Ambassadors Taken to Task on Subsidies

james-thornton-zambia-reportsThe ambassadors of Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States are being challenged over their statements of support in favour of the Patriotic Front (PF) government’s recent removal of fuel and maize subsidies.

According to an open letter circulated this morning by the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR), some Zambians are upset that the diplomatic community has remained silent during the recent violent attacks by a PF militia against protesters, but instead have praised the government over subsidies.

The letter, which was signed by lawyer Robert Amsterdam, argued that subsidies had not actually been removed, but instead transformed into a “one-party state subsidy” aimed at funding unnecessary by-elections and deputy ministers. According to the CDDR, the PF has failed to present a plan to reduce the subsidies in stages or protect the most vulnerable.

“For the 65% of Zambia’s 13 million citizens who live on less than $1.25 a day, it is not comprehensible how they should be chosen to carry the burden while at the same time the president can give himself and his cabinet salary increases of 100%, initiate a re-nationalization and expropriation spree of numerous private companies, while at the same time engineering an unprecedented 10 parliamentary by-elections, with more to come,” Amsterdam writes.

“We understand that the principle of subsidy removal may be positive, but the reality is that this move is not going to produce any decrease in government spending in Zambia or improve balance of payments, but rather only re-direct this portion of the budget toward highly questionable political objectives to benefit the private interests of a very small coterie of ruling elites who are already in control of the main newspaper and one of the country’s largest banks.”

Last February, the CDDR presented a report on violations of human rights by the PF government before the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.

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