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JOINT CIVIL SOCIETY SUMMARY PRESS STATEMENT ON THE STATE OF ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND POLITICAL GOVERNANCE IN ZAMBIA

Zambia is facing a growing economic and governance crisis. The economy is suffering from a rising trade deficit coupled with increased debt and a lack of transparency in management of debt. The current ongoing power shortages and potentially looming fuel shortages will only serve to deepen the problem.

Yet, confronted with these challenges, government is failing to act to effectively resolve the crisis. In fact, some of the recent actions of government appear to be worsening the situation, particularly the increase in salaries for MPs, which appears to be unplanned for this fiscal year, the alleged loss of ZMW10 million through errors in the importation of crude oil and fiscal impudence in the purchasing of maize in the agricultural sector.

In political governance, the Constitution process continues to be marred with difficulties and although progress has been made in decentralisation, it is still a far cry from devolution.

Civil society organisations, in response to consultations and concerns raised by citizens, have thus called this meeting to again flag these issues to government and to impress the need for urgent action to address these concerns and ensure that the government upholds its mandate of being accountable to its citizens and ensuring it addresses the needs of the most vulnerable in society.

This is particularly vital given the inequalities in Zambia, with 90% of the population surviving on only 10% of the country’s wealth. This has contributed to the perpetuation of poverty in the country, despite overall economic growth as there is not set agenda for inclusive growth.

The civil society organisations gathered today thus call on the Zambian government to urgently address the issues tabled below.

Economic management:

  • Whilst we appreciate the commitment and work of MPs, the increase in MPs’ salaries in the current socio and economic context is ill timed, ill-advised and inappropriate as the money allocated to this appears unbudgeted and thus at the expense of investing in improving the living conditions of Zambians living in poverty. We thus call upon MPs to live within their current emoluments and to consider investment in the legislative body, including the setting up of a Parliamentary Budget Office.

  • Auditor Generals Reports have continued to flag cases of wasteful expenditure, Recently, this has again been brought to public attention through the allegations of government wasting ZMW10 million through the incorrect purchase of crude oil highlights an urgent need for government to put in place mechanisms in its supply chains to eliminate wasteful expenditure particularly through ensuring accountability, transparency and effective oversight.

  • The Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) and Food Reserve Agency (FRA) programme both currently contribute to the budget deficit through fiscal impudence by exceeding agreed budgetary limits. For example, last year government purchases exceeded the budgeted 500,000 metric tonnes, causing a deficit. We thus call on government to rationalise spending and ensure the role of the FRA is predictable and transparent.

  • There is a continued trade deficit indicative of failing economic policies. Yet, in the face of this, the Minister of Commerce Trade and Industry (MCTI) has indicated through media reports that the trade deficit issue is not an issue for her Ministry but that of the Ministry of Finance as well as the Bank of Zambia. However, this is within the mandate of her Ministry and it is vital that they take ownership of leading this process. We thus call on the MCTI to take a lead in coordinating trade issues and providing a coordinated government response to the current challenge of Zambia’s trade deficit.

  • Whilst the current persistent load shedding may be attributable to the low levels in Kariba Dam, the eventuality of this has long been flagged to the Zambian Government and to ZESCO. However, little concrete action was taken and no warning was given to consumers. At the same time, it is alleged that ZESCO is continuing to export power whilst local load shedding is damaging the economy. We thus appeal to government to make transparent these commitments and to renegotiate them in the face of the current crisis. We also call on government to put in place concrete mechanisms to invest and diversify Zambia’s energy base through ensuring the management of ZESCO is transparent, accountable and non-partisan.

  • Zambia’s debt has increased tremendously post the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative. Yet, there is a lack of transparency, accountability and participation in the management of debt which needs to be addressed alongside a review of Zambia’s Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA) and a prioritisation of increasing domestic resource mobilization particularly from large corporations.

Governance:

  • To manage high levels of inequality and to ensure service delivery and participation in governance, the government has started to implement decentralisation. Although progress has been made particularly through the revised National Decentralisation Policy of 2013, there are still a number of areas that need urgent redress to ensure that devolution occurs. These include delays in implementation of the Decentralisation Implementation Plan (DIP), confusion among roles and narrow revenue base for local authorities. We thus call on government to make public all information related to decentralisation including the DIP and the new district organizational structures.

  • Finally, as members of the Grand Coalition for a People’s Driven Constitution, the CSOs gathered restate that the parliamentary route of adopting the Zambian Constitution is treacherous as it provides the government with a platform to alter the character of the final draft constitution through parliamentary debates. We thus call on government to uphold the will of the people as expressed in their submissions.

     

 

Editors' notes

For further comments please contact the convening partners: Centre for Trade Policy and Development ( TPD); ActionAid Zambia ( AAZ), the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection( JCTR), Platform for Social Protection (PSP), the Non-Governmental Coordinating Council (NGOCC),  and the Zambia Council for Social Development ( ZCSD).