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The Three Issues Jesuit Scholars in Zambia Want Post-Election Government to Prioritize

The Logo of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR). Credit: JCTR

As eligible voters in Zambia go to the poll, Jesuit scholars in the country have highlighted three issues they want the post-election government to prioritize.

In a statement on the eve of the general elections in the Southern African country, the leadership of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) underscores the need for those to be elected to address challenges around nutrition, the rising poverty levels, as well as the national debt.

The Jesuit scholars say they expect the government to be formed Zambia’s August 12 elections to prioritize “sustained stabilization of the macroeconomic indicators as a key intervention in ensuring affordability of nutritious foods especially for the poor and marginalized.”

They also expect the post-election government to work, a priority, toward the “protection of social sector spending especially health, education, social protection and water and sanitation in order to improve the living conditions of over 50 percent of the Zambian population living in poverty.”

A third issue the Jesuit scholars consider a priority is the national debt and inflation, factors that combine to compromise “the nation’s development outcomes.”

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“Government’s interventions in ensuring the reduction of the inflation rate remains a key need,” JCTR officials say in their Wednesday, August 11 statement, and add that the “sustained double-digit inflation remains a key hurdle for most Zambians to afford the available basic items, especially food.”

Zambia has an estimated US$20.46 billion public debt, including both domestic and external dues.  

The country recorded a 24.6 percent inflation rate in the last two months, an increase from 23.2 percent recorded in May this year, according to the Zambia Statistics Agency (ZSA).

Considering that the Zambian Kwacha appreciated against the major convertible foreign currencies in July, the Jesuit scholars acknowledge with appreciation President Edgar Lungu-led government for “the notable achievements in resource mobilization, through collection of revenues and grants amounting to 56% above the targeted amount” in the first half of 2021. 

They further laud the Zambian government for “introducing the civil servants’ debt swap, which increased their take home pay and consequently their spending capacity.” 

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Zambia’s government commenced the process of swapping the debts of all civil servants on July 16, that is, a deal in which a debt holder gets an equity position in exchange for the cancellation of the debt due.

Following the implementation of the deal, no deductions are expected to be made from salaries of all civil servants for the next three months. The debt owed by the government workers will be owed to their employer, the government.  

Meanwhile, the leadership of JCTR has called upon the main contenders in the August 12 presidential polls to embrace values that promote human life and safeguard peace in the country regardless of the outcome of the general elections.

In their August 9 statement, JCTR officials also called on whoever will lose the elections to “respect the will of the Zambian people with dignity and decency.”

Additionally, they urged whoever will emerge as the winner of the presidential poll to accept “the outcome with humility, sense of duty and service.”

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