FINANCE Minister Felix Mutati yesterday unveiled the K71.6 billion 2018 National Budget amid high expectations among Zambians from all walks of life.
The Budget, whose theme is “Accelerating Fiscal Fitness for Sustained Inclusive Growth, Without Leaving Anyone Behind,” is expected to address many challenges which Zambians are facing.
And rightly so, all eyes and ears were targeted the presentation at Parliament as citizens were eager to know what benefits it would avail to them.
Going by the minister’s pronouncements, we believe the budget has lived to its theme of sustained all-inclusive growth without leaving anyone behind.
Above all, through the various interventions announced, the Patriotic Front government has remained true to its core policy of pro poor.
The budget has not disappointed those in the vulnerable category as the minister has proposed K721.2 million for the social cash transfer scheme. Under this the number of beneficiaries or households has increased from 590,000 to 700,000.
This is a milestone development as this will go a long way in alleviating poverty among the many poor people, especially our vulnerable senior citizens, women and children who suffer various forms of inequalities
The minister has gone a step further by increasing the number of beneficiaries under the Food Security pack from 80, 000 beneficiaries to be catered for from the 40, 0000 in the 2017 budget.
This will provide great relief to many of our citizens who are in dire straits in terms of being able to afford to fend for themselves.
We also welcome and applaud Government’s decision to restructure and restore the Intermarket Banking Corporation which had become insolvent.
Of course the K6.5bn allocation to health will allow the government to continue with its projects of constructing health centres throughout the country.
It is not surprising therefore that in line with the Seventh National Development Plan, allocations in the budget, are targeted at addressing the five strategic areas of economic diversification, job creation, poverty and vulnerability reduction.
It is through allocating more funds in these areas that most challenges Zambians are facing such as unemployment and high poverty levels will be addressed.
Mr Mutati announced that of the K71.6bn budget 25.9 percent, K49, 1bn would be financed by domestic revenues and K2.4bn by grants from various cooperating partners, while the balance would be financed through domestic and external borrowing.
Significant is the proposed allocations in the K8.7bn which Government plans to spend on road infrastructure.
This means that the Link Zambia 8000, the C400 and L400 projects will continue and to complement this, the government plans to undertake substantial works to rehabilitate and upgrade feeder roads across the country through the Rural Roads connectivity programme.
With talk of reviving the country’s airline, improving airport infrastructure is a crucial factor and to this effect Mr Mutati has allocated a total of K940.5 million for the construction of the Kenneth Kaunda International and Copperbelt airports.
With modern airports in place in Lusaka and Ndola, Zambia is expected to become a freight hub in the region. Undoubtedly, these developments will translate into more jobs and other social and economic benefits for Zambians.
It is therefore our hope that this budget has met the expectations of the Zambians. It is a pragmatic budget that should take the country to a higher level.