National Budget Didn’t Address Poverty Reduction, Fr Emmanuel Chikoya says

THE Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) says in-as-much-as a critical look at the 2019 budget indicates a resource mobilization budget which if implemented effectively is likely to bring the necessary resources required to meet the aspirations and economic objectives of the country, it is lacking in terms of poverty reduction.Commenting on the 2019 national budget presented in parliament last Friday, CCZ General Secretary Fr Emmanuel Chikoya says in the short term there is little or no changes in improving the social well-being of an average Zambian.Fr Chikoya says the Church would have loved to see changes in the PAYE by increasing the non-taxable threshold to K4,000 from the current K3,300.He says this would have increased disposable income to the general populace hence would have gone a long way in helping reduce poverty among citizens.Fr Chikoya says increasing the non-taxable threshold should have been considered on grounds that in the recent past the nation has observed an increase in several taxes being introduced compared to limited disposable income.He says the prices of goods and services have been increasing amid stagnant disposable income and wages have remained frozen.He has further pointed out that the Church does not see how the 2019 budget was going to stimulate growth among SMEs with the introduction of the flat tax rate of four percent which is an increase from three percent.He says it was the Church’s prayer that this rate would have remained unchanged or reduced to stimulate growth of small businesses.He says the Church places human dignity at the core of its work by promoting human rights, addressing inequalities and overcoming discrimination, stigma and exclusion.He says it is the Church’s duty to protect, empower and bring people’s voices into the power structures as well as to the processes that affect them.Meanwhile, Fr Chikoya has observed a lack of seriousness on the part of Government in addressing the national debt both domestic and external.Fr Chikoya says there is need for the nation to enhance legislature on debt contraction because it will control debt contraction by the Government.He says the Church would have loved to see measures put in place to address the contraction of debt and how the nation is going to repay the already contracted debt.Fr Chikoya has further observed the misuse of public funds by the Government without any punitive measures being put in place.He has cited the over-pricing of projects being implemented such as the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway and the procurement of fire-fighting machines.He says from both the President’s speech to Parliament and the 2019 budget presentation there is no commitment by Government to address this worrisome issue.And Fr Chikoya says the country is not at war to justify an increase in expenditure to the security wings.He says increasing expenditure to the security wings questions where our priorities are as a nation.He explains that the Church expected a reduction in expenditure on security and instead steadily increase funding to social sectors of the economy such as education, health and social protection.Fr Chikoya says a reduction in funding in terms of percentage to the social sectors is worrying considering that the allocation to the security wings has been increased.On agriculture the CCZ GS says there is an urgent need to address the issues on the e-voucher system which have been affecting the nation’s food production.He says late delivery of inputs has continued hence has been affecting the efficiency in the agriculture sector.Fr Chikoya has also called on the Government to quickly address the depreciating kwacha against major currencies.He says everything being done is tied up to the exchange rate which includes debt repayments hence the urgency.He says if not attended to the volatile exchange rate has the capacity to erode the confidence that citizens have in the economy and also has the potential to erode economic gains.Fr Chikoya has, however, commended Government for reducing tax for firms that process copper before exporting it.He says this was a good move which must be extended to all other goods including timber.Fr Chikoya has also commended the introduction of new tax tier of 10% of $7,500 per ton. He says this will enable the country collect better shares from mining especially that the prices have been rising.He has, however, wished that it would have been better if the tax threshold would be introduced at $6,000 per metric ton.Fr Chikoya has further commended Government for encouraging local content and value addition by increasing mineral royalties on cobalt saying this will help increase revenue.He says a further 15% tax on gemstone and gold is a welcome move because the nation’s concentration on copper has neglected high value minerals such as these hence the nation has lost out on revenue.He has since called for the need to enact into law the planning and budgetary bill saying any system which is not backed by legislature is prone to abuse. Post Views: 120

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