Editor's Comment

Travel costs reduction welcome

IT IS generally agreed that Zambia needs urgent solutions to deal with its economic woes and there is no better way of achieving fiscal discipline than cutting on certain government expenditures. President Hakainde Hichilema is on the right path to reduce travel expenditure by 60 percent. This goes to show that the New Dawn administration is more concerned about serving the interests of the people than the interests of political leaders.
According to presidential spokesperson Anthony Bwalya, the President will not depart from the agenda of leading lean delegations. However, he said the President’s trips are necessary and do deliver dividends for the Zambian people. “You should be aware that right now, all presidential travels are running on a travel budget of a third of what it used to cost in the previous administration. What that means is that at the moment for every K100 that used to be spent previously on the presidential delegation, we are spending very much less K40,” he said. Although the reduction in travel costs cannot end all the financial challenges the country is facing at once, it will go a long way in ensuring prudent use of national resources. While the Government is looking outside for solutions to the country’s economic woes, it is important that drastic measures are taken to save money from trips to be channelled to other areas of need. Extravagance seemed to have been the previous government’s speciality when it came to travels, but it is our hope that the new government will stick to its promise of keeping lean delegations. It is good that the President is demonstrating good leadership by taking this bold step to reduce travel expenses for the sake of Zambians, most of whom are poor. A lot of taxpayers have not had the privilege of travelling outside the country, which is why it pains them to see leaders spend lavishly on these trips. Government must deliver basic services through these cost-saving measures so that no-one is left behind in development. We urge ministers and government officials affected by the reduction to support the President’s measures so that the money saved can help in meeting other competing needs. Leadership should be more than receiving travel allowances, especially now that the country is in deep economic doldrums. Many people are wallowing in poverty and are looking for solutions from Government to get out of their poverty. Zambia can only get out of its economic mess if leaders find home-grown solutions. Foreign support can only do so much but political leaders have a duty to come up with measures to harness the resources within. However, while we recognise the importance of cutting travel expenses, the media should not be left out as the press plays an integral part to coverage of important engagements abroad. A media blackout as a result of reduced travel costs by Government will deny Zambians first-hand information about engagements abroad that affect them.
The work of the media is to find and uncover the real story, the real facts that are often omitted in the various narratives given by Government officials who often accompany the President abroad. This is not to say media organisations will not play their part, but experience has shown that in recent years the media have been relegated to the lower echelons under the guise of saving costs when it comes to the President’s engagements abroad. Journalists have to rely on the Press aide for timely updates, which in most cases has proven difficult because of his busy schedule with the President’s programme. Nonetheless, we support the move by the President and urge all stakeholders to rally behind his ideals of saving costs which he has emphasised from the outset.

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