THE austerity measures announced by finance minister Margaret Mwanakatwe to address debt and fiscal challenges need to be supported by figures if they are to be meaningful, says Highvie Hamududu.
The leader of the opposition Party of National Unity (PNU) said shorn of stating the amounts that would be saved from the announced austerity measures, such pronouncements would remain mere flowery intentions on paper.
“The Treasury must go further to indicate exactly the amounts to be saved and where these savings should be applied in other words, show us the expenditure realignments. The objective of the austerity measures is not to slow down the wheels of the economy, but to apply budgetary resources to areas of greater economic impact and relieve citizens from biting economic conditions. More specifically, the government through the Treasury intends, through these austerity measures, to cut administrative costs, avoidable and wasteful expenditure and apply the savings in areas of highest priority such as addressing arrears to contractors, suppliers and pensioners; rolling back debt accumulation, meeting critical areas of social services such as education and health; and supporting inclusive growth by facilitating citizen involvement in the economy,” he said.
Hamududu, who is also an economist, challenged Mwanakatwe to provide a mini budget statement to indicate the new budget expenditure profiles within the approved national budget.
He further noted that the austerity measures should be the norm in government and should have been there all along because it was the right thing to do.
Hamududu also explained that beyond the announced austerity measures, the government needs to pronounce bolder and tougher economic transformation methods to deal with the huge challenges the country was facing since the strict measures announced by Mwanakatwe were not enough to correct the current fiscal imbalance.
“The minister should have provided a mini budget statement to indicate the new budget expenditure profiles within the approved national budget. With the guidance pronounced in the austerity measures, let the treasury get specific submissions from all ministries, provinces and spending agencies (MPSAs), the exact savings to be made as result of adhering to these measures. This is where innovation in MPSAs becomes key. This exercise should be a precursor to the 2019 national budget because the austerity measures announced need a number of years to address the debt and fiscal challenges,” Hamududu said.
He further stated that without the government taking bold and tough governance and economic reforms, he foresaw the country getting into serious trouble in future.
“Signs are already showing of economic depression and hopelessness in the general citizenry,” said Hamududu.
On Monday, Mwanakatwe called on civil servants to strictly adhere to austerity measures and legal reforms put in place to sustain economic growth.
She said that the decisive policy actions taken by the government were there to mitigate any form of threat to macroeconomic stability and attainment of development goals.
Mwanakatwe further said it was important for all public service workers to lay a sound foundation for improved economic management and people’s welfare.