The debate over the removal of subsidies has degenerated into a monologue that is quickly losing direction and purpose.
On the one hand the Government is determined to justify its action by suggesting that the money saved from subsidies will be applied to social sector investment while the public in general argue that there is no guarantee that the increased cost in goods and services occasioned by the decision will be assuaged in the short term by provision of public infrastructure.
Ordinarily debate on resource allocation should be a political exercise in which those in power and therefore responsible for determining the manner, in which resources should be applied, should explain and justify their decisions.
Sadly this does not appear to be the case.
While the truth of the matter is that politics is at the heart of all collective social activity both in the informal and formal sectors involving groups and institutions, the reality in our context appears more clouded. There is a notion suggesting that politics should be distanced from economic accountability. In other words the public should not question but take for granted policy decisions.
As a consequence party vigilantes have now been recruited to intimidate and harass those that may have different opinions and view points.
The existence of scarcity sits at the very core of politics. It follows that while needs are infinite, resources are limited, and in our context the resources are mobilized from a fairly small earning sector while the majority seeking a share far outstrips the capacity to provide.
The skewed nature of our economy means that few are in the formal sector where they contribute directly to the national coffers, while the majority are recipients both for the positive as well as negative circumstances that arise.
Hence inflation occasioned by higher wages in the formal sector will impact the non salaried much more because they have no ability to cushion themselves from escalating costs as their income is not only limited, but controlled as exemplified by the floor prices of the staple product- maize.
By increasing the price of such essential products as oil, the ordinary peasant is hard hit as he must seek more income to meet the resultant escalation of prices.
It is at this point that Government is expected to implement targeted amelioration measures intended to help the poorest of the poor. The suggestion that new schools and roads will benefit them does not take away from the immediate pain and stress they must suffer.
This is the more pressing considering that the national budget has already set out parameters in which the economy will operate and a sudden shift to incorporate new infrastructure is most unlikely.
Therefore the generalized appeal in this direction is being met with cynicism by most people because it does not appear real or indeed realistic in the face of the commitment that Government has made in wage hikes, new Districts, recall of diplomats and a host of other activities that have never been budgeted for.
Unless Government can explain where the funds for these activities will come from it is very difficult to believe the stories being told.
Zambians will insist on being told the truth and in participating in effective resource allocation.