It is an honour to speak here today at this signing ceremony and the launch of a new Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability Assessment. In doing so, I am speaking on behalf of the UK, Germany, and Finland, who are together contributing $26 million to what’s known as the Public Financial Management Reform Programme.
Honourable Minister, since you were kind enough to receive me for a meeting in your office on only your second day in the new job, I have been following your progress with special interest.
Therefore I note that, in your statement to Parliament last week, you made a candid assessment of the state of the Zambian economy and the drivers of the fiscal deficit. You announced a courageous Economic Recovery Programme, Zambia Plus, to
- strengthen tax policy and administration;
- reallocate resources used for costly and inefficient subsidies;
- increase funding for social protection to protect the poorest;
- improve economic and fiscal governance reducing waste in the use of Zambia’s precious public resources;
- improve budget credibility;
- and so unlock growth.
In your speech you also said that your Economic Recovery Programme provided Zambian solutions to the challenges Zambia faces.
We welcome your leadership on these crucial issues for Zambia. And we welcome the priorities you identified.
The last Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability assessment, in 2012, concluded that the Zambian budget had become less credible. That you have already acknowledged this as a persistent problem, and that you are determined to address it, even before the results of the detailed assessment you are launching today are fully known, is commendable.
Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, famously compared the discipline of good domestic housekeeping to the discipline of managing a national budget, saying that good housekeeping makes a country’s economy sound and strong.
The budget is what makes it possible for the Zambian Government to deliver on its commitments to the people. If you don’t spend your resources in the way you said you would in your budget, you cannot deliver the promises you have made in that budget. And if you don’t deliver the policies you said you would deliver, why would more Zambians willingly pay their taxes? So your twin priorities of collecting more revenue and improving budget credibility are linked. And we believe they are right.
The UK, along our Public Financial Management Reform Programme partners, Germany, Finland and the World Bank, are pleased to support these priorities. Revenue collection and budgeting are core components of the Reform Programme, alongside making public procurement more transparent, strengthening audit, and providing better financial management information for decision makers. In all these areas, your leadership, and that of the Secretary to the Treasury, will be critical.
Honourable Minister, the UK and its Public Finance Management reform partners are looking forward to supporting you in taking forward the findings of the assessment you are launching today. We hope this will provide a renewed opportunity for a frank, constructive and regular dialogue between the Government of the Republic of Zambia and its cooperating partners on public financial management.
You called your Economic Recovery Programme ‘Zambia Plus’. If you, His Excellency the President, and the Zambian Government, provide the leadership to implement this courageous plan, we Cooperating Partners will be pleased to form, as you put it, the “plus”.
Thank you and Zikomo.