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Editorial CommentOpinion & Analysis

Government must seriously rethink Fisp

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Politicians are usually good at being seen to be doing something even when they do not mean it, and are doing nothing about it.

It is a tactic which populists and those in power, the world over, have perfected with ease.

Take, for instance, the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp), which the government has been implementing passionately under the guise of ensuring food security in the country.

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Right now, there is little on the ground to suggest that, since the programme was rolled out, its objective has been achieved.

If anything, the programme has succeeded in entrenching the culture of handouts and enhanced a vicious cycle of passive dependency syndrome.

Certainly, this programme is not about empowering the people but making them more vulnerable and desperate. Politicians like it when people go begging to them for that is a guarantee of more votes.

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That is what the Fisp programme has succeeded in achieving.

This is the programme that has always been dogged by logistical challenges, ranging from poor to late delivery of farm inputs such as fertiliser and maize seeds.

This year, the government promised that, by now, distribution of the coupons would have been in full swing, yet it is the same old song: delays.

The Ministry of Agriculture has changed tune that the coupons would be in by next week, insisting that all was on track.

But this is September and how does the government expect the poor and desperate farmers in the village to plan for the next planting season?

Truth is that Fisp is a political gimmick meant to create an impression to the poor masses that this government cares for them.

Of course, where billions of kwacha are involved, it is the ruling elite that benefits by awarding each other contracts for distribution of the inputs to those that are politically correct.

The distribution of the coupons itself is selective as it is used to reward political allegiance.

In any case, how can the government seriously expect a programme whose beneficiaries are a mere 900,000, out of a population estimated at 17 million, to translate to food security?

The big question has always been: why is this programme still being pursued when it only succeeds in punching holes into the already depleted national coffers?

We, therefore, advise the government to do the needful; leave politics aside, abandon the programme as soon as possible and channel resources to other programmes such as irrigation farming.

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