GOVERNMENT deserves a pat on the back for making agriculture take centre stage in the diversification programme by maintaining subsidies on fertilizer, says Zambia Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers (ZUFIAW) president Ackim Mweemba.
Mr Mweemba said the agriculture sector was critical for development if the country was to become a food basket.
Commenting on certain areas of the 2017 Budget, Mr. Mweemba said Government should also tighten the grip by placing a ban on export of maize without value addition.
He said that Government should consider an upward adjustment in the budgetary allocation to the sector to boost food security, generate raw materials to promote forward and backward linkages and enhance the livestock sector to feed the yawning demand in the sub-region.
He also welcomed the decision to increase duty on semi- processed edible oils from 5 to 25 percent, stating that this would motivate local producers and encourage growth in the sector.
Mr. Mweemba said the Government’s decision to maintain suspension of customs duty on various aquaculture implements for the period of three years and subsequent removal of 25 percent customs duty on fittings used for irrigation shall promote growth and productivity in the agriculture sector.
He said that the imposition of specific rates on exports of unprocessed and semi-processed timber products at the rate of K10 per kilogram encouraged value addition.
However, Mr.Mweemba has bemoaned the lack of access of information technology, noting it was the main hindrance to the attainment of financial inclusion.
He said the ordinary Zambians especially those in rural areas have no easy access to banking and other financial services.
He stated that facilities such as internet and mobile banking remained critical to the attainment of the goal to have every Zambian being financially smart.
He was of the view that the increase on exercise duty on airtime from 15 to 17 percent will post an inverse effect on the cost of internet and mobile banking where vendors will eventually pass on the burden to a consumer.