Expected content of the presidents SONA
10th March 2022
ACTIONAID ZAMBIA EXPECTATIONS FOR THE STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS ON NATIONAL VALUES AND PRINCIPLES
ActionAid Zambia eagerly awaits the details of President Hakainde Hichilema’s 2022 State of the Nation Address (SONA) this Friday (11th March 2022). The state of the Nation Address provides an opportunity for the President to articulate the plans and progress made thus far in the application of national values and principles by the UPND Government. As an organization that focuses on social justice and ending poverty, we look forward to the President presenting policy direction in terms of an agenda that is responsive to the challenges faced by the Zambian people in general, Women and Youth in Particular. Further, we are expectant that the president will provide his government’s clear roadmap in addressing the following:
President Hichilema during his first address to Parliament on the Official opening of the 1st Session of the National Assembly made a commitment that his government would place a premium on empowering women by enhanced livelihood programs, he further indicated that his government would prioritize women empowerment as a strategy for overcoming poverty, marginalization, and other social ills. As an organization, we believe that decisive policy reforms are key in the Political Social and Economic empowerment of women. ActionAid Zambia expects that the President will use the SONA as an opportunity to announce the setting up of the Gender Equality and Equity Commission as established by the Gender Equity and Equality Act No. 22 of 2015 in part III Article 6 which is in line with Article 231 of the Constitution that seeks to promote gender mainstreaming. We also expect the President to move the department of Gender from the Office of the Vice President to the Office of the President and appoint a Minister responsible for Gender under the Office of the President. ActionAid also notes the low levels of women participation and presence in Government Structures, as an organization, we would like to see the President addressing practical steps that promote the inclusion of women in governance structures during the SONA.
1.CIVIC PARTICIPATION AND STATE ACOUNTABILITY.
The President of Zambia in his Inaugural speech and first address to Parliament indicated his commitment to fighting corruption and putting a lid on illicit financial flaws. The fight against corruption, which has robbed off Public Resources requires bold legislative and policy reforms aimed at strengthening the autonomy and independence of the law enforcement agencies that are tasked with the responsibility of fighting corruption and financial related crimes. We therefore Expect the President to set the tone in terms of development of the Anti-corruption Strategy accompanied by the much-needed amendments in the Anti-Corruption Act, Drug Enforcement Act as well as the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, the amendments should provide for the security of tenure for the officers at these institutions and provide prosecution powers to ACC among others.
ActionAid Zambia has identified bases erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) as one of the main avenues that the nation loses vital resources. The government through the Ministry of Finance and National Development Planning have prioritized domestic resources mobilization (DRM) to provide for the exorbitant debt servicing costs and the overall expansionary budget for the 2022 annual year. In this quest to upscale DRM, it must be mentioned that aggressive tax planning strategies also involve Multinational Corporations (MNCs) taking advantage of unbalanced Double Taxation Agreements (DTAs) that Zambia has signed with other countries with the aim of exploiting gaps to shift profits and avoid paying of taxes. We expect the Presidential address to outline how reforms will be implemented to restructure the Double Taxation Agreements (DTAs) through expediting the development of a homegrown National Policy on Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreements to protect the revenue base. We also expect the President to recognize the need to not only increase tax revenue to the targeted 20 percent of GDP for 2022, but also ensure that these taxes are collected in a progressive and gender sensitive manner, thus upholding the national principle of equality.
The 2022 budgetary pronouncements in the education sector indicated progressive changes with significant proposals for free education, recruitment of teachers, the construction of secondary schools and upscaling of the Constituency Development fund to include school bursaries. In line with the national value of promoting equality there is need for The President to outline how the recruitment of teachers will be conducted in a transparent manner and how the utilization of the Constituency Development Fund, particularly for school bursaries will be equitable for youths in rural areas. We also expect the President to provide policy direction on provision of school infrastructure inconsideration of the limitations that the free education policy has placed on demand and access to education.
Constituency Development Fund
This year’s budget has also provided for the increase of the allocation to the Constituency Development Fund, the increase in the allocation is an indication of Government’s commitment towards local and rural development. However, the CDF Act in its current form, is major impediment in the participation of citizens in the utilization of the fund as it leaves the monopoly to decide the composition of the CDF committee to Members of Parliament. The CDF Act lacks guidance on the participation of youth and women in the CDF committee hence limiting their space, voice and participation. We therefore expect the President to provide direction in terms of the amendment of the CDF Act to include provisions that compel Youth and Women to be part of the Committee and increase the scope of citizen participation in the planning and utilization of the fund.
