HH insists on free education with no clear plan on table

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United Party for National Development (UPND) Hakainde Hichilema insists that his administration will make sure that education is free from primary right up to university level.

In his submission, the UPND president emphasises that students currently entangled into bursary loans will have their loan repayments suspended.

He points out that education is the best equaliser and that his administration will leave no one behind. He adds that this is his party’s solemn promise to the youth of Zambia.

“We repeat. Education from primary to Colleges and Universities will be free! Those students who the PF have entangled into bursary loans will have their loan repayments suspended.

“Education is the best equaliser and the UPND will leave no one behind, this is our solemn promise to the youth of Zambia,” he maintains.

Meanwhile, analyst, Alexander Nkosi recently Hichilema’s economic ‘blue print’ up for debate, to which he is yet to respond.

Nkosi’s challenge saw some now doubting HH’s model and its feasibility in turning the country’s fortunes for the better.

In his challenge to Hichilema, Nkosi wrote:

3) Like I explained earlier, for you to promise free education you need to have all the key statistics, you need to know the actual total number of students and the cost of providing free education.

Let’s work with actual numbers unlike giving examples, it gives an impression you do not know the number of students and estimated total cost of providing free education.

Even if I’m to work with the 147,000 you have given, your calculations are not correct. In your previous article the 147,000 is the total number of students completing grade 12 and moving to tertiary institutions every year.

This does not represent the total number of students, it is just an intake. If we assume an average of 5 years per course, then each year would have 147,000 multiplied by 5, giving us 735,000 learners. Your assumption is that K1,980 would be enough for monthly stipend (bursary). Hence the correct figure is K13 billion which is $595 million.

Note that this is just meal allowance. When you add the school fees which include quality tuition, medical cover and accommodation estimated at K30,000 per year per student, it goes to K22 billion, giving us a total of K35 billion ($1.6 billion). Note that this is just tertiary, we have to include the cost of free education from grade 1 to 12 as well which is equally huge.

Education is not all about tuition fees and meal allowances, we also have to increase the number of facilities; more student hostels, lecturer rooms and equipping them adequately. The total cost goes way beyond K50 billion.

3) Your Revenue: The other thing is that it is not correct to assume that restructuring will give us more money. If we follow your policies where you are promising to significantly cut down on borrowing this means the reduction in borrowing will actually be higher than the amount relased from restructured debt. You further promise to significantly lower taxes. It takes time for the reduction in taxes to translate into improved economic activities and more revenue. So the immediate effect will be a reduction in revenue.

Broadening the tax base also has a double effect of giving some relief to certain players and bringing on board others, so there is a process of adjustment and its final outcome is difficult to predict in actual numbers. Improve compliance is a process. This all points to the fact that you will be faced with reduced revenue so the reality is that you will have less to spend despite restructuring.

4) Your Expenditure: Free education is not the only free thing you have promised. You promised free quality healthcare, mass recruitment into civil service, huge payrise, clear over K30 billion domestic arrears, clear arrears for council workers, stipends for headmen and many other things, and you are promising all these in the short term. How do you reconcile this with your reduced revenue?


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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31