The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) has called for a pro-poor 2023 National Budget.
The Ministry of Finance and National Planning recently called for proposals as it formulates the 2023 National Budget which is expected to be unveiled in the last quarter of this year.
JCTR Executive Director Fr. Alex Muyebe, S.J. said People want to see less punitive taxes in the next National Budget.
Fr. Muyebe said no country can achieve sustained economic growth for national development without effectively addressing wide-spread poverty in its population.
The Catholic Priest said Zambia today has become so accustomed to coexisting peacefully with poverty.
“After an estimated 1.5 percentage point increase in the international poverty rate between 2019 and 2020, the poverty headcount in Zambia is projected to have remained high, at about 60% in 2021 (the World Bank Macro Poverty Outlook, April 2022). The rise in poverty has been largely driven by falling incomes in urban areas, especially among those relying on employment income from the informal sector. A World Bank Household Monitoring phone survey found that 4 in 5 households reported a drop in income from nonfarm business, and that 1 in 3 reported a reduction or disappearance of wages due to the pandemic (ibid). A recent Socio-economic Impact Assessment conducted by the National Statistical Office found that 9 in 10 households have experienced spikes in the price of food, and that 64% of these had to reduce food consumption as a result (ibid),” Fr. Muyebe said.
“The hard fact is that the number of people living in poverty in Zambia remains very high. Poverty has always been one of the major barriers to human development in Zambia since independence in 1964. No country can achieve sustained economic growth for national development without effectively addressing wide-spread poverty in its population. Unfortunately, in Zambia today we have become so accustomed to coexisting peacefully with poverty that we no longer get alarmed when we hear of stressful stories of our brothers and sisters in poor households around the country who are struggling to barely survive due to the rising cost of living. Something is not adding up. Even if the speed at which prices are increasing is on the slowdown, the fact is that commodity prices are very high and are likely to remain that way for some time given the ever increasing fuel pump prices,” he noted.
Fr. Muyebe continued:”There are several cases out there of guards, maids and farm workers earning far less than K1, 000 per month. This is not meant to be a finger pointing exercise but rather an attempt to rally support from all stakeholders (all of us) across the country to wake up to this very sad reality and together to begin to seriously address poverty in Zambia. Poverty is not about statistics but it is about the lives of our brothers and sisters in our society who are being deprived of decent livelihood and the minimum level of human dignity. We note that Bernard’s household like several others across the country can hardly afford fruits in their food basket. Seasonal food items like fruits accounted for a negligible reduction in the JCTR’s Basic Needs and Nutrition basket in April and May 2022.”
Fr. Muyebe said the government should demonstrate that it is a listening regime by formulating a pro-poor 2023 national budget.
“In fact, the social and economic reality in the country is getting worse. As we continue to interact with people living in challenging circumstances, it is very clear that the least the government can do as it puts together the 2023 national budget is to demonstrate that it is a listening government, notwithstanding the challenges of prolonged debt negotiations, by putting in place some measures to address the majority’s demand for affordable food and shelter. People want not only jobs but also decent incomes and a living wage coupled with less punitive taxes. These demands are not new. The party that is now in government reverberated the people’s aspirations in some of its election promises in the run up to the elections last year. The people of Zambia are keenly watching to see if the new administration is going to fulfill a great deal of its election promises by the time of its first anniversary in government next month,” Fr. Muyebe concluded.