COOPERATING Partners Group chair and Irish Ambassador to Zambia Seamus O’Grady says in the wake of the recent IMF virtual mission, resolving the country’s public debt issue remains a crucial priority as that is key to the government delivering on its ambition for growth and development.
And finance minister Bwalya Ng’andu says the government and other stakeholders will need to be innovative to achieve more with less.
The National Development Coordinating Committee (NDCC), a grouping of government and multi-sectoral stakeholders, has supported the re-scoping of the implementation plan of the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) in the face of the negative impact of COVID-19 and other factors.
Officiating at the virtual meeting of permanent secretaries and other governmental officials, Development Cooperating Partners, Civil Society Organisations, private sector and captains of industry, academia and other stakeholders that form the NDCC, Ambassador O’Grady said this was key to government taking its discussions with the IMF further.
He said Zambia has faced enormous challenges over the past year, including the drought of 2018/19, economic downturn that has weakened the country’s ability to cope especially in the areas of social spending, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the wake of the recent IMF virtual mission, resolving the public debt issue remains a crucial priority as that is key to GRZ delivering on its ambition for growth and development and is key to government taking its discussions with the IMF further,” Ambassador O’Grady said. “Cooperating Partners are supporting an emergency procurement of essential drug kits for districts together with the Ministry of Health. Prioritising the expenditure on medicines is central to Zambian citizens having confidence in their health services. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the government to support poverty reduction in Zambia and implementation of the 7NDP.”
And Dr Ng’andu said the negative impact of COVID-19 had filtered through the economy by way of health shocks, domestic economic restrictions and lockdowns, revenue losses, increased spending, reduced exports, capital flow reversals and lower commodity prices.
“Preliminary estimates indicate that the pandemic has affected the 2020 budget in the following ways: revenue loss of more than K17 billion; government spending increase of more than K9 billion; and a financing gap of almost K27 billion,” said Dr Ng’andu. “These developments have severely affected the implementation of the 7NDP and Sustainable Development Goals, as funding to most programmes has drastically reduced. I call upon you to candidly bring out key issues and provide workable solutions as to how to effectively and successfully implement the 7NDP in view of the emerging issues of COVID-19. One of the common cries is always insufficient funding. This is an inescapable reality as funds will [not] always be enough, hence the need to reduce costs and do much with the available means.”
In a presentation titled ‘Rescoping of 7NDP’, Ministry of National Development Planning permanent secretary Chola Chabala said the rescoping of the 7NDP was intended to prioritise programmes that would be included in the 2021 budget for implementation during the remainder of the Plan period 2021.
He said the government decided to rescope the implementation plan of the 7NDP, by reducing the number of development programmes and milestones that should be undertaken in the remaining one year of the 2017-2021 lifespan of the plan.
Chabala said this was necessitated by the slowdown of the economy, which had threatened growth, jobs, incomes and tax revenues; fiscal vulnerabilities due to rising public debt and diminishing discretionary component of budget low funding; COVID-19 pandemic and unintended consequences of mitigating measures and restrictions aggravated growth and funding prospects.
He further explained that the 2021 general elections and conducting census and housing were likely to exert more fiscal pressure on the economy.
Chabala said as a result, the discretionary budget was likely to further shrink.
“The rescoping of the 7NDP prioritises programmes under economic diversification and job creation, poverty and vulnerability reduction, reducing developmental inequalities and enhancing human development pillars the programmes to be prioritised are those contributing to food security, social protection and climate change mitigation,” he said.
Chabala explained that the strategies economic diversification and job creation pillar would be to improve production and productivity; enhance agriculture value chains; promote diversification within the agricultural sector, and promote small-scale agriculture through programmes focusing on irrigation development; agriculture input supply management as well as crop, forestry, fisheries and livestock product diversification.
He said other strategies would be extension service delivery enhancement; resettlement scheme development; agri-business development services provision; crop, forestry, fisheries and livestock product diversification; farmers’ organisations development; enhancing technology development; including agro and forestry based processing and manufacturing promotion.
“We expect to enhance Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) surveillance system; agro and forestry based processing and manufacturing capacity strengthened; access to agri-business development services by small and medium scale increased; entrepreneurial capacity of small scale farmers organisations developed and security of tenure for resettlement scheme settlers strengthened,” Chabala said. “Under poverty and vulnerability reduction our strategies would be strengthening coordination of social protection systems; improve coverage and targeting of social protection and climate change and disaster risk reduction through integrated social protection; basic social protection; farmer input support program; and pension reforms; and climate change adaptation.”
He said the anticipated outputs would include integrated basic social protection framework implemented, access of poor and vulnerable households to basic social protection services increased, improved access to diverse and quality agricultural input for vulnerable but viable small holder farmers and improved surveillance systems for climate related risks.
“Under reducing developmental inequalities pillar our strategies would be to promote integrated rural development and reduced gender inequality through the progrmmes including rural urban linkages promotion, promoting gender equity and equality, pro-poor taxes enhancement,” Chabala explained. “We expect improved gender responsiveness in planning, budgeting and implementation; and improved policies for income redistribution to vulnerable groups, women, youth and person with disabilities.”
Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Administration), Patrick Kangwa, chairing the NDCC of on behalf of the Secretary to the Cabinet, expressed optimism that the two-day meeting would realise the set objectives and add value to national development agenda.