The Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) is looking forward to the presentation of the 2021 National Budget by the Minister of Finance tomorrow Friday 25th September 2020 with great expectations. We know that a number of challenges will characterize the revenue side of our 2021 National Budget given the uncertainties brought about by the partial economic lockdown driven by the COVID 19 pandemic. Notwithstanding this reality, we remain hopeful that government has focused on ceasing the few opportunities presented by the COVID 19 pandemic to develop a budget that will spur economic growth and investment in Education. These opportunities include the prospects for increased tax collections from companies whose businesses have made huge profits from the sale of COVID 19 essential products and services. Although some companies have experienced significant challenges, those dealing in COVID 19 related products such as hand sanitizers, disinfectants, handwashing soaps, face masks, personal protective equipment (PPEs) and pharmaceutical products have made huge profits. More important also, the copper prices have remained high during the COVID 19 period although production was negatively impacted. The impact of COVID 19 on the economy has also increased the prospects for debt restructuring, swapping or relief, while COVID 19 also presents an opportunity for increased budget support from the private sector, Cooperating Partners and individual philanthropist for COVID 19 prevention and control.
It is against this background that we are hoping that government has ceased these and many other opportunities to ensure that there is increased funding towards the Education and Skills Sector in the 2021 National budget. We have noted through our budget analysis work that in the last five years, the Ministers of Finance have reduced the share of the education budget from 20.2% in 2015 to 12.4% in 2020, representing a 39% reduction. Therefore, our expectations are that the 2021 Education and Skills budget will address the following priorities.
- Given the positive spillover effects that investments in education have over the rest of the sectors, government will increase the share of the Education and Skills Sector budget to at least 20% of the national budget to mitigate the impact of COVID 19 on education.
- We expect government to highlight how it will bridge the financing gap caused by COVID 19 and demonstrate commitment towards investing in continuity of learning during the COVID 19 pandemic, with great emphasis on the safety of the learning environments and leaving no one behind.
- The Coalition also expects to see increased investment in digital technology in order to promote continuity of learning outside the classroom for all children.
- ZANEC is also hoping that government will announce the introduction of an Education Levy that will be dedicated to generate revenue for investment in the Education and Skills Sector.
Finally, it is common knowledge that investing in education can contribute significantly to economic growth and therefore it deserves to be the main priority of every national budget even under a limited resource envelope.