PRESS STATEMENT ON THE 2018 NATIONAL BUDGET ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
ZANEC appreciates the fact that government recognizes the importance of the Education and Skills Sector considering that it has the third highest share of the National Budget. However, the Coalition is concerned that the Education and Skills Sector has been allocated K11, 561,645,204.00 which only translates into 16.1 % of the 2018 National Budget. This is a reduction from the 2017 allocation of 16.5 % and a further departure from the regional and international commitments the government has signed such as the Cairo and SADC Protocols which require that all member countries allocate a minimum of 20% of the national budget to Education. The Education and Skills Sector has seen a reduction in allocation as a share of the National Budget from 2015 as follows; 2015 (20.2%), 2016 (17.2%), 2017 (16.5%) and 2018 (16.1%). ZANEC is concerned with this trend.
The 2018 National Budget is anchored on the theme “Accelerating fiscal fitness for sustained inclusive growth without leaving anyone behind.” The theme provides assurance of the government’s resolve not to leave anyone behind as espoused in the Sustainable Development Goals. This is in tandem with the Coalition’s motto “Promoting quality education for every Zambian”. The government commits economic growth as a process to stimulate national development. The Coalition strongly believes that the sustainability of national development in the 2018 National Budget depends on investment in human capital of which education should be at the center. To ensure that no one is left behind, it is the Coalition’s anticipation that the detailed budget allocation has taken into consideration issues of inclusion, such as Learners with Special Education Needs (LSEN), gender aspects, orphans and vulnerable children.
As a Coalition, we welcome the rehabilitation of existing infrastructure at all levels of the Education and Skills Sector. However, the continued construction of new universities and colleges must be matched with adequate financial allocations to needs such as teachers, lecturers, teaching and learning materials as well as maintenance of the old universities and colleges. ZANEC sadly notes that the current Institutions of Higher Learning are operating under dilapidated infrastructure and obsolete equipment.
It is gratifying to note that the Skills Development Levy raised K105.4 million in 2017. This is a move in the right direction as the government strives to enhance domestic financing of the sector. We urge the Government to ensure efficient utilization of the resources raised to benefit the Skills Sub Sector. The ZANEC analysis of the Auditor General’s Report for the financial year ending December, 2015 highlights alarming levels of misapplication of resources. This defeats all efforts in the delivery of quality education in the midst of insufficient resource allocation to the sector.
The School Feeding Programme which has been scaled up in the 2018 national budget to increase the number of beneficiaries from 1.2 million to 1.5 million learners is a welcome move. This will enhance nutrition, pupil retention, participation and progression rates for learners. It is the Coalitions hope that this budget allocation will be used for the intended purpose and that learners in low income households will benefit from the programme.
ZANEC commends the government for committing to support 16, 000 girls from extremely poor households in 16 districts from the World Bank support. Nevertheless, ZANEC is calling upon the Government to involve all stakeholders in the selection processes, so that deserving girls benefit from the program. We further implore Cooperating Partners to release finances in a timely and efficient manner, in line with the school calendar. The Coalition therefore, will take keen interest in following through the modalities of selection and the conditions in place for support of the deserving girls.
Furthermore, we would like to remind the government to ensure that funds are released and utilized in an efficient and timely manner in order to achieve access and quality education at all levels. The Coalition strongly believes that attainment of quality education is a combination of input (resources), processes (implementation/utilization) and outcome (impact / results).
ZANEC noted that the Minister of Finance’s Budget Speech did not make mention of the allocation towards Early Childhood Education (ECE) as well as adult education and literacy. These are important sub sectors that impact the other education and skills subsectors. It is ZANEC’s observation that the subsector have been marginally allocated with resources in previous budgets. The Coalition will be able to issue an in-depth position after a close scrutiny of the education and skills detailed budget as provided for in the yellow book. This statement is an immediate reaction to the Minister of Finance Budget Speech and the Presidential speech during the Official Opening of the Second Session of the Twelfth National Assembly on 15th September, 2017.
Grace M. Sinkamba
Issued on 7th October 2017