WE welcome the national Budget for fiscal 2013 presented to Parliament yesterday by Finance Minister, Alexander Chikwanda, for it signals not only the start of a new era in our country as far as job creation is concerned, but also the commencement of a national development programme that will depend largely on domestic resources.
The lowly paid workers will once again heave sighs of relief to learn that Government has raised the tax exempt threshold from K2 million to K2.2 Budget heralds new era for Zambia million - a move that will benefit thousands of workers who will no longer pay tax.
This is a significant move considering the fact that Government had raised the tax exempt threshold from K1 million to K2 million last November in the 2012 national Budget.
In this year's budget, the PF Government has carved for itself a clear road-map on how it hopes to transform the country's economic landscape through far-reaching measures that will entail industrialisation and a vigorous programme to refurbish dilapidated national infrastructure and construction of new structures, which include roads, hospitals, schools and other amenities.
Under the theme: "Delivering Inclusive Development and Social Justice", the minister of Finance yesterday unveiled a comprehensive development agenda to be implemented by the Patriotic Front Government over the next five years, and the programmes targeted at ameliorating suffering among the poverty-stricken populace, particularly those in the lower income bracket.
Government proposes to spend K32.2 trillion which accounts for 26.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Of this amount, a total of K24.7 trillion or 76.8 per cent of this expenditure would be financed from domestic revenues, a further K1.5 trillion or 4.6 per cent would be financed from grants from co-operating partners while the balance of K5.9 trillion or 18.4 per cent would be raised from external and domestic borrowing.
This is a significant departure from past practice when the Treasury relied heavily on donor funding to execute the bulk of its programmes which inevitably got derailed in the event that donors failed to fulfill their financial pledges and undertakings.
We are also gratified to learn that Government envisages the creation of more than a million jobs in various economic sectors over the next five years due to massive capital investment in the agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, roads and energy sectors.
In view of the high number of unemployed persons in the country, job creation ranks high on the Government's development agenda, and we hope authorities will remain steadfast in their quest to create new jobs to absorb the unemployed persons.
Mr Chikwanda said the tourism sector had the potential to create gainful employment for a lot of people and Government hoped to facilitate the creation of approximately 300,000 jobs in the sector over the next five years.
The agricultural sector is projected to generate the highest number of jobs - approximately 550,000 over the next five years while the incentives awarded to the manufacturing sector are expected to create approximately 90,000 in five years, with the road construction sector adding another 20,000 jobs while the education sector is expected to facilitate the net recruitment of not less than 5,000 teachers.
As the minister aptly observed in the conclusion of his Budget address, next year's Budget is poised to launch Zambia on "a new path of inclusive development and societal
transformation", and the benefits of growth would not merely be recorded in "dry statistics but felt tangibly by all Zambians in all areas that directly affect their material well-being and those of their families."
All considered, the 2013 Budget has clearly spelt out Government's development agenda
and defined its priorities over the next five years, and has also laid a firm foundation to kick-start the industrialisation process that will transform the country's outlook in the next five years.