Editor's Comment

It can’t be business as usual

COPPER BUDGET briefcase

PUBLIC service workers hold the key to the success of the austerity measures recently announced by Government.
The austerity measures indicate the Government’s desire to reduce budget deficits through spending cuts.
If anything, the austerity measures are long overdue.
President Edgar Lungu directed the cancellation of some existing loans, banned the issuance of letters of credit and guarantees to State-owned enterprises, terminated financing of development projects that are below 80 per cent completion and cut down on ministerial travels with immediate effect.
Minister of Finance Margaret Mwanakatwe admitted that the current stock of domestic arrears, which stand at K12.7 billion as at end-December 2017, has adversely affected economic activity through elevated non-performing loans and subsequently contributed to reduced private sector financing.
Government is undoubtedly the biggest player in the economy as it purchases goods and services worth billions of Kwacha monthly.
However, some of the goods and services purchased or outsourced can easily be done away with, for now.
This is where the public service comes in, analysing the cost centres in a bid to help Government make some savings.
One of the areas Government has dealt with is cutting down on trips by senior Government officials.
If there are assignments that can be handled by district commissioners, permanent secretaries locally and diplomats abroad, then there should be delegation of duties to cut down on expenditure.
By embarking on austerity measures, Government has stepped on a lot of people’s toes because it translates into tightening the pursue.
If there is any organisation where cash is at the highest risk of looting, it is Government because of the size of the establishment.
There are workshops taking place almost everyday which cost the treasury a fortune.
These workshops entail traversing the country where a lot of money is spent on travel, accommodation, food and allowances.
Government has been financing workshops because it understands the need for capacity building. Indeed there is need to promote the workers’ wellbeing and increase their awareness of emerging issues.
Some of these workshops are key to decision making in planning and monitoring of projects.
Some of these, however, can still be held without participants relocating from their usual places of work. In this era of tele-conferencing, time, money and other resources can and should be saved and yet achieve the same outcomes.
Continued education and training of public service workers by Cabinet office through professional development programmes demonstrates Government’s desire to see its employees grow professionally and become more productive.
However, desperate moments require desperate measures such as the austerity measures Government has embarked on to re-align the economy.
The effects of austerity measures may be a bitter pill to swallow for now but the country should look at the bigger picture.
Government has done well at policy level it is now up to controlling officers to ensure implementation.
There are a lot of benefits of implementing the austerity measures. Key among them is that money saved will be channeled to needy areas such as health, education and other social sectors.
Government is eager to dismantle the local and external debt so that it can service the needs of the citizens better.
We call upon public service workers to embrace the austerity measures with zeal so that collectively Zambians achieve the targets.
Suppliers, too, should bear with Government for the time being because some of the goods and services they supply may not be needed now.
Austerity measures have given Government the opportunity to conduct an introspection of its expenditure to address only critical areas.

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