Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda yesterday presented a K53.14 billion national budget for next year but warned that there will be more economic challenges as a result of the global economic downturn.
Mr Chikwanda said Zambians must meet the challenges from externally-induced shocks owing to falls in commodity prices and their knock-on-effects which would affect the economy negatively.
He said this yesterday when he presented the 2016 budget whose theme is; “Fiscal Consolidation to Safeguard Our Past Achievements and Secure a Prosperous Future for All”.
“Mr. Speaker, I have a moral imperative to be candid and honest with the people of Zambia. The year 2016 will witness further challenges to our efforts to raise the economy to yet higher heights so as to eradicate poverty. In addition to elevated risks from climate, the outlook for the world economy is not particular cheerful.
“As a result, Zambians should be prepared to meet the challenges that may arise from externally-induced shocks, especially further falls in in commodity prices and their knock-on effects on our economy and society at large,” Mr. Chikwanda said.
He said there was need for a common resolve to put the interest of the country first over selfish ambitions as that was the only way that Zambia would weave through its challenges and attain meaningful development.
Mr Chikwanda said there was need for maturity commitment to pluralism and democracy in diversification as well as peace through Zambians’ tolerance and accommodation of others and abhorrence of xenophobic tendencies.
“Sir, to meet the challenging times ahead, I’m confident that Zambians will have the collective resolve, unity and character to assign primacy to national interest over personal and selfish ambition.
“Our mature commitment to pluralism and democracy in diversity, our tolerance and accommodation of others and abhorrence of xenophobia and love for peace, earn Zambia a coveted position of distinction in the global community. “It is in this context that I urge Zambians to honour our collective duty and responsibility to ensure that mistaken perceptions about our country, especially in global markets, are not created. Sir, I wish to emphasis to the Zambian people that while government has made adjustments in the light of the more challenging economic environment, there have been no policy somersault as regards our commitment to social justice, anchored on consistent, predictable and market-friendly economic policies,” he said.
Mr. Chikwanda said Zambia should stop thinking copper production to be the only source of the economy because it has shown that it was no longer reliable.
He said looking at the negative developments in the mining sector, it was time Zambians looked elsewhere for increased production through diversification and build a strong economy through diversification.
“These developments in the mining sector call for action. For more than 50 years, the call for diversification has been the talk of all successive governments, but we have not walked the talk.
“What is required is for the country to take meaningful steps to diversify away from copper mining and to further exploit other minerals such as gemstones, manganese, diamonds and gold.
“We must as a matter of urgency promote the diversification of the sector and as a demonstration of this commitment, the PF government will implement the electronic voucher scheme system during the 2015/2016 season in 13 districts namely, Kalomo, Choma. Monze, Mazabuka, Chikankata, Pemba, Chongwe, Mumbwa, Chibombo, Kabwe, Kapiri Mposhi and Ndola and Chisamba,” Mr. Chikwanda said.