20th September, 2015
As The Zambian Voice, we are finally delighted that the President comprehensively addressed the Nation through his speech in Parliament.
The President, he first and foremost put Zambia on the Continental agenda by highlighting the African Union Agenda 2063 (“TO BUILD AN INTEGRATED, PROSPEROUS AND PEACEFUL AFRICA, AN AFRICA DRIVEN AND MANAGED BY ITS OWN CITIZENS AND REPRESENTING A DYNAMIC FORCE IN THE INTERNATIONAL ARENA,” ).
This was important because we do not exist in isolation but are part of other African Countries which face similar challenges like us. Surely this justifies the International policy of the President to interact with other African leaders as well as beyond.
We are in support of this initiative to work with other African Countries and beyond. However, we would like to caution the President and his government to be prudent in their travels to make sure they engage in cost effective international ventures and limiting number of delegates
Drawing from the African Union agenda, the President formulated an inspiring theme, “EMBRACING A TRANSFORMATIONAL CULTURE FOR A SMART ZAMBIA NOW”. This is highly appreciated because it motivates Zambians to change their mindset and be more patriotic and hardworking. Zambians certainly need a change of mindset and we hope the President will not hesitate to discipline those that would be dragging the Country backwards especially his ministers.
The President did not speak in obscurity but gave 15 guideline as a check list. We embrace the 15 guidelines and implore all citizens to engrave them in their hearts and minds for us to change Zambia. (Please check for these guideline in the Presidential speech)
It is consoling to realize that the President is compassionately aware of the frustrations of Zambians emanating from load-shedding.
It gives hope to citizens to hear about government’s initiatives to sort out the load-shedding problems through importation of electricity from neighbouring countries, adjusting the price of electricity for commercial entities to attract increased investments in electricity generation and developing alternative sources of energy such as solar and promoting the use of energy efficient electric bulbs.
We also appreciate the president recognition of the poor by keeping low electricity tariffs for low income households.
COST OF LIVING
The President recognised the high cost of living due to exorbitant mealie-meal prices which will be mitigated by setting up of 13 milling plants across the Country. The milling plants will also create easy and accessible market for farmers. In addition employment will be created.
To address this problem the president revealed that government is actively pursuing the implementation of the industrialization and job creation strategy. Government is also implementing various empowerment schemes under the ministries different ministries.
However, as an organization we feel this is rather vague and we would like to recommend some serious study, consultation and clear employment policy which will deal with unemployment specifically. Most of the highly spoken about initiatives on job creation do not really create sustainable and respectful jobs for our people.
It must also be cautioned that the attitude of our ministry of labor to act as a union against employers is not healthy for investment because it does not encourage quality performance but emphasizes job security and high pay. Therefore, the ministry of labor needs to realize that without production there can be no more money for salaries and further investment which would create more employment.
The president gave assurance that the country is not sliding into a debt trap because our economy has grown from a USD$ 3 billion GDP in 2005 to a USD$ 28 billion today and we are well within the acceptable international threshold of 40% of the gross domestic product.
He also pointed out that government has borrowed mainly to finance roads, energy and infrastructure as a long term investment that will spur accelerated economic development across sectors. Enhanced economic development will create the needed capacity to meet our debt obligations.
He also reassured Zambians that Government will be able to pay back the loans without difficulties with the help of the establishment of a sinking fund.
However, we would like to caution to government. As at end of September, 2014, the total debt as a percentage of GDP stood at 30.1%. Of this, external debt stood at US$ 4.7 Billion or 17.85 % of GDP, whilst domestic debt stood at K20.45 Billion or 12.32% of GDP.
This year 2015 Government contracted another Eurobond of USD$ 1.25 Billion which increases External debt to USD$ 5.95 Billion or 21% of GDP. It can also be assumed that with the current maize purchase by FRA and other expenses, local debt has also increased.
However, working on the reported external debt and last year’s local debt, we can approximately put Zambia’s debt at 38% of the GDP. Certainly this should cause concern to the President and his Government.
We are also worried about the sinking fund initiative because the semantics of this meanings that we will be keeping away the surplus money for repayment of the debt. Unfortunately our deficit is on the increase, therefore it is paradoxical to talk about a sinking fund.
It must therefore, be put to government that, there should be no more borrowing, rather we would like to see the deficit being reduced especially in the next 2016 budget. More initiatives must be created on how to generate money to finance the on-going infrastructure development otherwise let them be halted.
However, we recognize that a lot has to be put into considerations because certain projects can prove to be a big loss if they are halted or not completed in time.
The president addressed himself to the millennium goals of becoming prosperous and a middle income nation by 2030. To achieve this, the president setup seven thematic areas – diversification and sustainable development; infrastructure development; human capital development; democracy and good governance; gender and social protection; economic diplomacy, global partnerships and national defence; and culture re-modelling.
On diversification and sustainability the president reviewed that Zambia has recorded a growth of 6% of GDP in the last decade but could do better to about 10% GDP growth.
He also called for a smart economy which is characterized by access to capital, markets, talent, infrastructure and, reliable and predictable regulations.
The President delighted us by calling for a functional culture and social networks and reiterated the words of late President Sata on the need to promote ethical behavior in public and private sectors anchored on zero tolerance to corruption.
AN EAGLES EYE VISION
While many people cried for a vision from President Lungu, he came in and gave an eagle’s eye vision which is far reaching, beyond his Presidency to plan for 50 years which coincides with African Union Agenda of 2063.
The President reviewed that the Zambia’s projected is 52.1 million people in 50 years. He therefore set his focus on growing the economy to sustain such a population. He said that Zambia needs to work on a double digit economic growth.
Surely this is highly appreciated.
