Energy Forum Zambia has challenged opposition UPND President Hakainde Hichilema to substantiate his claims that the country is losing over 1.8million in subsidizing the energy sector.
Johnston Chikwanda the Forum’s Chairperson says his organization has been tracking energy subsidies and that the UPND Leader’s figures are way beyond the findings of his organization which he said is consistent with the findings of the IMF.
He said his organization finds Mr Hichilema’s statement outrageous and exportation of hopelessness as it paints a picture of an apocalyptic energy sector.
“The President of the United Party for National Development (UPND) Mr. Hakainde Hichilema has been quoted by sections of the media that Zambia has been losing $1.8 Billion per year on electricity alone. He also said the Zambian economy has been destroyed by President Edgar Lungu. He said this at a press briefing held at his residence on 10th October, 2016.
“Energy Forum Zambia has been tracking down the level of subsidies the Zambian government has been spending on both fuel and electricity. To this end, the forum can reveal that Zambia’s combined subsidies on fuel and electricity in the recent past are estimated to be slightly above $60Om per year and that this figure got exacerbated due to expensive electricity imports. This figure is consistent with observations made by the IMF team which visited Zambia early this year. The bigger portion of this subsidy is due to fuel subsidy alone.
“Therefore, the Forum hereby challenges Mr. Hakainde Hichilema to substantiate the statement that Zambia is losing $1.8 Billion per year on electricity alone. As a forum, we are of the view that this is outrageous and exportation of hopelessness. This statement paints a picture of an apocalyptic energy sector. It is not true that this is what government is spending on electricity subsidy. The forum is also alarmed that Mr. Hichilema is describing subsidies meant to support the public and business houses as “losses.”,” he said.
Mr Chikwanda further blasted the opposition party for not articulating how they would fix the sector adding that the Minister of Energy should give a ministerial statement on whether Mr Hichilema’s figures are true.
“The Forum is further concerned that the UPND has never discretely articulated itself how it intends to fix the energy sector other than plagiarizing efforts of the current government. We analysed their 10 points and found that the point dealing with the energy sector fell well below expectations for a leading political party.
“The Forum wishes to call upon the Minister of Energy to issue a ministerial statement on the floor of parliament to inform the nation whether the figures Mr. Hichilema mentioned are correct and if not to correct the wrong message which has been exported to the public through a media briefing.”
He also said his organization will continue to provide checks and balances on the country’s energy sector as it continues to lobby for the removal of subsidies from fuel and electricity as it only benefits few people in the country.
“As a Forum, we have decided to become very steadfast in dealing with statements coming from those who sit in the alpha position regarding the status of the energy sector as they can either build or imperil the energy sector. Furthermore, we call upon the Minister of Energy to inform the public when government will start eliminating the subsidies so as to prepare the public instead of announcing sudden price hikes.
“The Forum has consistently lobbied for the removal of fuel and electricity subsidies as they tend to benefit a narrow section of society at the expense of the majority population. For instance, of the estimated $600m subsidies, direct beneficiaries are motorists and commercial consumers which include mining houses. Further, electrification in Zambia is less than 25% of national households, meaning that from a household perspective, only 25% is benefiting from the above subsidy. Subsidies not only benefit a narrow section but they also benefit business houses, households and automobile owners who are wealthier than the majority of the population.” He said.