majority and avoid decisions that only satisfy political interest and personal egos.
The PF government must be open to constructive criticism and make the best out of good ideas and proposals from ‘perceived enemies’.