By Fanny Kalonda
DEMOCRATIC Party president Harry Kalaba says government should use Constituency Development Fund or money mean other sectors to cushion fuel situation in the country.
He said the government was not aware of the fuel crisis when the plans were made adding that there is nothing wrong with making adjustments.
Speaking when he featured on Prime TV’s Oxygen of Democracy on Monday, Kalaba predicted the rise in the prices of mealie meal, cooking oil and other commodities if nothing is done.
“There is a myth being propagated heavily by government that they have increased the fuel pump prices because of the crisis happening in Russia [Ukraine], but countries buy their fuel from different places,” he said.
“Last time I checked, we were getting our fuel from Saud Arabia and they have not increased their fuel pump price. Now we want to use the war happening in Russia to do that! This government has increased fuel from the time they formed government three times. Two times they increased, there was no war in Russia but they increased and told us they have removed subsidies. So where is this myth coming from of wanting to justify the fuel prices by the war?”
Kalaba added that the government should realise that the energy sector is at the centre of the economy.
“You cannot be stiff necked to behave as if we are in an ordinary situation,” he said.
Kalaba also proposed that the government reviews mineral loyalty tax, use CDF or other funds to cushion the economic situation in the country.
“Government should realise that the energy sector is the epicentre. [Finance minister Situmbeko] Dr Musokotwane was economic adviser, minister. So as minister ask him, all this time, why didn’t Musokotwane propose removal of subsidies? Why didn’t he advise that time that we should remove subsidy on fuel? Why just now? It tells you now that it is not his mind working on the subsidy of fuel.
They have not advised the President properly and adequately. If you don’t manage petrol properly, fuel and cooking oil prices will rise. Everything will go up and that will be a problem. Review mineral loyalty tax, use CDF and other funds to cushion the situation,” he said.
“They didn’t know that there was going to be this crisis and there is nothing wrong with making adjustments. Instead of releasing all this money for CDF, it will give us time to plan and see how we are going use the remaining money. We can take the rest of the funds, used to subsidise fuel just to see how things would be cushioned in the next five months. And see how the situation could be stabilised. That’s how governments work. Its job is to help its citizens.”
And Kalaba said the government should have left CDF the way it was as the decision to increase it needed to be studied first because the disbursement of the funds was not practical.
He said what the government should have done was to give spending agencies in provinces more revenue adding that to put all money is CDF is not practical as it is not possible to expend all of it.
Kalaba said he would be shocked if the government maintained the K25.7 million because it is impractical in most of the constituencies.
He said that were so many things the country could have been doing with the money they have locked up in CDF.
“Don’t celebrate before you see the practical side of it. To release the money is one thing and to spend is another thing. Some of the decisions being made needed to be studied first before being implemented. Understand the methods before you jump on it. Colleagues of mine and MPs that have been in government can agree that the idea is not practical,” he said.
“To put all resources in CDF is a costly experiment. You will see what will be in the next budget. I will be shocked if they maintain the 25.7 million CDF because it is impractical in most of these constituencies. It will be hard for it to be expended the way it is supposed to be expended. Wishful thinking tells us that K30 million will be able to help us. But how are you going to disburse it. You need to be practical. And there are those youths you have told to get funds from CDF, that is why we have the department of social welfare. That is why you have all these various government departments. What they should have done was not to reinvent the wheel. The President and finance minister said the jobs are in CDF. I don’t agree. I think the jobs are in manufacturing. The real jobs are relying on us creating our own sacks, peanut butter, shoes than getting a huge chunk that you have not even thought about carefully.”