THE goodwill Zambia has gained for conducting peaceful general elections on August 12, followed by the peaceful transfer of power from the sixth President to the seventh one, won praise and respect from many local, regional and international dignitaries who witnessed the inauguration of President Hakainde Hichilema this week.
The goodwill has also resulted in the appreciation of the local currency, the Kwacha, against other international convertible currencies.
Now that the general elections are in the past and President Hichilema has been inaugurated as the seventh Republican President of Zambia, people are anxiously waiting for the announcement of the new Cabinet.
But stakeholders are calling for a lean Cabinet that will demonstrate the new administration’s commitment to upholding fiscal discipline and stop the perceived wastage of public resources on ministries that are perceived to serve little purpose.
ActionAid is proposing a lean Cabinet that has the capacity to resolve challenges facing the nation.
The organisation has advised President Hichilema to appoint a thin Cabinet that will be able to deliver solutions to domestic problems and competently represent Zambia on the global stage.
The organisation is also proposing the scrapping of ministries that serve no clear purpose.
Like many people, ActionAid believes that resources that will be saved from scrapping undesirable portfolios can be channelled to more pressing issues of debt repayment, boosting agriculture and creating jobs.
The new Government has been advised to learn from mistakes made by previous administrations.
For example, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) leadership under President Rupiah Banda spent K8 billion on the Cabinet monthly with its double deputy ministers.
Mr Banda was condemned even by the Patriotic Front (PF) for presiding over a bloated government.
But the same PF raised Cabinet expenditure to K17 billion a month.
At that time, Mr Hichilema proposed a Cabinet that could be reduced to 15 portfolios, without provincial ministers, which could only cost the country K4.5 billion per month.
The K12.5 billion in savings could be channelled to other needy areas.
Therefore, with the issue of a lean Cabinet being not new to President Hichilema, who is now the appointing authority, people are hoping that his Government will heed their calls.
Nevertheless, the expected Cabinet, though lean, must be representative of the country’s 10 provinces as President Hichilema himself has alluded to.
Issues such as having a sizable Cabinet, fighting corruption, ridding the country of nepotism and tribal inclinations, and respecting the rule of law, among others, will further boost the goodwill of cooperating partners as well as international lending organisations which will play a critical role in helping Zambia to rebuild its economy.
President Hichilema has already indicated that he will engage international creditors on the issue of the country’s foreign debt which is unsustainable.
But a successful outcome of that engagement will depend on the President’s demonstration of fiscal discipline in areas like the size of Cabinet he plans to put in place.