On November 26, 2015, President Edgar Lungu held a press conference were he told the nation that as part of his proposed austerity measures, he would reduce on foreign trips in order to cut down on his Government’s excessive public expenditure and reduce the budget deficit. The President went further to say he would be sending concerned Ministers to meetings instead of himself going owing to the fact that the presidential delegation is usually large and too costly.
But today President Lungu has reneged on his own promise. Instead of cutting down on foreign trips, the President has actually increased his globe trotting adventures. Just the other week the President flew to Rome, then Paris and he was to go straight to Angola had the meeting in that country not been cancelled. That would have meant a three-week Zungulila World Escapade by the President and his contigent.
No one says the President should not travel, No. What we are saying is that it is important for the President to walk the talk. To reduce on his travels.
It is callous and morally insensitive for a President of a government that is broke; a government that is surviving on KALOBA; a country that is suffocating under the yoke of debt; a country that is struggling with ballooning fiscal, account and trade deficits to be wasting taxpayers’ money gallivanting across the globe.
Worse still, there is too much excess baggage that the President moves with: too many government officials as well as a gang of PF cadres. Each of these so called delegates gets 500 US Dollars (K6000) per day as per diem. Add to that the cost of accommodation, food, beverages, Jemason inclusive, plus security details, incidentals and other travel allowances.
Our President is bleeding the treasury. He should stop this reckless spending. The money he is burning can go a long way in sorting out the urgent problems such as non-payment of meal allowances to CBU and UNZA students or non payment of retirees’ retirement packages.
As FDD we strongly beseech Mr Lungu to appeal to his conscience and think about those children dying in hospitals due to lack of medicines; to feel for those mothers giving birth on the floor; to imagine the hunger pangs, 65% of our people who can’t afford three meals a day endure daily before he jumps on that luxurious Falcon 2000 jet to tour the globe.
The President should walk the talk.
Issued by Antonio Mwanza, FDD Spokesperson