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NGOCC critiques 2020 budget

THE NGOCC says the 2020 national budget does not have clear, specific measures to reduce the fiscal deficit to three per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.

The Non-governmental Gender Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) indicates that without mainstreaming gender, inclusive growth will not be realised as it will leave out more than 50 per cent of the population who are women and children.

NGOCC board chairperson Mary Mulenga made the remarks, on behalf of the Council, to the parliamentary expanded committee on the budget.

Mulenga told the committee chaired by Kanchibiya PF member of parliament Dr Martin Malama that the NGOCC was, however, impressed that finance minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu, during the 2020 budget presentation, emphasised the need for no tolerance to corruption.

“It is our hope, therefore, that President Lungu will provide the necessary leadership to ensure that the meagre resources available will be prudently managed to benefit the majority Zambians, especially the vulnerable which include women and children in society,” Mulenga said.

Regarding the feeding programme, Mulenga noted that the NGOCC was worried that there was no budgetary allocation and targets for 2020 despite “the public being informed that this programme will continue.”

“Given the levels of vulnerability and the growing young population, especially in rural areas, NGOCC feels the government should have prioritised this important programme,” she said.

On education, Mulenga told the committee that the Ministry of Education had been allocated K13.1 billion in next year’s budget, representing 12.4 per cent of the total budget (far below the 20 per cent commitment, according to the Dakar Declaration).

She added that the budget’s silence on teacher recruitment was disturbing, when over 40,000 qualified teachers were current unemployed.

“This poses as a barrier for many women and girls who have taken teaching as a career and will discourage future prospects in this area,” Mulenga noted, stressing that the teaching profession had, in a long time, been a preferred career for many women and girls.

“The non-recruitment of teachers will exacerbate the poverty levels and high unemployment levels among women, children and other vulnerable groups from unemployed teachers’ households who depend on this opportunity as a potential source of livelihood.”

Mulenga also lamented to the committee that: “NGOCC is deeply concerned that this budget is silent on the provision of free sanitary towels to vulnerable girls who miss school for about 39 days in every school year due to lack of supplies to safely and hygienically manage menstruation.”

“NGOCC urges government to prioritise provision of free sanitary towels in schools and constructing Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) facilities in the schools and university hostels that are targeted for construction in 2020 to offer women and girls a comfortable environment, including water and sanitation services,” Mulenga said.

The Council, however, commended the government for allocating K2.9 billion to curative, rehabilitative and palliative care which has suffered a great setback in the past years with most institutions, especially hospices, closing up….” she noted.

She added that it was sad that about six million Zambians still did not have access clean and safe drinking water in many rural and even urban areas.

“It is NGOCC’s considered view that without mainstreaming gender, inclusive growth will not be realised as it will leave out more than 50 per cent of the population who are women and children,” said Mulenga.

“Further, the 2020 budget does not have clear, specific measures to reduce the fiscal deficit to three per cent of GDP as targeted in the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework.”

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