This weekend we bowed our heads together in prayer, as we have often done.
Now we must draw on the strength we find in God to confront the challenges we face head on, without fear or reservation. We must return our attention to the important issues, from which we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted and we must find renewed vigour to address those problems facing the most vulnerable in our country.
We must embrace the spirit of cooperation and work together to determine the best solutions, sharing wisdom and experience wherever possible. However, we should also not be afraid to call those out who are not doing their bit, or those whose actions do not match their words. After all this is the spirit of frank talk and sincerity that is talked about in the bible.
The reality today is that aside from fasting there are a growing number of Zambians who face the prospect of hunger on a daily basis. In fact, the 2015 Global Hunger Index has ranked Zambia as the third hungriest country in the world, well below our Southern and East African neighbours to whom we export maize. This is a shocking finding, particularly in a country that has not suffered from conflict and has been boasting bumper harvests from 2004.
Recent pressures from millers to raise the mealie meal price are just one part of the story, and with fertiliser prices also up; prices of the commodity will rise further. It is clear that what is needed is reform of the sector and an overhaul of the support available to our farmers, millers and businesses operating in the sector so they can deliver more output at a lower price.
As the economy struggles and jobs are lost there must be an additional drive from Government to relieve the burden on businesses and incentivise start-ups and investment that will create jobs. The direct contribution of these activities to Government revenues may be modest in the short-run, but by employing and paying staff they can increase the circulation of money in the economy.
A third area of critical importance is water and sanitation. Improvements in this area have been slow to be delivered. With water shortages and sanitation concerns, particularly in urban areas, there is a heightened risk of disease and sickness that we must prepare ourselves for. Unfortunately the recent budget sets aside K3 billion more for servicing debt than it does for investing in our healthcare sector, once again far short of the 15% of GDP Zambia has pledged to invest under the Abuja declaration.
Under a UPND Government, we would have a re-ordering of priorities to invest more in these areas of critical importance, we would also use the money budgeted strategically. For example, where funds are limited interventions such as training and employing community healthcare workers are low cost but high impact interventions that also create permanent jobs.