Budget prognosis

The budget has come and gone and the debate has kicked off.

 Ultimately however the proof will be in the pudding. It will depend on how the mandarins will be able to keep an even keel in the midst of political buffeting which has thrown previous budgets into complete disarray.

The last budget was characterized by massive overruns whose extent, quantum and overall effect will only be known after the Government presents its supplementary budget. The supplementary figures will have an effect on the budget presented yesterday.

The budget overrun will impinge on the many ambitious projects and programmes that will be starved of funding, victims of   political exigency.

Undoubtedly great thought and consideration went into drafting the budget which has attempted to address some of the more ambitious pre-election campaign promises of creating more jobs and indeed more money in the pockets.

There is no doubt that the Minister means well,  and wishes to see more Zambians benefit from their exertion but the reality is that the majority of Zambians remain at the periphery of the mainstream economy and are more often than not negatively affected by policies that are aimed at the formal sector.

While it is true that the tax threshold has been relaxed to ensure that more people fall out of the tax bracket, the truth is that even more people, clearly the majority of Zambians, are outside taxation because they are not in formal employment.  This majority will be affected by the excess liquidity resulting from additional money from increased public service wages.

Those without regular incomes, the majority of Zambians, will be at the mercy of Government to provide a social safety net that will provide for their needs; otherwise they will once again remain passive passengers to a highly geared economy that services a small minority of the population.

Classical economics suggests the principle of trickle down dynamics, but we would rather advocate for direct investment in activities that will benefit the ordinary people.

For example the current sanitary conditions in Lusaka are nothing short of a scandal. Toilets in Lilanda and the environs have been blocked for decades. All efforts by the council have failed to yield results forcing people to live in terribly unhygienic conditions.

The high sounding pronouncements will not mean much to the family that has to live without water and the basic infrastructure which is taken for granted by some other members of society, within Lusaka. It is not fair that some sections of Lusaka have water and electricity for 24 hours while other have intermittent  or no supply at all.

This is not social justice.