The rate of inflation has risen from around 7% when President Lungu’s was elected to 21.1%. A rate we have not seen in Zambia for more than 10 years. This, in simple terms, means the fritters you used to buy for 50 ngwee are now being sold for K1.50. The unacceptable price rises under the PF are hurting the majority of our people and are the result of a lack of vision and bad leadership coming from State House. Mealie meal was 35 kwacha, now people are buying mealie meal for 100 kwacha a bag.
The negative impacts of this inflation range from increasing malnutrition, escalating inequality, and diminishing local business competitiveness.
There is a reason the UPND puts the economy and economic turnaround at the centre of our plans for the country. This is because a healthy, growing economy is the only sustainable source of wealth, jobs and funding for social services across the country.
So how would the UPND fix inflation? How can we bring down the cost of living in Zambia? Our response to such a challenge starts with a defined vision that will quickly be followed up with a number of targeted interventions.
We would first inform our solution by taking a closer look at the driving factors. In this case food price increases are a big part of the picture and here there is a lot of scope for making changes that will feed through into lower inflation and reduced prices.
One of our first interventions would be targeted at increasing productivity, so that each farmer is able to produce more output at a lower unit cost. Interventions would include enhanced input distribution, reintroduction of farming training centres and the provision of extension services for both livestock and crops. It is scientifically proven that some varieties of maize can produce 10 tons per hectare (200 bags of 50kg maize) against the national average of 2.3 tons (46 bags) a hectare for the same amount of inputs. The other important aspect is eliminating wastage. Under the PF prices have often needlessly risen when ton upon ton of maize has gone to waste. In fact, under the PF in 2012/2013 alone the amount of FRA maize spoilage was estimated to be 32%, which equates to some US$450million.
We would also prioritise the promotion of value-addition industries. Not only would this contribute to growth, raise revenues and create jobs, but producing goods locally such as canned fish and cereals would reduce our reliance on imports and reduce inflationary pressures. Actually Zambia would be an exporter of finished and not raw products. This will create jobs and more revenue for Government through VAT and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) due to increased employment and better salaries and conditions of service.
These are just two examples of interventions that would bring multiple benefits, including a downward pressure on prices. For success there must be vision followed by action, but for now we continue to see little evidence of either.