Budget for all
THE success of the 2019 Budget will largely depend on timely and accurate implementation of the national document which the citizens should own. This means that the government ought to ensure expeditious and prudent execution of the Estimates of Expenditure in the 2019 fiscal space. As emphasised by Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe, much of the resources must be channelled towards production and less on consumption to avoid shocks in the economy. There must be strict adherence to rules governing Budget execution while at the same time ensuring prudent management of public resources. On paper, the resource envelop looks attractive but it is the implementation and controls that matter the most. Secondly, oversight functions must be superb. The entire Government system from policy-makers, controlling officers and other senior technocrats, middle management and down to the lower echelon of the civil service must be free of flaws. It is also important for the office of the AuditorGeneral to fully embrace integrity and honesty in providing the oversight function. Previously, this important Government institution was mired in accusations of unwarranted expenditure much of which was reported to have gone towards hefty allowances for officers travelling around the country and in Zambian missions abroad. Absolute transparency must be demonstrated at the office of the Auditor-General. The contentious issue regarding debt management will have to be tackled head-on in 2019 as the Minister of Finance will also be expected to provide quarterly briefing about the debt levels – external and domestic. In fact, stakeholders will be more interested in quarterly briefings that will have a breakdown of the external debt. This way suspicion and accusations will be eliminated. However, the civil society and other stakeholder groups must be fair and sober in their criticism of Government because some of them have hurriedly gone public with half-truths from un-researched material. They amplify any material splashed on social media without cross-checking and in the end create unnecessary tension in the country. Some of them have gone as far as accusing Government officials of grand corruption without checking facts. Therefore, it is important for all stakeholder groups to correctly grasp contents of the proposed 2019 Budget, the 2018-2020 Mid-Term Review Framework and the Economic Stabilisation Growth Programme. Equally, stakeholders must acquaint themselves with macroeconomic objectives and the monetary and financial sector policies. Issues affecting the global economy are also of paramount importance for people to fully understand and relate to what is obtaining in the local economy – fuel prices for example. There are Zambians that promulgate to be champions in national affairs while others have staked themselves as astute captains of industry. They claim to speak for the people from some disguised organisations and have mostly influenced gullible members of the audience. Public discourse should be left to people with requisite knowledge. Exposing one’s ignorance is very embarrassing! Already, some people are busy bludgeoning the 2019 Budget left-right-and-centre yet they have not read a single page to fully understand the contents. Some of them have developed hype over the Eurobond when in actual fact they do not even understand the conditions and when such financing will be due. A good number of politicians have displayed their downright ignorance on economic and national affairs. The 2019 Budget is a national agenda; it must be looked at as such. Thus it is a budget for all!