Apart from the timely political statements the minister of finance made in his budget presentation speech we think that the K 46.7 billion national budget for 2015 is basic and lacks innovation. The timely and commendable political statements made by Finance Minister Alexander Bwalya Chikwanda include the admission that without economic independence our people will find it difficult to appreciate political independence including the independence golden jubilee. The other pronouncement relates to the need for the government to implement policies and programmes to ensure Zambians meaningfully participate in the investment portfolio of our economy and create wealth for themselves. Last but not the least Mr. Chikwanda talked about the need to invest more in education to cater for young people in need of tertiary education at institutions of learning such as the University of Zambia and the need to continue efforts to create more jobs.
However, given the reality that this is our independence golden jubilee, we think that the 2015 budget, the first after 50 years of political independence is basic and lacks innovation. There is nothing drastic in the budget to address the urgent need for our country to come up with a tax mechanism to ensure a win-win situation between our country and foreign mining companies. This means that Zambia will continue to be exploited given the reality that the contribution of mines to our national revenue will continue to be scandalously low.
As such, government will continue to lack much needed capital to channel into diversification programmes in sectors such as agriculture which has more potential to create sustainable jobs and reduce poverty especially among our poor people living in rural areas.
We are disappointed that despite the public interest and anxiety the controversy of VAT refunds to exporters, including mines, has generated the Minister of Finance did not announce a concrete solution to the problem. We think that it is not enough to recognize the existence of the problem. The government through the Finance Minister should have given an exhaustive position on how to resolve the problem of VAT refunds. This is a matter of urgency given the fact that the standoff may cause job losses especially in the mining sector.
We are also disappointed to note that the PF government has failed to give its workers, public service workers such as nurses,
teachers etc a jubilee gift by lifting the wage freeze. Other workers could have been given a jubilee gift as well by raising the pay-as-you-earn tax threshold.
We think that in the same way Mr Chikwanda endeavoured to break down some block figures for a number of sectors he should have highlighted how the K29.3 million for the constitution making process would be apportioned as a way of indicating government road map in the current constitution making process. The fact that he didn’t do it shows that the PF government has no clear road map for the constitution making process. Hence we suspect that PF has no intention to adopt the new constitution through a popular means namely a national referendum. Therefore, we fear that our country will continue to waste money on the constitution making process hence contradicting the need to save money for poverty alleviation.
Finally, we think that most of the progressive policy pronouncements by Mr Chikwanda including the need to reduce external borrowing to save future generations the debt burden may only be realized by a strong leadership driven by common good. As ABZ we don’t see strong leadership in PF and we think that since the 2015 budget will precede the year of elections PF, which has already exhibited propensity to borrow, will contract a huge debt to undertake projects to win votes in 2016. Hence we urge the PF government to demonstrate fiscal discipline and implement the budget accordingly.
It would be disappointing to see them depart from the estimates in the budget in the manner they have departed from their own manifesto on the issue of the constitution.
Fr. Frank Bwalya