Editor's Comment

Austerity action bearing fruit

IT IS a giant leap for Zambia which started from a small step by a Cabinet resolution. Austerity measures, which hitherto seemed nothing but mere talk, are today bearing fruit.
The efforts to spend prudently are producing notable savings and clearly with greater and expanded resolve, Zambia would benefit more. A lot more millions of Kwacha would be saved and these resources would be channelled to other areas of greater priority.
This positive trajectory has been evidenced yet again through the saving of K7 million in just three months through implementation of a travel ban for senior civil servants.
This comes in the wake of savings of another K7 million through the introduction of electronic pay-slips for civil servants. The Smart Zambia initiative is also saving more millions by going paperless in Cabinet meetings.
This clearly shows that Zambia can indeed save millions more Kwacha and channel these resources to needy areas that are of greater benefit to Zambians, collectively.
By embracing austerity measures, Government undertook a serious introspection because a lot of money was being spent on things which mattered less.
For a country in a hurry to develop, a lot of resources were being diverted to trips, workshops and other miscellaneous activities, leaving the treasury in a deficit and unable to finance critical areas such as infrastructure development.
Failure to save, or spend within available resources, prompted Government to borrow to finance projects such as infrastructure, critical for the country’s socio-economic development.
For sure, Government could no longer continue spending more than it earned and an adjustment to expenditure was inevitable.
The only way out of this was the prudent use of resources so that the country remains on track with its development trajectory.
This entails embracing the spirit for which austerity measures were meant.
Among the measures announced on June 20 this year were indefinitely postponing the contraction of all pipeline debt.
The Ministry of Finance engaged relevant ministries to agree on projects to be slowed down, re-scoped, cancelled or postponed.
The target was to free at least US$500 million annually over the medium term.
Other measures included funding projects that are at least 80 percent complete as well as slow down on some non-growth supportive projects, curtailing public related expenditures such as restricting the commutation of leave days to cases where resources are available while all government officials are obliged to take leave.
Government also suspended both foreign and domestic travel for senior civil servants, a measure that has proved prudent.
It has also restricted fuel consumption to one full tank per week as opposed to two-week as has been the trend over the years.
The saving of K7 million on travel costs in just three months should add impetus to the austerity measures. They are working. Some may not like these restrictions, but they just have to come to terms with the new reality. Zambia is bigger than any one individual.
The holding of paper-free Cabinet meetings has been rewarding. What are other government departments waiting for? If it can work for Cabinet, surely it can work in ministries and other government departments.
The same goes for the innovative austerity measures of going paperless in payslips. The Electronic Payslip (ePayslip) is saving millions of Kwacha for Government. Parastatals, those that are still in the paper world, should also take this path.
The system, which complements the Integrated Payroll Management and Establishment Control (PMEC) System, which remains the Government’s payroll management and processing system, is part of the initiatives which will contribute to attaining a SMART Zambia.
It has reduced in costs for pay statement paper, maintenance of printers, printer toner, printer shield, transportation and storage costs.
This measure has also saved Government millions of Kwacha.
The measures may be painful for some, but as already stated, these are necessary to instil fiscal discipline, whose benefits will eventually benefit all.

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