YESTERDAY was yet again that time of the year when citizens and other stakeholders were glued to radio and television to listen to the budget address by the Minister of Finance.
And depending on one’s orientation or interest, the budget may or may not meet their expectations.
This is the case for the 2018 budget, presented by Minister of Finance Felix Mutati, whose focus will be broadening the tax base.
Broadening the tax base has been our aspiration because Government has to generate revenue domestically.
Gone are the days when the country’s budget was mostly financed by co-operating partners.
Zambia is transforming and this is what citizens and foreigners see.
This transformation has to be sustained and this can only happen when the country intensifies mopping up resources domestically.
That is why the 2018 budget, delivered to the National Assembly yesterday, is appropriately themed ‘Accelerating fiscal fitness for sustained inclusive growth without leaving anyone behind’.
Given the projections from the budget, Government has proposed to spend a total of K71.6 billion in 2018.
Of this amount, K49.1 billion will be financed by domestic revenues and K2.4 billion or 3.4 percent by grants from various co-operating partners.
The balance of K20.1 billion or 28.1 percent of this budget will be financed through domestic and external borrowing.
Added to this is Government’s desire to implement measures that ensure that the tax system is simpler and fairer in order to expand the tax base and increase compliance.
Among measures lined up to significantly contribute to the generation of Government revenues is the rolling out of the national land titling pilot programme.
Under this programme, at least 300,000 parcels of land will be issued with title.
Apart from generating the much needed revenue for Government to sustain social service delivery, among its obligations, titles will help land owners to procure loans from micro and commercial banks.
To assist in mobilising funds for the Infrastructure Development Fund, Government has proposed to introduce an excise duty of K2 per 50 kg bag of cement.
Though the K2.00 looks modest, it will go a long way in contributing to the fund given the number of cement companies in the country as well as individuals and corporates who are building.
This is a novelty for the State and will go a long way in sustaining Government’s robust infrastructure development programme.
Government has also proposed to increase the presumptive tax upwards by 50 percent for individuals operating public service vehicles. This tax has not been adjusted since 2004.
There is also a proposal to increase the customs duty on unmanufactured tobacco and tobacco refuse to 25 percent and enhancement of mineral production to include non-traditional minerals such as gemstones and industrial minerals, among others.
With such measures, Zambia will continue moving towards a self-funded budget. This is what any nation should strive for.