ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka
THE Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says the significant increase in funding for social protection from K1.3 billion in 2016 to K2.7 billion proposed in the 2017 budget will help reduce poverty among the vulnerable individuals.
In the 2017 budget, Government has increased the allocation for social protection to K2.7 billion and this amount includes K552 million for the social cash transfer scheme and K1.7 billion for the payment of pension benefits under the Public Service Pension Fund.
FAO representative to Zambia George Okech said social protection encompasses initiatives that provide cash or in-kind transfers to the poor, protect the weak against risks and enhance the social status and rights of the marginalised with the overall goal of reducing poverty and economic and social vulnerability.
Mr Okech said this recently at the annual review and planning meeting between Government and the United Nations (UN) collaboration on social protection.
â€œI would like to congratulate Government for the significant increase in funding to the sector from 2.4 percent of the budget in 2016 to 4.2 percent in the proposed 2017 budget representing 85 percent increase,â€ he said.
Mr Okech further said implementation of policy on social protection has also helped the country register stability in the sub-sector.
He said activities towards the development of a strengthened coherent and effective social protection system such as nutrition and agriculture will help reduce poverty and inequality among communities.
â€œThe National Social Protection Policy provides a good opportunity to move beyond a sector-specific focus on social protection to a more comprehensive support that effectively explores and supports linkages and synergies across sectors not only for the United Nations but for other social protection partners.
â€œAs you may be aware, the United Nations in Zambia have been supporting Government, under the coordination of the Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare, to operationalise the National Social Protection Policy and ultimately achieve the policyâ€™s goal of improved well-being of all Zambians by ensuring that vulnerable people have sufficient income security to meet basic needs and protection from worst impacts of risks and shocks,â€ he said.
Mr Okech said the UN will continue to provide support around the policy in line with Governmentâ€™s own vision for social protection.
ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka