The Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) says the 2020 national budget is full of contradictions as many policy pronouncements are not being supported with spending and tax changes.
CTPD Executive Director Isaac Mwaipopo says CTPD has observed that although, there is an improvement in allocation towards some sectors, the 2020 national budget is full of contradictions.
Mr Mwaipopo said CTPD is concerned that the proposed budget has not carried enough matching measures to support the proposed theme: “Focusing National Priorities Towards Stimulating the Domestic Economy”.
He said Government seems to have only improved its assessment of the current economic challenges and pronouncement of measures to be taken but has not translated these into meaningful policy changes and commitments.
“For example, though government states that it seeks to ensure debt sustainability, the road infrastructure agenda is expected to continue in the 2020 national budget following an allocation of K10.6 Billion and projected increase in debt financing,” Mr Mwaipopo said.
“How will the government create fiscal space when it is clearly failing to muzzle its appetite for spending on projects which has clearly not yielded enough returns towards debt servicing?”
Mr Mwaipopo said CTPD is also concerned that the total budget allocation has increased from K86.8 Billion to K106.0 Billion which is way above the planned expenditure for 2020 in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework.
He said the general increase in the budget does not reflect a commitment to austerity measures and “doing more with less.”
Mr Mwaipopo said the move to start working towards dismantling domestic arrears of about K20.2 is commendable.
“Although, under the macroeconomic objectives, there is no target by which government will reduce the domestic arrears. On the other hand , the allocation of K2.3 billion for the year 2020 is less than the increase in domestic arrears of K4.6 billion, within the last 6 months.”
“Clearly, there is no real commitment to the dismantling of arrears since the pace of accumulation is greater than the proposed rate of dismantling.”
He said CTPD is particularly disheartened that the allocation of K1.2 billion to the sinking fund is insignificant compared to what the country needs to raise annually towards the US$750 million Eurobond principal payment due in 2022.
“The reduced allocation towards environmental protection despite the emphasis to deal with the challenges of climate change is a matter of concern to the Centre.”
“Government’s inability to allocate more resources to education also showed the increased lack of priority since the same budget has increased allocation towards defense and public order and safety.”
Mr Mwaipopo said the budget has also maintained allocation towards drugs and medical supplies and hospital operations, which should have been matched with allocation towards health infrastructure.
He said the health sector does not only need increased buildings and facilities, there is also need for improved service delivery through increased drugs and medical supplies.
“CTPD welcomes the move to maintain VAT and wishes to advise government against the implementation of sales tax, especially to the wholesale and retail sector. This progressive tax change which has been mingled with proposals to increase non-tax revenue through increased user fees and fines charged by government departments will negatively affect consumer’s disposable income and would not result in stimulating the domestic economy.”
“Furthermore, the tax changes targeting climate change mitigation are not sufficient to creating incentives for the private sector to invest in alternative energy sources. Therefore, the 2020 budget is more focused on collecting taxes instead of using tax measures to stimulate the domestic economy.”
Mr Mwaipopo said CTPD will soon launch its detailed 2020 budget analysis paper which will be shared to the general public.