Friday, June 15, 2007
I have the following suggestions to turn Zambia around though. It isn't going to be 'easy', and it isn't going to be quick, but it will be dramatic. This manifesto concists of three simple points:
1) Government Reform
2) Economic Reform
3) Land Reform
1) Government Reform
Decentralize government. Most modern nations funnel half of their revenues into local government. Unlike this government, which seems to think a lot of unfunded mandates, budgets as well as responsibilities should be decentralized. I imagine a government system, where there are:
- 350 local government units, of
- 30,000 people each, receiving
- $1million (or more) per year, to do the following:
d) public amenities
- take basic services out of the hands central government politicians
- create government units small enough to sidestep tribalism or regionalism
- take tribalism out of the national debate by making it irrelevant in the political arena
- boost local economies, as $1 million will be spent on an anual basis
- bring government close to the people, as unlike MPs, all council business is done locally
- make healthcare and education universally available
- sidestep waste of resources at the ministerial level
- make government directly accountable for local decisions
- enable participatory budgeting
- ensure similar services being available nationwide, irrespective of the council in question
- slow down or prevent urbanisation
- help spread economic opportunity equally across the country
- prevent epidemic outbreaks related to trash collection or contaminated water
- leave some money available to solve local issues
- expedite paperwork, so that licenses, etc. can be picked up at the local council
- shorten the time it takes to set up a business
How money would be made available:
1) dismantle central government
Right now, Zambia has about 29 ministries. Most countries have about 10-12. The problem comes in the thinking that central government can solve local problems, when there are huge barriers to that happening. However, it is very easy for the President to, instead of solving the problem, simply be seen to be doing something by creating another ministry. Look how serious I am about women's issues, I have just created a Ministry for Women's Affairs. But look at the same time, how unwilling the President is to make money available at the local level. Further more, every ministry has one minister (usually elevated to Cabinet Minister), 2 deputy ministers, a permanent secretary. Then, there are district commissioners, and a whole host political positions.
2) Combating Corruption
Track the money. The government should at any time know where it's money is. Both income and expenditures should be carefully monitored and should be published on a regular basis. The prices paid for government expenditures should be monitored and made available to the public, as should government contracts. This way, the minsister or council leader can be held accountable.
3) The Mines
The mines must start paying their fair share. What is more, new deposits should no longer be sold to mining companies, but should stay in the hands of the state, to be exploited on behalf of the government, on a cost only basis. That way, the state will benefit maximally from the country's natural resources.
Apart from making sure that 1/2 or more of national revenues ($1.1 billion in 2004) are spent all around the country, and boosting local economies, there are many, many advantages over the current system. The 30,000 people size means that any notion of region or even tribe are done away with. 30,000 people is simply too small to pander to any of Zambia's 72 tribes, 9 provinces or 4 regions.
I would say that money should be collected and disbursed to both local and central government by the ZRA, which should have it's own financial police, and should routinely monitor all local government expenditures.
There should checks and balances in the system, like monitoring of local government expenditures, but also by democratically electing council leaders.
In two words, the Zambian government is top heavy. There are (I have counted) 29 ministries. Every ministry has 1 minister, 2 deputy ministers, a permanent secretary, etc. The Ministry of Local Government receives more state money than all local councils combined. And to what end? Do these 29 ministries make Zambia the bests governed country in the world? Or are 80% of the people living on less than a dollar per day?
The massive concentration on central government and government from the ministries must end, and make place for government through local government. I hope people will bring this up whenever a president creates another ministry to cater to some political hot topic issue.
2) Economic Reform
The state should own all natural resources. The time for the colonial era practice of selling concessions should be over. In fact, it would be best if selling concessions was banned all over Africa. Because this is how neocolonial elites are created and sustained. It doesn't just pander to corruption, it is corruption. Instead, the state should maintain ownership of the mines and in the very least the minerals, while exploitation should be done by private companies, preferrably Zambian, but international if necessary. These companies must run without politial appointments, and should be payed on a cost only basis, with small incentives as benchmark payments.
However, the present situation, where foreign companies own Zambia's wealth, are simply leaving the people and the country poor, and standing on the world's economic sidelines. As we all know and can attest to. This has to change. Selling off the mines was a criminal act, treasonous, and should be reversed immediately. (A massive windfall tax, strict enforcement of labour laws and environmental laws, go-slow actions on companies that will not comply, there are a myriad of legal and non-violent options for getting the mines back.)
