The Kabwe Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has described the performance of the 2017 national budget as fair based on the hostile exchange rates and reduction in copper prices among other factors.
KCCI Vice President, Thomas Muwowo, says the hostile exchange rates, reduction in copper prices and the upward adjustments of electricity tariffs made it difficult for companies to access goods and services.
Mr Muwowo says the 2017 national budget can be described as fair because of the so many challenges that the country grappled with, including hostile exchange rates, reduction of copper prices and electricity tariff increase among others.
Speaking in an interview with ZANIS in Kabwe today, Mr Muwowo said the low copper prices during the first half of 2017 affected the mining industry thereby disadvantaging the country in accessing goods and services.
He said the situation was worsened by slumping of the Kwacha against major world currencies with the hostile exchange rates adversely affecting economic activities of the country.
Mr Muwowo observed that the country was playing catch up when the Kwacha stabilised with the major currencies but was hit again when the fuel pump price was increased.
He also noted that the failure by financial lending institutions to reduce their interest rates despite the Bank of Zambia (BOZ) reducing the reserve rates made it difficult for companies to borrow.
He further observed that the 75 per cent increase by the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) was injurious on most companies, Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs) and marketeers.
Mr Muwowo indicated that because of these setbacks most companies could not break even in 2017 and were operating at 30 per cent and as such the budget could not inspire the poor in society.
He complained that the farming fraternity in the country also suffered huge losses after the produce was sold at a reduced price despite some faming blacks being hit by the army worms.
However, Mr Muwowo nodded some improvement in a number of social sectors, citing health and education as areas where positive strides had been made.
He said the 2017 national budget saw the recruitment of health workers and teachers to beef up the manpower and improve service delivery at the facility level.
The KCCI vice president noted that more health facilities were constructed while others were upgraded to first level hospitals in the quest to enhance service delivery.
Mr Muwowo indicated that the same trend was evident in the Ministry of General Education where new schools had been built while some were upgraded.
He underpinned that these gains are very important because educated and healthy citizens are a unique ingredient for both social and economic growth of the country.
Mr Muwowo further observed that the social sector saw increased advocacy on gender issues, adding that many people now know the role of men and women in development.