HH proposes measures to mitigate COVID-19

UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema says now is the time for leaders to show leadership from the front and relegate guidance responsibilities to others.

In a statement, Hichilema said extraordinary times require leaders to rise up and show courageous leadership in mounting extraordinary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

He proposed some stringent measures that the government should consider amid the pandemic.

“Government should reprogramme the 2020 national budget in view of the COVID-19 pandemic through a supplementary budget or completely cut off expenditure for capital projects, develop a legal framework for the interaction of health, sanitary and phytosanitary, and social welfare services under an integrated guiding protocol,” Hichilema said.

Hichilema also proposed that the government should develop legislation that restricted, well-management and well-monitored movement of essential persons, labour, goods and services internationally.

“Call for an emergent Cabinet meeting to discuss international and regional trade and trade facilitation protocol and immediately negotiate with our main international and regional trading partners so as to ensure efficient flow of essential persons, labour, goods and services into Zambia, governed by a clear and coherent operating procedure,” Hichilema added.

He said the government should provide adequate resources to the Judiciary, particularly the Industrial Relations Court, and to the Labour Commissioner’s Office, as a robust and safe standby dispute resolution mechanism in anticipation of possible disputes that may arise during the period of adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hichilema urged avoidance of a deterioration into further lawlessness under the guise of social and economic responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also proposed some short-term economic measures to save the many Zambian businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hichilema said the government should institute fiscal prudency by immediately suspending or cancelling, “the controversial relaunch of Zambia Airways, at an estimated monthly cost of US$700,000 (or annual cost of US$8.4 million) and an initial investment cost of US$30 million (ZMW520 million) by the Zambian government”.

“Cancel the recently contracted US$825 million pipeline debt from China Railways. Suspend the 2020 Census and large-scale public surveys until the COVID-19 pandemic has been brought under full control in Zambia and abroad. Government should reallocate savings to priority health responses such as procurement of surveillance and logistical supplies,” Hichilema said.

He suggested that the government should formulate an Emergency External Debt Relief Plan which would urgently profile Zambian creditors and outstanding loan amounts, as a basis for negotiating for debt forgiveness or other relief from multilateral and bilateral development partners as well as repayment breaks or holidays on external debt interest payments.

“Mitigate economic effects through fiscal stimulus: This will entail, among other things, engaging international community to tap into newly mobilised COVID-19 emergency response funds,” Hichilema said.

He however observed that the World Bank had established a $14 billion fund to help sustain economies and protect jobs particularly in developing countries.

Hichilema also noted that the International Monetary Fund had announced five facilities – Emergency Financing, Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust, Augmentation under existing programmes, New Financing Arrangement, and Capacity Development – which it would use to help countries address the economic effect of COVID-19.

“With the above-mentioned fiscal discipline measures in place, Zambia will be in contention to access the multilateral financing and use it as a stimulus. Agriculture and agro-process: the demand for nutritious (organic) foods and beverages will surely rise, particularly as Europe, China and the USA start to achieve social and economic stability from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hichilema said. “Zambia, with its water agricultural resources (water, land, sunlight and a health young population that will largely be spared from the long-term adverse effects of the Pandemic) should invest the international financing into areas that foster domestic, regional and international nutritious food security.”
He noted that COVID-19 had shown significant discrimination in targeting elderly people.

“As the country approaches winter, citizens will have to invest in establishing rapid deployment emergency micro- and small-energy installations, particularly for heating and foods and beverage warming in homes with old people. Also, during the pandemic, authorities will have to scale-up on water supply capacity as well as capacity to produce sanitation commodities (particularly soaps and other detergents, wipes, face masks, etc.); this will require providing structured technical support and financing to the manufacturing sector,” he said.

Hichilema said once the chloroquine treatment and prophylaxis trails were confirmed, the world would be in great need of the medicine, adding that Zambia should start increasing its productive capacities now through strategic investments in the pharmaceutical industry.

Hichilema noted that the domestic measures alone would release an estimated K10.5 billion even before accessing the funds being mobilised by the international institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF as well as the United Nations.

“All of the above measures will be crucial for helping to sustain the Zambian economy and to protect jobs if the government does not consider the above measures,” said Hichilema.

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