It is a great honor to receive a number of requests for me to give some views on the recent Press Conference held by President Edgar Lungu. I must hastily reveal to you that I have been reluctant to comment because I am waiting for an appointment to meet the President and tender my views to him personally. However, this seems to be taking longer than I anticipated.
I know some of you are already thinking that I am going to ask for favors, well, I will not ask for anything more than that which will help the nation. I believe in transparency hence this revelation.
Too bad UPND seemed to be highly political and suspicious when I mentioned of meeting HH. I have no any other agenda but Zambia and it’s people especially the poor. Thanks to the the PF who have been more reasonable and accessible.
Coming to the issue at hand, I must out rightly say, it was a successful event and it achieved a lot especially in setting policy direction which eased anxieties in the general public and economic sector. The event vindicated some of us who had been insisting on a formal interaction of the President with the media.
I just hope that next time, entry to the State House by various stakeholders will be more orderly than the commotion that occurred on that particular day. It was rather embarrassing to some dignitaries, including senior members of the Party like Fr. Frank Bwalya, Mumbi Phiri, among others, to be negotiating their way in.
I ended up watching the briefing on TV but I missed the opportunity to ask my mediocrity questions like most journalists did, thanks to Frank Mutubila who showed us how it is supposed to be done. I think it was a missed opportunity for the journalists to bring substantive issues.
The President ably extrapolated the background of our current economic crisis and I am sure the skeptics now agree with me when I said, it is not the PF Government’s fault that we going through these difficulties. However, I agree with some of those who have been saying we can do better and I think the President tried to do something with his directives.
Indeed the directives were good and in good faith. The President was sincere and showed good intent for this Country and investors in spite of the challenges.
No doubt Bank of Zambia under the leadership of Dr. Danny Kalyalya has done extremely well to keep the volatile Kwacha in check though inflation is accelerating.
I was perturbed to hear the President talking about fuel subsidies because I thought this was already done way back in 2013 together with mealie meal subsidies. The removal of subsidies made the prices of almost all commodities go up. So I am wondering, when was this subsidy re-introduced and by what percentage?
If there is a subsidy on fuel which has to be removed we should expect fuel prices to go up. Implicitly, the President was proposing an increment in fuel in the quest to reduce govt spending amidst economic crisis. The question that follows is; what will be the effect of this measure on the majority Zambians who are already going through misery due to increased cost of living?
Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) pegged the Basic Need Basket at K4, 249.56 for the month of October 2015 from K3, 957.46 in the month of September 2015 posing a difference of K302.1.
Inflation doubled in the month of October from 7.7% in September 2015 to 14.3%. This month November 2015 inflation has jumped to 19.5% which implies that the food basket has also gone up. Therefore, thinking of increasing fuels at this time will be killing the Zambian people and suicidal to the PF govt as we enter in 2016.
It is a fact that electricity tariffs in Zambia are lower than the cost of supplying the commodity to consumers which is termed as not cost-reflective. The president has since directed ZESCO to prepare a progressive electricity tariff schedule to reach full cost-reflective tariffs.
Recently ZESCO proposed to Energy Regulation Board (ERB) to increase electricity tariffs by over 50 percent for commercial, social and industrial users, while residential customers whose consumption is below 500 units (kWh) per month were spared and will continue paying the current tariff of K0.15 per kilo watt hour. It is therefore highly likely that these proposed tariffs will be go through following the President’s pronouncements.
ZESCO would urge that poor people will not be affected by the increased tariffs if they go through but one thing they forget is that the targeted business people do not consume electricity for themselves but it is their production which they simply calculate and add to the price of their goods and services at a profit for poor people to pay. Therefore, the cost of electricity is passed on to the poor while the rich (business people) makes it an opportunity to get more money and send their children to expensive schools, go for holidays and generally live a life far beyond the inflation rate.
On agriculture, the President is very much on point and I appreciate the work they are doing with the Minister of Agriculture Given Lubinda. The man is impressive on this front and I hope he will handle the fertilizer issues properly next year otherwise my tongue will twist. I just hope the DOCO in Central Province will follow his predecessor whom he has been working with to frustrate the e-voucher system as reported by ZV intelligence.
The President came good on ambitious infrastructure development to stop all procurement of, or the entering into contracts for, new works including in the road sector. However I was shocked that he is embarking on similar projects in the Copperbelt. Where will the USD$492 million come from to do the 400km road works (C-400) on the Copperbelt? I appreciate the job creation and the political mileage this will bring, but is this prudent?
In the same vein I wonder about the new airport to be constructed in Ndola at a cost of USD$397 Million, where will the money come from? To me this is a venture that should not be entertained at all, because beautiful as it may sound to the ears and imaginations, there is no need for a new airport if you look at the traffic of plans on Simon Mwansa Kampwepwe International Airport. Can someone show as a due diligence which was done to justify this project otherwise, it is a missed call.
I know hotels in the Copperbelt are barely surviving, if you want consult Christ Lumpa the owner of Savoy Hotel or check Mr. Kaoma from Moba Hotel, they can advise you about building these hotels at this new airport.
Rather than building new structures find investors or sweet-talk these business people in the copperbelt to enter into partnerships to appreciate the current infrastructure so that they attract more business if it is there.
For the airport just appreciate the existing one for now then use the money to revamp a company like Dunlop which used to make tyres because we have the market for tyres and you will create jobs and reduce on road carnage. You will also save forex by importing finished tyres and causing environmental challenges to dispose off these finished tyres being imported into Zambia.
I am happy that the President has consistently been speaking against corruption but he needs to do more than mere words. Since the PF came into power, especially under the leadership of Edgar Lungu, they have pardoned more corrupt people than they have convicted. Rupiah Banda is now a free man while Mutembo Nchito the prosecutor is on suspension.
I keep receiving information of corruption in my little office, albeit not having a wing of law enforcers to sniff corruption, what about the President with his sophisticated intelligence. I will not mention names today but many ministers knows how filthy their hands are. They can cheat the President who is treating them with kid-gloves but one day I will catch them pants down with my juju. It is evil to be eating millions of dollars while others are suffering, have conscious please.
The president did very well on this press briefing but he was not clinical and do not consider the poor. The President need to motivate sacrifices for the Country especially among the privileged. The sistuation is bad so the first thing is sacrifice. We must see the rich and privileged, especially the senior govt workers starting with the President himself parting away with something to benefit the poor directly.
Yes, fiscal consolidation but how much are we saving for the citizens to appreciate. It is okay to say, ministers will not travel but how much are we saving in that, because there might be no travels in the first place. At least if we suspend the newly introduced expense of D. Ministers traveling from the provinces to attend cabinet every two weeks, that is a lot of money to go buying computer text books in schools.
Diversification is a very loaded word which encompasses a lot of things and we need to stretch our minds to think beyond the obvious. Zambia has a lot of potentials but we need think-tanks than cheap political talkers.
The change of attitude contained in the speech of the President when he opened parliament need to be re-looked at. The Presidents keeps reminding people of what they have not done and committing themselves but people will not change unless they see him cracking the whip. If I were President Lungu I would have already started visiting some of these offices unannounced to see what time they come for work and how efficient they are.
Thinking through a number of issues, I realize that governing a nation is not easy and I applaud President Lungu for the efforts but I think he does not have a motivating team, think-tanks and committed people to help him. His people are more interested in making money for themselves in fear of next year’s elections. If I were him I would fire some of these selfish ministers enjoying Tax-payers money but doing very little. President Lungu still has the goodwill of the people so he need not to worry much about my uncle Chikwanda, he has done enough already.