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Expectations on the Implementation of the 2016 Budget

On 9th October, 2015 Honourable Alexander Chikwanda presented to Parliament a K53.14 billion budget for the year 2016. The budget theme, which is “Fiscal Consolidation to Safeguard Our Past Achievements and Secure a Prosperous Future for All”, is well matched to the current economic climate rising inequality amidst the positive economic growth Zambia has been recording.

 

 

Although ActionAid Zambia notes that there is general good will and fair understanding among government technocrats regarding the development priorities of the nation as spelt out in the 2016 National Budget, there are some areas that need improvement if the budget is to be effective in securing a prosperous future for all. 

Increase allocations to health and education

Notable allocations to health (8.3% of the budget) and education (17.2% of the budget) are commendable if Zambia is to achieve sustainable development. However, these still fall below internationally recognised minimums ratified by government stating that 20% of the budget should be allocated to education and 15% to health.

 

Zambia has a chronic deficiency in education and health infrastructure. This is not in dispute. Education and health infrastructure is localized along railway lines and the highway grid. Many school seekers fail to enrol in government schools due to limited spaces. For instance, according to the Education for All 2015 National Review Report, two key factors affect participation and access to Grade 8, the first being inadequate school infrastructure and second being the Grade 7 composite examination that serves the purpose of rationing the limited spaces available by pushing out children who do not achieve the required marks.[1]

 

 We are aware that government is constructing schools and health posts across the country.  However, the 2016 budget allocation towards health and education is insufficient and will particularly deny Zambians living in poverty access quality public health and education services. 

 

Improve implementation of the budget

In the recent past reality has shown that although a budget may contain good pronouncements and impressive allocations to various sectors, due diligence is not given to the implementation of the budget. If the 2016 budget is effectively implemented in terms of its distributive, allocative and developmental functions, it does have the potential to address the issues currently faced in the country, but ActionAid Zambia is concerned as to whether this implementation will be followed.

 

On the distributive function, efficient execution of the 2016 budget could significantly address increasing inequality within the Zambia society. Regarding revenue performance, we are aware that government is committed to ensure that all taxpaying entities pay a fair share of taxes. This is clear from the establishment of a taskforce composed of various government agencies to curb tax related malpractices as echoed by President Lungu during the November 2015 press conference at State House which is admirable. Consequently, we expect to see more efforts by Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) in enforcing tax compliance on all tax paying entities this year. This will ensure that more revenue is generated for progressive spending.

 

It is commendable that government has increased funding for social protection related expenditures in order to uplift the living standards of vulnerable Zambians. Notable among these expenditures is the K302 million that has been allocated towards the social cash transfer which has been increased by 67% from the 2015 allocation.  However, there is need to quickly enhance monitoring systems around the administration of the social cash transfer scheme in order to ensure that only deserving people access the funds.  It has been observed by Senanga District Commissioner Vivian Mubukwanu some people have in the past taken advantage of the social cash transfer policy,[2] the need to improve monitoring systems around the implementation of the fund cannot be overemphasized.

 

In allocations, there is need for timely allocations to sectors, institutions and provinces. This will ensure that various programmes are implemented effectively and majority of Zambians who rely on public services are reached especially in rural areas.

 

On the developmental function, more funds have been budgeted for the completion of on-going infrastructure projects in education, health and transport sectors. However, given the current local economic outlook, President Lungu issued a directive to suspend signing of new contracts. While this is commendable given the economic challenges the country is facing, it is our expectation that there will be timely disbursements of funds for the current ongoing infrastructure projects. In 2015, there were reports of some contractors threatening to abandon road projects on account of delayed funding and the Minister of Transport, Works, Supply and Communication appealed to all road contractors to be patient with government over their delayed payments. [3]  

 

Limit partisan politics in budget implementation

Lastly, 2016 being an election year we wish to appeal to public officers not to be involved in partisan politics in the run-up to the August elections as this has the potential to derail the smooth running of the civil service and affect service delivery. 

 

 

For more information contact:

Musonda Kabinga (Economic Justice Officer) on +26 (0) 977 676 024

Caroline Elliot (Acting Country Director) on +26 (0) 966 847 451

 

[1] Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education, (2015).  Zambia Education for All 2015 National Review. Retrieved January 29th 2015 from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002315/231573e.pdf

[2] Zambia Daily Mail (2016, January 17).  Senanga gets K600, 000 for Social Cash Transfer. Retrieved January 21st, 2016 from: http: www.daily-mail.co.zm/?p=56341

[3] QFM Radio (2015). Mukanga Calls on Contractors to be Patient over Delayed Payments. Retrieved January 21st, 2016 from http://www.qfmzambia.com/2015/06/10/mukanga-calls-on-contractors-to-be-patient-over-delayed-payments/