Sata denies budget overrun

President Michael Sata has disputed speculations that the Patriotic Front (PF) government’s national budget has collapsed but MMD’s Muhabi Lungu has charged that the President has failed to explain if the 2013 budges lines were still intact.

In responding to widespread allegations that the 2013 budget had collapsed, Mr Sata said Zambia’s foreign reserve stood at about US$ 2.4 billion while the country had recorded over US$ 2 billion in investment pledges in various sectors of the of the economy in the first quarter of 2013.

But Mr Lungu has argued that Mr Sata was supposed to talk about the 2013 national budget and not what Zambia had in reserves because reserves were not a direct budget item.

He said by not explaining how the budget was managed it was clear that the President had confirmed that there was a budget overrun.

The President said in his statement “non-traditional exports grew to US$530.7 million in the quarter of 2013, compared with US$500.9 million recorded during the same period in 2012. It is therefore, irresponsible to engage in extreme talk amidst such a robust national economic performance.”

Mr Sata said this was in line with the PF manifesto’s commitment of promoting inclusive growth and social justice for all, the government was running an activity based budget and had continued financing projects and programmes judiciously.

He explained that the focus of the 2013 Budget was to facilitate accelerated and sustained economic growth that translated into tangible realities for Zambians such as generation of sufficient and stable jobs, a redistribution of income and opportunities in favour of the poor, access to basic services and a general improvement in the standards of living.

“Consequently, we have made substantial allocations towards the health, education, water and sanitation and local government sectors. Other interventions have been targeted towards facilitating sustained growth in the agriculture, tourism, infrastructure development and manufacturing sectors,” the President said in a statement issued by his press aide George Chellah.

However, Mr Lungu who is MMD’s director of communications said the statement by President Sata discussing the foreign reserves and investment pledges was confirmation that the 2013 national budget had been exhausted.He said the president should have been courageous enough to hold a Press Conference so that he could explain the budget break down to the people of Zambia instead of issuing a statement.

He said Mr Sata should have explained to the nation why he was talking about the reserves if there was no budget overrun.

“Mr Sata is deliberately confusing the people by not telling them how the budget has been utilised. He is talking about foreign reserves that have nothing to do with the budget. These reserves he is talking about are not a direct function of a budget and the non traditional exports he is talking about are for the private sector and not part of a working budget.

“A budget is activity based and what Mr Sata is saying is that his government is now tapping into foreign reserves and this is confirmation that the budget has collapsed and that is why he was looking at  new budget lines,” Lungu said.

He said it was clear that there were new budget lines because of the increased spending by Mr Sata’s government in more sectors that were not budgeted for such as new districts.Mr Lungu also said the directive by the President that the treasury should ensure that programme implementation reports were submitted by ministries, provinces and other spending agencies prior to receiving subsequent funding was a clear testimony that there were new budget lines that were being spent out side the budget.

He said the activity based budget that the President was talking about was supposed to guide the PF leadership on how to spend on budgeted activities and not on what had not been budgeted for.