Jesuit Scholars Laud Zambia’s Interventions in Health, Agricultural, Education Sectors
Officials of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) have lauded the government of Zambia for recruiting thousands of teachers and health workers, and for additional funds to support the agricultural sector.
In a Thursday, August 11 statement, JCTR officials say the highlighted initiatives are positive steps in addressing Zambia’s cost of living.
In July, the government of Zambia reportedly hired 30,496 teachers and 11,276 health workers. The President Hakainde Hichilema-led administration also redirected financial resources achieved from financial prudence to support the agricultural sector, secondary schools and the servicing of domestic arrears.
“The interventions in the education and health sectors, not only provide a platform for improving service delivery but ultimately cushions close to 42,000 households with potential impact to improve living conditions for at least 200,000 persons,” JCTR officials say in the August 11 statement.
They add that the allocation of K4.7 billion (US$290 million) to the agriculture sector “will hopefully see better production output in the 2022/2023 farming season especially following the slump recorded in the 2021/2022 farming season.”
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While the interventions will help cushion a number of families from the high cost of living, the Jesuit scholars say the interventions may fail to address the challenges “if bottlenecks are not promptly addressed”.
JCTR officials highlight some of the challenges that need to be addressed. For instance, they say, the newly recruited health workers will need to be optimally supported with infrastructure and services to be able to effectively deliver in their duty areas.
The timely delivery of agricultural inputs also needs to be addressed, the Jesuit scholars say.
There is also a gap between the prevailing cost of living and incomes, JCTR officials note, adding that this gap “means families are unable to meet the cost of the most basic essentials, which results in compromised living conditions and sustains a vicious cycle of poverty in families and in the nation,”
To address challenges caused by the gap between the cost of living and incomes, the Jesuit scholars offer a raft of recommendations to the Zambian government.
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They say the Ministry of Finance and National Planning needs to consider reducing or waiving the import duty for edible oils “to help reduce the cost of production for items such as cooking oil.”
The Ministry also needs to “increase budget allocation to the livestock sector in the 2023 national budget particularly for the growth of animal feed inputs such as soya beans and sunflower,” JCTR officials say.
On its part, Zambia’s Ministry of Energy needs to “facilitate the provision of sustainable and affordable energy sources that will respond to the low incomes of the majority Zambians,” the Jesuit scholars say.
They further urge Zambia’s Energy Regulation Board (ERB) to consider going back to the 90-day pump review cycles instead of the 30-day review that started in January this year.
The JCTR scholars say the 90-day review cycles will aid in stabilizing the pump price of fuel.
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They also call on the Bank of Zambia to strengthen its efforts in stabilizing key macroeconomic fundamentals such as the exchange rate.
The stabilization of the exchange rate, JCTR officials say, “provides greater certainty for importation, therefore encouraging more trade and investment at local level aimed at ultimately improving prices of commodities and services.