By Henry Kyambalesa:
The recent massive reshuffles of Permanent Secretaries and government Ministers are a clear indication of President Rupiah Banda’s utmost insensitivity to the expectations of the Zambian people. Instead of trimming his government to make it smaller and more efficient, he seems to be more obsessed with lining up the pockets of his friends, political supporters and sympathizers.
It is both irresponsible and inexcusable for Banda to continue to maintain sinecures at public expense while the country drifts further into socio-economic decay and backwardness. In fact, his failure to abolish the positions of Deputy Minister and District Commissioner, and to reduce the size of his Cabinet, defies his own sentiments and the sentiments of the late President Levy Mwanawasa.
In his speech in June 2009, for example, he decried the fact 50% of government’s domestic revenues are spent on 1% of the population, including Ministers, and wondered how provision for roads, hospitals, schools, energy, and defence and security could be met. The late Mwanawasa, too, expressed his misgivings about the bloated government when he revealed that 65% of the national budget was devoted to the sustenance of a bloated state apparatus, and that only a paltry 35% was left for education, agriculture, healthcare, roads and bridges, and so forth.
There is a need to reduce the size of the government to a smaller number of Cabinet portfolios, such as the following: (a) Education, Training and Sport; (b) Public Health and Sanitation; (c) Agriculture and Food Security; (d) Finance and Revenue; (e) Commerce and Industry; (f) Defence and Security; (g) Works, Supply and Transport; (h) Culture and Community Services; (i) Justice, Prisons and Immigration; and (j) Foreign Affairs.
Government functions which cannot be accommodated by these ministries can be delegated to executive government agencies. The savings to be made per year in this regard are enormous, as calculated below using data mainly from the Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Emoluments) (Amendment) Act No. 18 of 2008.
1) Permanent Secretary: K102,866,638 Salary
2) Cabinet Minister:
K26,382,673 Special allowance
K26,680,000 Utility allowance
3) Deputy Minister:
K24,107,904 Special allowance
K 26,680,000 Utility allowance
By reducing the number of Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Permanent Secretaries for the current 23 government Ministries to 10 Ministries, Zambia would make the following savings:
13 Ministers x K128,179,797 = K1,666,337,361
43 Deputy Ministers x K121,741,090 = K5,194,866,870
13 Permanent Secretaries x K102,866,638 = K1,337,266,294
Total Savings: K8,198,470,525
These savings plus savings from the abolition of the positions of 72 District Commissioners and savings from allocations of automobiles and other assets for affected government officials are enormous.
A radical and fundamental reduction in the size of the national government is the only viable means by which Zambia can ultimately pay off the national debt, reduce taxes and interest rates to stimulate the economy and job creation, and provide adequately for the needs of education, public health, agriculture, public infrastructure, civil servants, civil service retirees, and so forth.