Over the past decade, the Zambian economy became much more reliant on domestic and external financing at the expense of developing robust domestic resource mobilization mechanisms. The budget deficit which fuelled the governments need to borrow, grew from 3.3 percent of GDP in 2010 to 14.4 percent of GPD in 2020. To improve upon any system, AAZ believes that there must be a strong and cohesive legal framework. Against the backdrop of legislation such as the Public Procurement Act (2020) and the Planning and Budgeting Act (2020), AAZ expects the President to direct the Minister of Finance to present a bill for the amendment of the Loans and Guarantees (Authorization) Act that has proven to be outdated, inadequate and not aligned to the Constitution.
Following the National Principal of good governance and integrity, AAZ expects the President to demonstrate how the nation will depart from the continuous debt contraction seen in the 2022 budget and work to reduce the debt stock in a more accountable and transparent way. The IMF Staff Level Agreement is yet to be disclosed to the Zambian People. This opacity speaks volumes of the government’s stance on transparency and undermines their efforts to ensure prudent debt management.
JCTR has reported that the Cost of living is now at K9,305 in Lusaka, this is despite the minimum wage being about 80% lesser than this amount, there is need now more than ever to restructure the economy and set the country on the pathway of economic recovery. Ultimately, as an organization, we expect the President to provide a clear economic implementation strategy that demonstrates the importance of the government’s commitment to the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
3. Strengthen Resilient Livelihoods and Secure Climate Justice
Zambia is a recipient of multiple streams of climate finances from bilateral and multilateral institutions. These funds are administered by the government and are targeted to specific landscapes and tackle a list of climate-related challenges. The government has at the same time accrued large sums of concessional loans as part of the agreements in accessing some of these finances. The loans are the responsibility of the Zambian people to repay which adds to the country’s current debt burden. We expect the President to address matters regarding the accumulation of climate debt and in turn layout a plan of how this debt will be dismantled and how the country will avoid accumulating more debt even as the country pulls out all stops to address the climate crisis.
Zambia was appointed as the African Group of Negotiators Chairperson to spearhead the climate negotiations of the African Continent at the Conference of the Parties (COP) slated to take place in Egypt this year. To ensure that Zambia is adequately prepared and well represented at this negotiation, we expect the President to emphasize the importance of state bodies, departments and state enterprises to integrate women and youth in the negotiation processes owning to the fact that they are the most affected by the climate crisis and are often excluded and misrepresented. Further, we expect a debilitate policy to get youths to be trained as Climate negotiators moving forward.
We expect that the President’s address will renew the government’s commitments to address climate change through a positive policy landscape and by using new and innovative economic models that are befitting to our local context and are accessible by women through gender-responsive services and economic empowerment initiatives. We hope the President will take a deliberate stance of framing the climate change crisis in Zambia as a moral and ethical matter that affects the most marginalized members of our society and are affected by power dynamics that have the potential of driving injustices.
We expect the President in his address will reaffirm the climate change crisis in Zambia as a national emergency that needs strengthened multisector engagement and support in the form of technical and financial support. This must be followed by a clarion call to big polluters in Zambia to take responsibility and make realistic commitments to reduce their emissions and embrace alternatives that support renewable energy, agroecology practices and principles of a circular economy. The President is further expected to show his government’s commitment towards climate change fight by announcing the tabling of the Climate Bill before Parliament.
An estimated 60% of Zambia’s population is dependent on subsistence farming. Zambia’s agriculture sector is guided by several policies including strategies. For example, the second agricultural policy (SNAP) whose vision is to develop an efficient, compressive and sustainable agriculture sector which assures food and nutrition security. The National Agriculture Investment Plan 2013-2018 (NAIP 1) focused and placed emphasis on Access to Markets and Services Development. This has since been reviewed and NAIP II is currently being drafted. The Ministry of Agriculture Strategic plan (MoASP) currently under implementation emphasizes the need to enhance access to improved inputs to farmers in order to boost agricultural production. Running concurrently, is the National Extension Service Strategy (NESS) which aims, among other things, to proactively improve voluntary behaviour in the form of the adoption of externally developed, tested or proven technology or management practice in the agricultural sector.
