Patriots for Economic Progress (PEP) Leader, Sean Tembo, has called for the re-introduction of fuel subsidies to help cushion the high cost of living.
During his budget speech, Finance and National Planning Minister, Situmbeko Musokotwane, had argued that subsidizing the pump price of fuel would mean that the country would forego certain benefits such as free education.
Tembo made the call in a statement issued in Lusaka on Monday in response to the Ministers budget speech delivered to Parliament on Friday.
“Not subsidize the pump price of fuel, the never-ending cycle of inflation, depreciation of the Kwacha, high cost of importation of fuel and further higher pump prices, will keep repeating itself as it has done in the past two years,” he said.
Tembo said the end result would be continued economic decline, high cost of living and abject poverty for the people.
“As Musokotwane himself correctly observed in his budget speech, our GDP growth rate has consistently fallen from 5.2 percent in 2021 to 3.5 percent in 2022 and projected to be 3 percent in 2023 and forecast to be 2.7 percent in 2024,” he said.
Tembo said these are not just numbers but the actual human beings sleeping hungry hence the need for government to do the right thing.
He urged government to go back to the model which other previous administrations used to stabilize the pump price of fuel and create a stable economic environment that was necessary for the economy to grow and thrive.
“If Musokotwane wants to insist on his current path, then his government should not only provide free education but also free food and free accommodation to the Zambian people,” Tembo said.
He said the Minister’s argument that the country would forego free education meant that the Zambian economy would remain directly exposed to the world fluctuations in oil prices.
“If Saudi Arabia cuts output, or the Chinese economy shows a huge quarterly rebound or Ukraine bombs Russian oil facilities or the US cuts subsidies for it’s electric car industry, it means the pump price of fuel will go up here in Zambia,” Tembo said.
He said the variables on the world stage which can cause fluctuations in oil prices are too many and too varied for the Zambian economy to be directly exposed to them without any kind of cushion, as Musokotwane suggested.
Tembo said if the country takes the route of not cushioning the local pump price of fuel from the never-ending fluctuations in oil prices on the world market, as Musokotwane suggests, then it means that Zambians needed to brace themselves for high inflation.
Finance and National Planning Minister, Situmbeko Musokotwane, said government will not welcome suggestions on reintroduction of subsidies.
Musokotwane said doing so would mean government not funding some of its priority sectors such as education and health.
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