FORMER Minister of Finance Situmbeko Musokotwane has condemned the abrupt removal of subsidies on maize and fuel stating the action by the Patriotic Front (PF) government would deepen the suffering of the majority poor Zambians.
Dr Musokotwane who was Minister of Finance in the MMD government has charged that it was politically and economically incorrect for President Sata and the Patriotic Front leadership to mock poor Zambians that things would be easier and cheaper after the removal of subsidies.
The former Finance Minister said in an interview that the MMD had no intentions of removing subsidies and that was the reason the Banda administration was promising Zambians that while economic infrastructure development was important, the immediate needs of the citizens had to be taken care of.
Dr Musokotwane observed that the PF government should have applied intellectual capacity in deciding to remove subsidies by considering the immediate negative impact of their action on the poor Zambians.
Dr Musokotwane recalled that when Dr Scott was the Minister of Agriculture in the first MMD government in 1990, he embarked on the policy of the removal of subsidies on fertilizer and that immediate consequence was that in the subsequent years, Zambia started importing maize from other countries in the region.
Dr Musokotwane has stated that while the removal of subsidies does make economic sense and is justifiable, the action should have been gradual and should have been simultaneously done with other activities to improve the lives of the poor citizens.
Zambia has had perennial bumper harvests in the last five years of the MMD rule and the PF government has already projected low yields the next farming season.
“You can talk about roads, schools and hospitals but these things are irrelevant to the people in Kanyama and Kalingalinga they will think you are crazy to make their lives miserable by increasing the prices of basic commodities. In economic terms, it is justifiable to remove subsidies but it has to be well managed,” Dr Musokotwane said.
He explained that at the time the MMD was leaving power, the price of mealie meal was averaging KR30 and the prices of the basic commodities started sky-rocketing soon after President Sata and the PF assumed power.
Dr Musokotwane stated that the Patriotic Front while in the opposition duped the people that the cost of fuel was high because of corruption in the MMD and yet the current government has found it prudent to increase the pump price of fuel without due consideration of the effects on the ordinary Zambian.