VICE-PRESIDENT Inonge Wina has admitted that the cost of living has gone up in the country.
Responding to Zambezi West UPND member of parliament Prisca Kucheka’s observation that life in Zambia has become so hard for citizens and the cost of living is so high during the Vice-President’s Question Time in Parliament yesterday, Vice-President Wina said it is true that the cost of living has gone up but that the government has put in some measures to make sure that inflation in its current form does not impact the lives of the people.
In her intervention, Kucheka said, “Life in Zambia has become so hard for the Zambian people to bear. The cost of living is so high that people can no longer afford three meals per day. What is your government doing or rather what drastic measures have you put in place to mitigate the high cost of living in this country?”
“Mr Speaker, it’s true that the cost of living has gone up and that the Government of the Republic of Zambia has put in some measures to make sure that inflation in its current form does not impact the lives of our people. And I wish to start Mr Speaker by stating that government recognises the importance of maintaining inflation within sustainable levels to make the cost of living affordable for our people. And you will notice Mr Speaker that since 2011 inflation is within the range of six to eight per cent,” she said. “Food prices are major components of the measurement of inflation and during the periods of 2015 and 2016 and 2017-2018 the rate was higher than targeted mainly due to increased food prices caused by low agricultural output that the country experienced on account of poor rainfall during these farming seasons.”
Vice-President Wina said to counter inflation and stabilise the cost of living the government has implemented several measures which include among others the removal of Value Added Tax and excise duty on petroleum products to reduce fuel related inflationary pressures.
She added that the government had put restrictions on maize exports to make it more available on the domestic market as well as increase support to farmers to grow and diversify their agriculture activities such as growing soya beans so that the price of cooking oil can be stabilised.
“Government has taken measures to stabilise the kwacha against major currencies and these measures include the building of reserves through the purchasing of gold,” she said. “Mr Speaker, I wish to emphasise that the government is fully aware of challenges caused by high inflation and has taken measures and will continue to take measures including increasing social cash payments for the vulnerable households in order to cushion the impact of rising prices.”
And Vice-President Wina said the National Command Centre the government is putting up is not anything new but a measure of public security and safety.
Itezhi-Tezhi UPND member of parliament Hebert Shabula wondered why the Command Centre project had become a priority to the government when there are other projects which are not completed.
“It is in public domain that you, the government, is putting up a national command centre like that of President Museveni in Uganda. You are installing…thousand cameras throughout Zambia. You brought into the country high-tech weapons probably to be used against your own citizens, and my question is that why has this project become a priority to government when you have other projects which are not completed such Itezhi-Tezhi-Mongu roads and other infrastructure projects in the country?” asked Shabula. “Why has this project become a priority to the government?” In response, Vice-President Wina said public security and safety are on high priority not only for the PF government but governments all over the world.
“Mr Speaker, public security and safety are on high priority not only of this government but governments all over and the public has to be protected at all times, not only at the time of elections. And many governments have put in place measures to secure public safety using the latest technology that will bring out information where a human eye sometimes cannot,” she said. “So it’s not anything new. This particular project was started many years ago, five years ago if I may recollect and this is not designed for elections. This will be a public feature that will capture data on public matters of security and Mr Speaker Zambians should welcome such moves because their government is moving in the technological era that most governments are already in. There are issues of smart cities in this world and the smart cities are anchored on various development issues including surveillance and this is what your government is doing.”
Meanwhile, Vice-President Wina has assured the nation that the public order Act is applicable to all and not intended to punish the opposition.
Responding to Luampa UPND member of parliament Makozo Chikote who wanted to know what government is doing to avert the abuse of the POA owing to its current form, Vice-President Wina said the Act is one of those laws that should protect citizens without any bias of discrimination in its application.
“I want to find out from your government, since we have been told that the public order Act will not be amended before the 12th of August general elections…in its current form where it has been abusively used especially on the opposition parties, what other mechanism are you going to put in place so that the playing field is fair for everyone who is going to take part in these elections without any intimidation from your PF government?” asked Chikote.
Vice-President Wina, in response, urged Chikote not to fear stating that the POA would not be used against the opposition political parties as it will be applied fairly on all the players.
“Mr Speaker, this issue was debated intensively yesterday (Thursday) in the House and the Minister of Justice [Given Lubinda] explained all the details pertaining to the public order Act and why it could not pass and the honorable member should have known that by refusing to get this amendment done to the public order Act he was putting himself and others to some sort of challenges,” said Vice-President Wina. “The POA is applicable to all, not only to punish…it’s not intended to punish the opposition political parties. It’s for everyone particularly for those that abrogate the law of the land – there you will find that the POA does favour you. So long every abiding citizen of Zambia, in whatever circumstances, the law will protect you and the POA is one of those laws that should protect citizens without any bias of discrimination in its application. So we believe that during the coming elections and even before elections, this law will be applied fairly on all the political players and this government is determined to ensure the law is applied in its real original status. It’s far from it, the government does not want to see any discrimination on the application of the law on its citizens.”