President Edgar Lungu has announced a raft of belt tightening measures to cut Government expenditure and bring the economy to an even keel.
The measures include cutting of foreign trips, deferment of the establishment of a national airline, suspension of creation of new diplomatic missions abroad and a ban on the procurement of new contracts including those in the road sector.
The President has also said Zambians should expect an increase in fuel pump prices and electricity tariffs as Government has been losing a lot of money in subsidizing fuel prices.
Making the pronouncements at State House during his first press conference since his election in January and the first since the Patriotic Front (PF) formed Government in 2011, President Lungu warned that those who were in the habit of evading tax would be vigorously pursued and prosecuted.
President Lungu said in order to reduce the cost of running Government; he had taken bold measures that would see foreign travel by various ministers, Government and quasi-Government officials limited to essential meetings only with a sizeable delegation restricted to the barest minimum.
President Lungu has since directed provinces and spending agencies to start utilizing the skills and resources available in the country’s missions abroad and directed the Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba to review and down-size the number of missions abroad.
The Head of State said local travel by ministers and other public servants must be significantly minimized.
The President explained that in light of the recent economic challenges, the financing of the ambitious infrastructure development programme had to be re-aligned so as to ensure budgetary sustainability.
He directed all Government ministries, provinces and spending agencies to cease the procurement of or entering into contracts for new works but should instead focus on the completion of the on-going infrastructure development.
He ordered that Government ministries, provinces
and spending agencies must engage the Attorney General to review committed projects that had already been signed but not yet commenced so that they could be deferred where it was appropriate.
“In order to reduce the cost of running Government, I have decided to defer the establishment of the national airline until such a time the economy is able to afford the high establishment costs.
‘‘Foreign travel by various ministers, Government and quasi-Government officials shall be limited to essential meetings only, with the size of delegations restricted to the barest minimum.
‘‘In this regard, I am directing all Government ministries, provinces and spending agencies to start utilizing the skills and resources available in missions abroad,” President Lungu said.
The President said while it was indisputable that Zambia had the ability to generate adequate resources internally to meet its development agenda, its capacity has been compromised by low tax compliance levels and leakages from selfish schemes among some of the officers in revenue collection.
He warned that officers tasked with the mandate to collect revenue on behalf of Government found colluding with taxpayers with the intention of defrauding the Treasury would be sacked and prosecuted.
On the economic situation on the Copperbelt, President Lungu said Government had tried its best to keep the job losses in the mines to a bare minimum.
The President said it was the desire of Government to keep the number of jobs to be lost on the Copperbelt during the on-going turbulence in the global mining industry to the barest minimum but had failed to do so.
“We could not prevent mining companies from rationalizing their labour force as part of the survival strategy to forestall possible closures altogether.
‘‘The loss of jobs at Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) and some contract employees at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) is obviously regrettable.
‘‘These job losses do not only affect individual employees, their families and trade unions but Government as well because as custodians of the welfare of every citizen, we are burdened with various attendant problems arising from unemployment,” President Lungu said.