We call on the President during His address on 11th March 2022 to give guidance on the policy and strategy framework being revised to ensure farmers have access to improved services as well as access to indigenous seeds which are critical given the impact of climate change on the farmer. Furthermore, a policy direction on recruitment of extension service workers will be highly appreciated as it will enhance production among the smallholder farmers particularly the women who are the majority players in the agriculture sector, despite the returns in investment being negligible. AAZ calls on the Head of state to clearly demonstrate commitment in improving access to market for the smallholder farmers through accelerated infrastructure development in rural areas especially roads.
The agricultural sector has suffered as a result of mismanagement of public funds under the Farmer Input Support Program (FISP) programme. During the SONA, it is our hope that President will demonstrate that there are systems being implemented to mitigate the mismanagement and allegations of corruption that have marred the FISP program over the years in particular procurement of FISP service providers. There is need for transparency and accountability in the management of the FISP program. As an institution, we believe that FISAP is a social safety net for the poor. Therefore, in terms of budgetary allocation we have observed that FISP program takes up a large share of the Ministry of Agriculture budget thereby limiting agriculture potential for diversification and growth. Further, as a long-term solution government to recapitalize the Nitrogen chemical of Zambia (NCZ) to manage the production and supplying of the required fertilizers in order to stimulate employment and growth of the sector.
4. Youth Expectations
Zambia is a country of young people, with the majority population under the age of 35 years old making up 80% of the overall population. Statistics indicate that the population of the youth (15-35 years old) in Zambia is 4.8 million, which is 36.7 percent of the population according to UNPF the population of the youth (15-35 years old) in Zambia is 4.8 million, which makes it 36.7 percent of the population. The estimated median age is 17.6 years (2020), which is one of the lowest in the region and globally. This entails that Youth makeup the largest age block in the country. Notwithstanding this, there is an exclusion of young people’s participation in Social Economic and civic participation. The Zambian Parliament only has 5% youth representation, with no Youth serving in Cabinet or Boards appointed by the President through his ministers, this indicates that the promotion of youth participation remains at a pronouncement level without deliberate efforts to actualize this as evidenced with the zero representation of young people in the new dawn administration. Despite the statements made by the President previously signalling his belief in Youth Leadership, the appointments made by the President conflict with his earlier pronouncement. No youth has been appointed to serve in Cabinet or any board in government. We therefor Call on the President to address the deliberate policy measures and actions that his government will put in place aimed at promoting youth participation at all levels, the President should also provide a timeframe that details when the National Youth Policy will be ready, as it is a key document that will give strategic guidance to the government and stakeholders on governments plans for the young people who are the majority of the population he is presiding over.
Youth and Business environment
ActionAid Zambia has always called for necessary structural reforms in the economy to create enabling environments for the sustainable growth of small and youth-led businesses. Following the Establishment of the Ministry of Small-Scale Enterprise that is aimed at promoting small scale businesses which are mostly run by youth and women, the Ministry has not shared any strategies nor plans to detail how it will solve the many challenges that are faced by small and medium enterprise (SMEs) business. We therefore expect the President to highlight the key policy framework under this Ministry that will be designed to create a favourable environment for youth led SMEs to flourish as well as provide favourable markets, quotas and an environment for youth owned and led start-up businesses. The Policies should be cantered around providing for the reduced cost of production and running of business for youth-led businesses such as subsidizing or placing exemptions taxes on youth led businesses. We are convinced this type of a fresh approach is essential in unlocking the full potential of SME’s. Further, we expect the President to call for bold reforms of banking services specifically the financial institutions to begin providing financing for start-ups as an alternative for employment and wealth creation among the youths.
Around health challenges for youth, there is lack of comprehensive sexuality education among adolescents and youths, which has seen the rise in STIs, teen pregnancies and unsafe sexual practices. We expect the president to enforce deliberate measures which should include the Removal of tax on sanitary towels and government support on access to affordable sanitary towels and support to local production of sanitary towels including reusable alternatives. We also expect the President to announce the full-scale implementation of Comprehensive Sexual Education in Schools.
We expect an announcement that the President will release clear, firmly structured processes for each deliverable, clear responsibilities for members of the Cabinet, and timelines to achieve precise implementation milestones to focus on meeting the above goals. We believe that the SONA provides an opportunity to send a clear signal that government is beginning to implement the structural reforms urgently needed to attract investment and build our economy.
As an institution, we have high expectations in the President’s address will provide a clear policy direction and road map on some of the major issues that the nation is faced with.
Nalucha Nganga Ziba
ActionAid Country Director