A consortium of civil society organisations have expressed concern over the social and economic challenges that Zambia facing.
The consortium comprises ActionAid Zambia (AAZ), Centre for Trade and Policy Development (CTPD), Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD) and Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) and the Platform for Social Protection (PSP).
The CSOs said they are just short of calling what is happening in Zambia today a catastrophe saying it is difficult to appropriately label the sudden and rapid path of decay that the country is now treading.
They say this is a difficult and desperate time for Zambia that calls for a sense of urgency in those that govern to quickly address the challenges that the country is facing.
The CSOs said in the recent past, they have continued to raise red flags on the state of Zambia’s economic, social and political governance and have expressed the need for more prudent decision making in order to improve the country’s state of affairs.
“Civil society notes that whilst these red flags continue to be raised by various stakeholders, government has remained unresponsive to the call to action on pertinent, contentious issues that continue to raise public outcry. It is therefore imperative for civil society organizations such as,” the CSOs said.
They noted with grave concern that policy decisions have been undertaken in the recent past without due attention being paid to the current economic challenges and the state of play particularly in relation to the social impacts on poverty and inequality.
“Zambia is faced with a huge fiscal deficit currently standing at 6.5% of its GDP (K 20 billion). This means that our projected expenditure is much higher than our capacity to generate revenue in the 2015 fiscal budget. Added to this, the country is also facing a very sharp and sudden trade deficit which currently stands at K1.2 billion. This means that the country’s imports continue to outstrip the total exports, leaving Zambia in a continued position as a net importer and consumer of imported products,” they stated.
They added, “In turn, this has affected the strength of the Kwacha against foreign currencies, and our external debt stock continues to increase amidst government assurances that the country is still within sustainable debt stock levels.”
“However, the current borrowing is fast approaching unsustainable levels and may plunge the country into another debt trap, a concern that many stakeholders continue to raise with government. Further, the country may also be plunged into a vicious borrowing cycle as the loans have been secured at very high interest rates and significant sums of money will thus be needed to repay them.”
The CSOs said at the social level, Zambia’s poverty levels remain high particularly in the rural areas where extreme poverty is still at 57.7% while stunting remains one of Zambia’s challenges with 40% of Zambian children being stunted.
They said there is need for prudence in the management of the economy as well as in decision making processes to ensure that dividends of economic activities can create the kind of social impacts that will result in uplifting the living standards of citizens.