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CSOs question validity of religious affairs ministry

CIVIL Society Organizations in Chipata have expressed concern over increased allocation towards the public order Act and Ministry of Religious Affairs in the 2020 budget.

They noted an increased allocation towards the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs from 0.3 per cent in 2019 to 0.4 per cent in 2020.

“What is the validity of the ministry? This is a total displacement of the public funds. The Ministry should seat as a department,” the urged.

In a statement after a post-2020 budget analysis organised by ActionAid on Monday, the CSO’s noted that the budget was positive but there were a lot of negatives.

“We appreciate the government despite having all the state machinery to transform the economy but with the current state of affairs, if the wage bill is added, that means the country is stuck in an unpleasant situation where around K60 billion out of the K72 billion domestic revenue is spent on the wage bill and debt service,” they stated. “This is a trap we should escape.”

The CSO’s cited agriculture, tourism, gold mining, education, youth and women, health and social protection which were important sectors to the people in Eastern Province.

According a statement read by Eastern Province Young Men Christian Association coordinator David Lungu, there were reductions in allocations towards the Farmer Input Support Programme from K1.4 billion in the 2019 budget to K1.1 billion in the 2020 budget.

The CSO’s also noted that allocations to food reserves reduced from K672 in 2019 to K660 in 2020, health spending from 9.3 per cent in 2019 to 8.8 per cent in 2020, environmental protection reduced from one per cent in 2019 to 0.6 per cent in 2020, education spending from 15.3 per cent in 2019 to 12.4 per cent in 2020 and social protection had reduced from 2.5 per cent in 2019 to 2.4 per cent in 2020 budget.

They wondered why there was an increase in the allocation towards the public order Act.

“Increase in public order Act allocation from 3.3 per cent in 2019 to 3.8 per cent in 2020, at which point is the public older Act applicable?” they wondered. They recalled that the total budget for 2019 was K86.8 billion while the 2020 budget had increased to K106 billion with increased allocation towards debt servicing from K23.6 billion in 2019 to K33.7 billion in 2020. The CSOs appealed to the government to ensure the allocations trickle down to the provincial levels to stimulate change and transform economic growth.

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