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THE ENGINEER AND THE 2022 NATIONAL BUDGET

GROWTH, jobs and taking development closer to the people is the cornerstone of the 2022 national budget. No doubt this is indeed refreshing and the bedrock of the New Dawn Government which should be embraced by all citizens.

To actualise the goals set out in the budget requires concerted effort from all the people of this great nation. May I need not remind you that the task ahead is enormous; keeping in mind the promises made during elections and the high expectations especially amongst the youth who voted for this government in large numbers.

One here is reminded of the 35th President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech with its famous quote “Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country.” This is true and appropriate for our nation right now. Actualising the budget is a concerted effort which among other things requires a paradigm shift in our collective mentalities.

As an engineer, what’s in the budget for me? Or should I say what can I do for the country to aid the actualisation of the budget? My areas of interest as presented by the Minister of Finance and National Planning, Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane are mainly as follows but not limited to; Manufacturing and Industralisation, Information and Communication Technology Sector, Water and Sanitation Sector, Environmental Sustainability, Decentralisation, Public Private Partnership and Housing and Community Amenities.

As you can see engineering is in virtually all spheres and the reasons is simple, like they say; engineering is everywhere around us, from the time you wake up in the morning to the time you go to bed at night, engineering or engineered goods, products and services are all around us making our lives simpler, easier and much more pleasurable.

For the purpose of this article, let me dwell on decentralisation as the theme goes “taking development to the people,” which I feel needs much more careful thoughtthrough. Indeed, the Constituency Development Fund or CDF allocation has been increased by nearly 1, 900 percent to K25.7 million per constituency annually.

This a huge increase indeed, the scope of utilisation has also been increased for example, primary school classrooms, teachers’ houses, desks, rural clinics, staff houses, local courts, small bridges, clearance of canals, community boreholes, dip tanks and small dams could be funded under CDF. With that kind of funds getting down to constituencies once in a year there is no doubt that there will be no need for people to trek to bigger cities in search of jobs.

My worry though is whether councils especially rural municipalities, have the capacity to manage and apply these funds on infrastructure projects. From planning through implementation and final handover requires professional input at whatever level which municipal and rural councils maybe lacking.

We need to build capacity in these councils and central government should be there to offer guidance and direction. The sector ministries should also continue to provide policy and expert advice in the implementation of CDF financed projects. The Engineering Institution of Zambia and allied professional bodies should partner with Government in offering their services at perhaps a token fee to help build capacity in these municipalities.

Zambia National Service too should play a major role in providing expertise as well as equipment. We have witnessed in the past were CDF funds have not only being misapplied but the projects implemented leaves much to be desired.

Poor workmanship and substandard structures being built using CDF funds are the order of the day. I surely pray that we will not find ourselves in the same dilemma. Projects were not completed in some cases because funds ran out, projects were underestimated with incompetent contractors being engaged. Some of the works have resulted in being demolished which is a sheer waste of resources.

Some of the specialist services need to be outsourced if we are to realise quality works which will be value for money. By coming up with such an ambitious programme of taking funds to constituencies, Government is on the right path to equitable distribution of wealth and national development. The minister has been very categorical in strongly warning would-be culprits misappropriating CDF funds that stern action will be taken against them and failure to sanction those who misuse the funds will attract heavy punishment.

May we remind ourselves that on August 12 citizens of Zambia, particularly the youth, resoundingly called for tangible and lasting change in their lives and future generations, I trust that this bud[1]get is but the beginning of dreams becoming a reality.

*Eng. Julius Kazembe-Lungu, the author is Technical Director, JKL-Associates.

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