By John Chola
The Ministry of Finance and National Planning has released another K1.46 billion towards social protection programmes with K1 Billion going to paying off arrears of pensioners under the Public Service Pensions Fund (PSPF).
Minister of Finance Situmbeko Musokotwane has announced that K217 million will be used to purchase drugs and medical supplies while an addition of K169 million is for the Social Cash Transfer Programme and K40 million is for the Food Security Pack Programme.
This is barely a month after the Minister announced, December 28, 2021, the first release of K837 million towards the same programme.
In a statement, Monday, Musokotwane said the released funds are part of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDR); an action aimed at ensuring sustained and continued protection of the poor and the vulnerable in Zambia.
Musokotwane added that the K1 billion released to PSPF for pensioners was to safeguard their livelihoods and ensure that the money that they laboured for during their time of service, was in their hands.
He said his government’s objective for the year was to dismantle all historical pension dues owed to retired public service workers and curtail any accumulation of pension arrears, going forward.
“This year, the Social Cash Transfer has been scaled-up, for government and foreign financed portions, by increasing the number of beneficiaries to over one million from less than 885,000 as at end August 2021. The transfer value per household has also been increased from K150 in 2021 to K200 per month in 2022, and from K300 to K400 per month (in the case of households that have severely disabled members,” said Musukotwane.
With regard to the Food Security Pack Programme, Musokotwane emphases, the number of beneficiaries had been increased to 290,000 households from less than 264,000 as at end-August 2021.
The programme, he said, is for the benefit of vulnerable but viable farming households.
Other social protection interventions that will be scaled up this year include the Girls Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihood Programme, the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, Public Welfare Assistance Scheme, and Child Welfare Programme.
He said the need for the country’s health facilities to constantly have drugs and other medical supplies could not be over-emphasized hence the released K217 million adding that government will continue to do so in line with the 2022 National Budget.
Dr Musokotwane reiterated government’s steadfast commitment to utilization of IMF SDR funds and all other public and donor funds in accordance with prudent fiscal management regulations and guidelines.
He said that to ensure effective checks and balances, special accounting and reports on the utilization of the proceeds will be undertaken.
Dr Musokotwane said government was confident that in the long-run, the resources from the IMF will assist in attaining the aspirations of the economic transformation programme and help lead the country to economic stabilization and positive growth, in line with the spirit in which the SDR finance was allocated such as to counter the effects of Covid-19.
He urged all implementing agencies of the social protection and pensions funds, to ensure that transparent payment systems were deployed so that government alleviate the hardships endured by citizens, especially unpaid retires, the poor, and the vulnerable.