ActionAid is calling on all political parties to come clean on how they plan to fund their manifestos, should they win the elections being held on 11 August. Anyone can promise the earth but unless the parties can show us where the money will come from, the promises risk being nothing but empty words. And they may even make things worse. So, in the interests of transparency and accountability, ActionAid is saying that it is high time we talk about the money!
Zambia’s political parties have been busy setting out their stalls to the country’s electorate. Sadly, much of the recent media coverage has been dominated by personal arguments, reports of violence and growing concern over press freedom. But behind these headlines, the parties have been putting together their election promises. Along with other NGOs, ActionAid has been calling on the parties to focus on substance and so we welcome the efforts being made to raise awareness of their manifestos.
Given the economic crisis facing the country, including a slowed GDP growth rate, double digit inflation and a falling kwacha, it comes as no surprise that the main parties are promising to lift the population out of their economic doldrums. There is talk of delivering a future of more prosperity and less inequality; of cheaper food, better health care and more schools; and of an end to load shedding and more investment in farming and manufacturing.
Even while Zambia’s mining companies grew fat on high copper prices, this was not felt across most parts of the population. Today, as we all know too well, Zambian people are still overwhelmingly poor, with extreme poverty in rural areas above 55% and rising. ActionAid therefore supports a renewed emphasis on narrowing the gap between rich and poor, investing in the quality of schooling and hospital care, on giving everyone access to clean water and energy, and for better and more targeted funding of key programmes including FISP and the social cash transfer programme, that should reach the poorest and really help tackle Zambia’s yawning inequality.
Moreover, ActionAid absolutely supports efforts to diversify Zambia’s economy, building the manufacturing sector and generating decent and formalized jobs for youth and women in particular. We also agree that the challenge is not simply to raise Zambian GDP growth again, but to ensure that the benefits of growth are felt broadly, and particularly reach the rural and urban poor. All this is critical to ensuring Zambians can enjoy their right to live free of poverty.
But we and the public absolutely need to know before voting is: where the money will come from? These promises are but pipe dreams unless the parties tell us squarely how they will raise the money needed. The main and best source of government revenue both now and in the future is from taxes. But will the extra money needed come from increasing taxes on the poor? Or will it be raised by capturing more tax revenues from the big companies and wealthiest individuals, many of whom have so far managed to get away without paying their fair share in taxes?
ActionAid is today presenting our key election demands, with a focus on where we think the next government should get the money needed to tackle poverty and meet all Zambian’s rights.
Let’s talk about the money!
Nalucha Nganga – Ziba