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EXPECTATIONS HIGH AS PRESIDENT OPENS VIRTUAL PARLIAMENT TOMORROW

TOMORROW, the Fifth Session of the Twelfth National Assembly begin sitting amid high expectations on the various key bills that are to be tabled before the House in what could be the last sitting before the August 2021 general elections.

As per tradition, the President is expected to grace the occasion to officially open proceedings. The Head of State is expected to touch on a number of key national issues that has a great bearing on national development and general wellbeing of the people of Zambia.

Various interest groups and organisations such as the Policy Monitory and Research Centre (PRMC), among others will be watching the online proceedings and expect Mr Lungu to addressed scorching economic issues that have raised concerns among the business community. Below is an excerpt from the submission by PRMC.

Economy

The President is also expected to attend to fiscal measures that the Government has instituted aimed at easing liquidity in the economy. This may take the form of making additional payments of public service retiree benefits, road contractors and Government suppliers of goods and services.

It is expected that the President will also update the nation on progress made in engaging multilateral organizations. Besides the usual engagements with multilateral organisations on economic cooperation, with the advent of COVID-19, in that various multinational institutions have announced avenues of support and facilities to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

The free-fall of the Kwacha is another key issue that the nation will keenly take interest in.

 Health

It is expected that the presidential address will update the nation on the health measures that the Government has put in place to upscale and enhance the country’s preparedness, surveillance and response to this COVID-19 threat.

The pandemic has not only rocked the foundations of the country’s business landscape but the entire nation being as all sectors have been touched by the destructive arm of Coronavirus.

Zambia seems to be striding deeper into the COVID-19 web as the pandemic is on the upswing given the continued rising numbers of cases and deaths. It is expected the President will prioritise to give an overview of the evolution of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the country.

Finance

In April 2020, Government, through the Bank of Zambia, approved a K10 billion medium-term refinancing facility, which provided funding to commercial banks and non-bank financial institutions for them to restructure, refinance or extend credit to businesses and households on more favourable terms.

It is expected that the President will give an update on the uptake of this medium-term refinancing facility and encourage more financial institutions to access the funding. The medium-term refinancing facility needed to be directed towards Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) that are adversely affected by the impact of the COVID-19.

Trade

Further, it is expected that the President will give an update on the progress made by the task force established and mandated to bring more Zambian products on the floor of major chain stores in shopping malls.

This is in a bid to capitalize on the current situation which has presented a new opportunity for domestic agriculture and locally manufactured products to be sold in increased numbers.

The task force is comprised of representatives from South African owners of chain stores, the Zambia Association of Manufacturers, Zambia Farmers Union and the Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It is hoped that the local content strategy will also be emphasised.

Social

It is anticipated that the President will give an update on progress made in supporting the marginalised in society. This includes enhanced empowerment of the youth, women and other vulnerable members of society.

The Social Cash Transfer program, which is aimed at helping to reduce poverty through the transfer of money to persons who meet the specified criteria of vulnerability, may need to be upscaled given the fact that the number of vulnerable people in society may have increased with the advent of COVID-19.

Agriculture

The President may also provide an update on the implementation of the e-Voucher and progress made in the distribution of inputs for the 2020/2021 farming season.

Also, there is a need to update the nation on the strategies that the Government has put in place to ring-fence funds for the purchases of the strategic food reserve by Food Reserve Agency (FRA). Poor households that produce enough to sell to the FRA need to be incentivised to produce more by prompt payments as opposed to the frequently long and uncertain delays in payments when farmers deliver their maize to the FRA.

What do you think?

Written by Felix Nkinke

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