Dipak Patel has punched holes in a statement by outgoing minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda that the economy in 2014 was robust and benefited a lot of people.
Meanwhile Reuters news agency has revealed that Zambia’s Kwacha and Ghana’s Cedi were the worst preforming currencies in 2014 and closed the year still the most worthless.
Patel says ‘we can all see from the way so many Zambians are struggling with the high cost of living, limited employment opportunities and tough service conditions that this has not been the case.’
Patel who is also the campaign manager for UPND says the state of the economy as a result of the PF government is something that needs to be sincerely discussed, not falsely aggrandized.
He said better education and healthcare are dependent on managing the economy more effectively, and 6% growth does not cut it for a country like ours so rich in resources and young talent.
‘The other problem with the current growth rate is that it is not trickling down to improve the lives of Zambians across the country. If we are doing so well then why have farmers faced such delays to their payments, why have students gone without their allowances, why have teachers not been provided their rural hardship allowance? Even while we have had this 6% growth, subsidies on fuel and mealie meal have been removed and prices increased sharply. So who exactly is this growth benefitting?’ Patel asked.
Patel said, ‘in this statement Hon. Chikwanda commented that we had made great strides in the agricultural sector. If this is the case why have our farmers gone unpaid for so long?’
Patel said, ‘Hon. Chikwanda also spoke about inflation and the government’s pledge to keep it at 6.5% while it is now at around 8%. In fact, under the PF government we have seen food inflation skyrocket from 3.5% in May 2011 to 8.4% in December 2012, something Hon. Chikwanda failed to mention.
‘Hon. Chikwanda also failed to note the strategy to pay back the vast debt accumulated in the PF’s short tenure. Our external debt as of September stood at US$4.7billion, a 34% increase on 2013, whilst our domestic debt stands at K21.9 billion. When you put the level of debt that the PF Government has raised next to the fact that farmers have not been paid, the cost of living has increased, civil servants are facing a wage freeze and we are struggling to invest properly in education, then you have to agree something is seriously wrong.’
Patel said the bottom line is that in a country so rich with natural resources it is unforgivable that people are still going to bed hungry even 50 years after independence. ‘The problem to date has been poor leadership. We can change this on 20 January 2015.’
He said ‘we are pledging to end the cycle of debt, waste and mismanagement and instead focus on supporting our farmers, incentivizing local businesses and providing training opportunities for youth – and doing so in a transparent way.’