Sunday, May 26, 2013

Subsidies are a 'disease' burden on Treasury - Katema
By Staff Reporters
Fri 24 May 2013, 14:01 CAT

SUBSIDIES are like a serious disease burden on the country's Treasury, says Dr Joseph Katema. And Vice-President Dr Guy Scott says the distribution of relief maize will not be affected by the removal of maize subsidies.

Meanwhile, Southern Province minister Daniel Munkombwe has challenged opposition political party leaders to explain to the people benefits of the removal of maize and fuel subsidies, saying they too know it is a wise decision.

Speaking when he officially opened a newly-built government health centre in Chingola's Mutenda rural on Tuesday, Dr Katema, who is Minister of Community Development, Mother and Child Health, said President Michael Sata's government had to do away with fuel and maize subsidies because they were diluting the ideals of the PF manifesto, which emphasisesutilisation of taxpayers' money for the benefit of the majority poor.

Dr Katema, who is also Chingola PF member of parliament, said the government would never allow the poor to be subsidising the rich when it comes to fuel pump prices and the elite millers that were only enjoying the subsidies but with insignificant effects on the prices of mealie-meal.

He said the government would rather use the money spent on subsidies to construct the much-needed hospitals, clinics and buying medicines for the majority poor in rural areas that have grappled with the lack of adequate medical care for many years.

"Ours is a government with humane leaders, responsible men and women that want the best for Zambia. We will never do something to deprive the poor and I can assure you this issue of removing subsidies on fuel and maize sold to millers is for the betterment of the country. We can't be using taxpayers money to subsidise fuel for the elite with cars, including the industries. It's better we use the money to empower the poor to better their living standards," Dr Katema said.

"You cannot have a treasury that is busy paying for the elite instead of apportioning money for the poor; the PF will not allow that. It seemed to be a difficult undertaking but it's the way to go for this country to develop."

He said the opening of the Mutenda health centre was testimony of the government's commitment to improving primary health care for the rural population, particularly for mothers and children.

Dr Katema said an ambulance would be purchased and more medical staff would be sent to the area using Constituency Development Fund (CDF) for Chingola.

And speaking when he addressed government heads at Feira lodge yesterday, Vice-President Scott said relief maize would remain untouched.

"Relief maize will not be affected by the subsidy issue. In fact, it will be positively affected. So it remains untouched because it is 100 per cent subsidy," he said.

Vice-President Scott said the subsidy issue was well understood by people although some were trying to make noise about it.

"Even subsidy on fuel, it was agreed by the previous government that they will remove it in stages but as years went by, they chickened out and left it to us. Even them MMD, they understand it because they made the decision. They agree with us, in fact, if they are honest," said Vice President Scott.

And in an interview in Choma yesterday, Munkombwe said opposition political leaders should not just critise government for the sake of political expediency even when they know that what the government had done was in the best interest of the people.

"Opposition political leaders have the mandate to explain to the Zambians the benefits of this removal because they, too, are custodians of the people and they know inside their hearts that that's the best way to go," he said.

And Munkombwe has appealed to peasant farmers in the province to be patient with the government on the removal of maize and fuel subsidies.
Meanwhile, Copperbelt University Students Union (COBUSU) have formally written to President Sata, asking him to reverse the decision to remove subsidies on fuel and maize sold to millers.

But PF youths on the Copperbelt say it's unacceptable that university students that are considered to be future technocrats have become politicians and have deliberately refused to reason with the government over the removal of subsidies on maize sold to millers and fuel.

In a letter addressed to President Sata, COBUSU president Oscar Mbewe stated that students would not stop calling on the government to rescind its decision to remove subsidies on fuel and maize sold to millers because it believed the move was a terrible mistake and would be devastating to the country's economy.

"Your Excellency, the basic example of a subsidy at a student level is government sponsorship packages. Imagine the impact of removing bursary without providing an alternative solution. The poor will be the most affected because the outputs from agriculture will be expensive and unaffordable," stated Mbewe in part.

But PF Copperbelt youth chairman Menyani Zulu said the students at CBU and University of Zambia (UNZA) were maliciously trying to project a wrong picture that the PF and its government had abandoned the people.
CBU and UNZA students last Friday boycotted classes and protested over the government's decision to remove subsidies on fuel and maize sold millers.

And Lusaka district PF chairperson Goodson Banda said subsidies benefited the already well-to-do middlemen and not the targeted vulnerable groups of society.

He said the government's decision to remove subsidies was a way of channeling resources to the poor.

"The resources saved from the subsidies will help government train more people and create more jobs in different sectors, which will at the end of the day add to the coffers of the government," said Banda.

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