His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu will on Friday, 18th September 2015 officially open the Fifth Session of the 11th National Assembly. According to the Parliamentary calendar, this will be the last session of the 11th National Assembly.
The significance of this event is that this is the first address for ECL to address the House.The Address will be like the roadmap and direction (vision) of the President in his governance.
The Address will also determine the political legacy of ECL. He will either make it or break it.
From our point of view, as The Zambian Voice, we have the following expectations.
PATRIOTISM AND HARDWORK
Zambia will never develop without the commitment and hardwork of its citizens; however, many people have become so political at the expense of commitment and hardwork. There is an exaggerated expectation of what the government should deliver at personal and national level.
It is not strange to find a person who does not engage any productive initiatives complaining about government for lack of income. Unfortunately this is also encouraged by unscrupulous politicians promises heaven to such a person if only he/she can vote for them.
The President needs to provide leadership to inspire people to rise up in pursuant of something productive to do other than waiting for politicians to come and hire them for civil disobedience which only destroys what is already there. People must be reminded that Governments only provide conducive environment for citizens to realize their potentials.
Zambia is a peaceful Country but the social and political environment is so emotionally tense. Difference in opinion is generally so personal other than a manifestation of a rich nation with freedoms to express their intelligent and independent minds. Divergent views are usually perceived from a tribal or political point of view, which is very unfortunate.
The President should address the people to be more tolerant to divergent views and not take everything on tribal or political lines. The one Zambia, one Nation should be emphasized as the President open Parliament.
While the Zambian government is becoming so tolerant to media freedom, there is a tendency by media organizations to go beyond the role of informing, educating and entertaining the citizens. The media in the Country has become highly political and emotive. Most on the media houses have taken partisan positions and are using their platform to campaign. The media is also being used to malign and vilify other citizens for personal interest.
The President should provide guidance and offer an olive branch to hostile media organization so that we can all work together to move the Country forward. It must be borne in mind of everyone, that negative publicity of any form is only a destruction of both individuals and societies in which even the perpetrator of the negative publicity dwells, consequently he/she is affected as well.
The cost of living has certainly shot up and the President should make serious pronouncements on what more the PF government intends to combat poverty.
In this regard we expect the President to amplify on solutions which will reduce poverty such as:
(i) Citizen empowerment
Various policies have been outlined in the past to empower citizens but the vulnerable poor who direly need help from government have not benefited. The privileged few have literally snatched the resources meant for the poor. Our poor people have not been able to access the empowerment funds available. The few that have accessed these funds are either politically or socially connected otherwise those without such connection have gotten nothing.
While PF government introduced the 20% citizen empowerments on all government contracts, most of the big government contracts are being done by foreigners.
There is need for government to take account of the policies and relevant institutions’ activities so that these policies work for the poor and reduce poverty.
(ii) Access to finance
While there is a lot of investment in the financial sector, the environment is still not favorable to the ordinary Zambian citizens and businesses. The interests are still high with tedious processes to do banking and accessing cash. Most of the Banks are so rigid that local management has little or no control to offer better customer services to their clients.
Government need to avoid excessive local borrowing to create space for citizens and businesses to borrow at competitive rates. This will also improve liquidity in the economy.
The micro-finance has become a conduit of stealing money from the desperate poor who are subjected to manipulative terms and conditions which leave them poorer. The government needs to come in and protect the citizens who mostly go to these micro-finances under desperate situations such as sicknesses, funerals, school fees, etc.
(iii) COMMERCE – SHARE DILUTION
It is estimated that largest share of our economy is in the hands of foreigners, which makes it Government vulnerable to economic manipulations and blackmail when it tries to implement policies that do not seem favorable to the investors in their insensate appetite to maximize on profits and externalize their money out of the Country.
We hope the President will exhort Parliament to come policies that we see many Zambians having large shares in some of this big companies, especially the mines, so that the Zambian interests can be advanced within the cooperate governance instead of Government coming in to twist investors.
There should be more Zambian participation not like a situation where Dagote has built a big plant for cement and bring 400 trucks to transport cement.
We should have a Zambian which is owned by Zambians while foreigners become partners not what we have where we have turned into beggars from foreigners in our own Country.
Insurance is a sector that has potential to protect citizens from risks and bring revenue to the treasury but the services being rendered by some companies are discouraging citizens to embrace insurance policies. Education on insurance is also very necessary for people to appreciate insurance.
(vi) Youth Empowerment
The newly launched youth empowerment and employment strategic plan is highly appreciated, we expect the President to highlight some points of emphasis to Members of Parliament which they can take to their constituencies to give people a sense of hope and initiate practical measures to realize the aspirations of the document otherwise it will just be another white elephant.
Zambian’s budget deficit is alarming and causing serious concerns to the citizens and stakeholders. We therefore expect the President to make serious pronouncements on how he is going to reduce expenditure.
The President needs to see how he can cut the huge expenditure on emoluments and prioritize investment. The president should also emphasize effective quality performance based civil service other than quantity which just consumes but with very little output.
While we appreciate the massive infrastructural development, it is a fact that we do not have money, therefore we expect the President to give a direction on how the Country will move to finish the projects started.
Our expectation is that the President will guide on priority projects such as alternative electricity or power generation, high economical yield road construction and maintenance, research in agriculture and investment to increase commerce and exportation in the sector, investment in value-added and manufacturing industry, among others. Government should spend the little that is there on such priority projects then complete others later.
BALANCE OF TRADE
Our balance of trade deficit has increased in the last 3 years, which partly has affected the depreciation of the Kwacha. We hope the President to give policy direction in reducing imports of products that can be grown or manufactured locally such as potatoes, peanuts, cereals, beverages (especially lagers and ciders), plastics, clothing, human hair, among others.
Citizens must be encouraged to consume local products to create market which will boost the manufacturing industries. The Zambian Voice would be happy if the President can adopt a slogan of “Don’t spend the Dollar but earn it – Buy local products”.
We expect the President to sound a serious warning and government commitment to fighting corruption. We expect the President to ensure that he warns all MPs and Ministers to avoid indulging in corruption and help fight corruption using their positions.
This is the chance for the President to show that he wants to continue with the legacy of Late President Sata to lead this Country on Zero tolerance to corruption
We also expect the President to reaffirm his commitment to education and assure the citizens that students will not be taking longer than the prescribed academic periods at public universities and colleges. We hope he will confirm that UNZA will open as scheduled this October.
We applaud the infrastructure being built in this sector especially the new universities and hostels being built at UNZA and other tertiary schools.
Agriculture has the potential to give this Country all the money it needs and employ many people. We expect the President to give some policy directions in investment, value-added, marketing and manufacturing.
Our centralized system has proved to be inefficient, we hope the President will recommit the government to decentralization which he has eluded to us for a long time.
We look forward to the President’s address as we wish him well and God’s blessings.
Our analysis and comments will follow after his address.