CREATION OF 5 MORE MINISTRIES
In order to realize his overreaching vision, the President pointed in the direction of promoting dynamic and strategically focused diversification and rapid growth by realigning our institutions to promote synergies in the planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and coordination of national programmes. This saw the creation of 5 more ministries by splitting some ministries and realignment which gives us this outlook:
1. Ministry of finance
2. Ministry of development planning;
3. Ministry of general education
4. Ministry of higher education;
5. Ministry of gender
6. Ministry of mines and mineral development
7. Ministry of energy and water development;
8. Ministry of works and supply
9. Ministry of transport and communication
10. Ministry of agriculture
11. Ministry of fisheries and livestock
While others might be concerned with the budget implication of this increase in number of ministries, we think efficiency is very necessary and we would rather pay to have it than otherwise. From our interaction with the civil servants, it was established that the realignment of President Sata in his quest to reduce ministries, a lot of confusion was caused at the ministries which brought in inefficiency.
Our only caution to Government would be that the two deputy ministers in one ministry should be a thing of the past to save on cost.
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP
The President recognizes the importance of the Private sector in his 2064 vision and we applaud the gesture. We only look forward to more Zambian participation in the private sector. Zambians must own the largest shareholding in companies for us to control the economy and forex exchange.
All over we appreciated the President’s commitment to empower Zambians through various initiatives and policies. We can only insist on engagement with all stakeholders on this point. Government should not assume the know-it-all attitude which has been the trend in the past.
GENERAL OPINION THE SPEECH
The speech was very inspiring and has a prospective future if it is supported by all citizens. The President set a National plan, a roadmap to guide all of us to the promised land of 2064.
Certainly with change of attitude, investment in power generation, industrialization, public-private partnership, good governance, international policy and prudent expenditure which the President alluded to should deliver the Zambian people from their current poverty squalor.
However, this can only be done if the 15 guidelines as prescribed by the President are adhered to. The speech was not for President Lungu, but for all of Zambia and it should be taken as a National agenda.
REACTION TO UPND ATTITUDES TO THE NATION AND ZV
The main objective of The Zambian Voice is to promote good governance, social justice and respect for human rights. Our motto is “One Voice in many languages”. We espouse to advocate in truth without bias or fear whatsoever
Our work has not been easy because many times we face challenges, threats, insults, violence and intimidations from various stakeholders especially politicians. However, today we take great exception to the United Party for National Development (UPND).
It must be understood that Good Governance does not just entail the respect of the rule of law and human rights by these in government, but also those in opposition including ordinary citizens. Therefore, the work of ZV is to offer check and balances and guidance to all, especially the ruling party and political parties in waiting to form government.
Unfortunately the UPND wants to exclude itself from the respect of rule of law and respect for human rights in a guise of fighting for political power.
This is totally wrong and as a civil society organization it is within our mandate to condemn it.
We have observed that on a number of occasions the UPND especially the leadership tend to cause public disorder thereby endangering the life of their members and other ordinary members. This behavior has found most of the senior UPND before the police.
We do not support the Public Order Act (POA) if used to trample of on the citizen’s right to express themselves but not being voted in power is not tantamount to human rights abuse for people to start matching and running battles with the Police.
Electorates have a right to their votes to choose whoever they want and they should not be called foolish for having exercising their rights as suggested in the way President Hakainde Hichilema (HH) does.
We don’t want to be biased by ignoring or sympathizing with the UPND on their unjustified breaking of the law just to prove a point of bad governance to the outside world and their sponsors who they have been engaging locally and internationally. Indeed we are struggling economically but we are a peaceful nation and the only party that wants to cause civil strife in the UPND by their behavior and messages including some songs being sang by some sympathetic artists.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
We have also observed and fallen victim of the UPND’s verbal and physical abuse. For the UPND, difference in opinion attracts insults and violence. They party is so intolerant to divergent views. This is not respect of human rights which includes freedom of expression. And the evidence is there especially from our point of view.
The UPND must realize that they cannot threaten or beat people to vote for them, rather they irritate people and which brings hatred of the Party making them lose elections other than the rigging they talk about.
For the UPND everyone is a sellout unless he/she sympathizes with them. But it must be borne in their minds that not everyone is desperate as they maybe.
On the other hand politics is about benefits which is why HH has been fighting passionately to get into power.
It is folly to tell people that I fight to get into power out of philanthropism when you have made so much money and yet, you have very few charity works to point at. It is also a fact that real philanthropist do not fight for political power and we have many examples to that effect.
It is therefore important for UPND, as well as other political parties, to find means of looking after its members other than just mobilizing them for civil strife, abuse of citizens and violence.
UPND must show good example of good governance, social justice (looking after people) and respect for human rights. This is what will attract electorates to vote for them otherwise new political parties such as the Rainbow Party will by-pass them and test power before they do if they don’t go into extinction.
UPND must have a clear ideology and manifesto like the MMD, NAREP, Rainbow Party which is proving relevant on the political sine. The UPND is so personal, like discussing the skin texture of the President, because their ideology and manifesto is obscure and whimsy because it is drawn according to the emotions of the leader almost on the daily basis.
We express our views with sadness because as CSO we believe that for good governance to flourish, there have to be a strong opposition unfortunately the biggest opposition seem to be losing grounds making the PF have an easy ride on a number of issues. The PF even stands to win 2016 general elections due to poor opposition performance.
It is unfortunate that even some civil servants play some political gimmicks in their execution of work. Others have gone to the extent of positioning themselves in anticipation of regime change, but as a CSO we want to guide the nation that, we all need to be calm till after 2016 general elections otherwise you might be mislead by overzealous politicians who can’t tell the cloud has settled for it to rain.
God bless Zambia.