I estimate that every year, Zambia is missing out on $1.6 billion in lost copper and cobalt sales. Compare that to the government's income of $1.1 billion in tax revenues (mostly from the huge PAYE sweated out of the workers of the country and massive, stifling taxes on legal businesses), and $600 million in donor money (now there is a humiliating term if ever there was one - Zambia is giving much more to the world than it is receiving, and yet one would never know it looking at the size of donor aid in the national budget; and forgetting the implications for national sovereignty that go with it).
Indigenous business is being stifled by massive taxation, yet foreign companies are given decade long tax hollidays to set up shop in Zambia - which neatly gets back to the original issue of the braindrain, and why this is a symptom, not a cause.
3) Land Reform
- land redistribution
80% of Zambia's agricultural land is not under cultivation, making it a major potential growth industry, one that should be exploited by ordinary Zambians, not multinational corporations. We should strive for a position where every present day subsistance farmer has access to 100 hectares, instead of the present 2-3 hectares. Less than 90% of Zambia's agricultural land is under irrigation, and yet Zambia has access to 10% of Africa's fresh water resources and is even named after one of Africa's greatest rivers.
One hundred hectares allowes a farmer and his family to earn $10,000 per year or more, from just growing staple crops, using only 50 hectares.
(Good land produces 2 tonnes of maize per hectare, which I think is still sold for $200 per tonne. 2 x 50 x $200 = $20,000, and presuming half of that is spent on operating costs, that would leave a family with $10,000 per year; compare that with the average annual wage of $280 and that would be a huge step up.)
This would have the effect of distributing wealth and wealth creation into the country side; it would eliminate poverty; it would create the need for for semi-professional jobs (doctors, laywers, accountants, mechanics, veterinarians, suppliers of inputs, teachers) in the countryside; it would slow or stop urbanisation; (in combination with a good food storage/distribution network) it would eliminate famine; it would turn Zambia into a food exporting country.
Obviously, these farmers would need some startup help, mainly with access to machinery and some education, but these businesses would be inherently profitable. There would also be more than enough room for expansion into dairy farming, cattle herding, agroforrestry, etc.
Also, only a tiny percentage of arable land is irrigated, with the rest depending on rainfall. There are two sustainable alternatives to rainfed agriculture. One, riverine irrigation - Zambia has 10% of Africa's fresh water resources. Two, rainwater catchment systems. I would suggest something like Keyline, as well as the use of swales (strategically dug shallow ditches), which slow the movement of water across the land. If you compare a rainforrest and a desert, what you are looking at is not good soil versus bad soil, but slow movement of water versus fast movement of water across the land. Plants are great at absorbing water, but the soil (humus) is even better. If land is systematically logged with water, drainage becomes very slow, vegetation can grow and protect the soil even more, and poor soil becomes rich soil.
This could be a huge works project, that would do a lot to alleviate the massive unemployment.
To get back to the land issue - the whole issue at the ministry of lands is I think hugely important, but it is also a minor issue when compared to actual land distribution. Is the situation in Zambia really so different than that in Zimbabwe - or Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Namibia or South Africa? There has to be a distribution of (unused) land to the poor subsistence farmers, and without pay. This would be a near instant solution to a lot of economic problems. Obviously, there would have to be a continuous monitoring of possible bottlenecks in the agricultural production process (land, machinery, fertilizer, marketing, transportation, etc.) but it would be a huge new beginning.
Lastly, I think that the rest of the state's money should be used to create infrastructure - roads, bridges, large scale irrigation, etc. This would make business in the country much more feasible, and it would create huge mass employment opportunities. And none of these will come from 'foreign investors'. As the MMD, UPND and even PF seem to believe.
The above have cronicled most of the Zambia's economic/governmental inefficiencies. This is where the real opportunities lie. The waiting is only for someone who will put all of the above into action.
NOW, WHO IS GOING TO MAKE POLITICAL CAPITAL OUT OF ALL THESE OPPORTUNITIES??? :)
You have 4 years to set up a party, and run on this simple 3 point platform for the 2011 elections.
For some miraculous reason, none of the political parties are willing to go this far. They are all satisfied with their ascendance to power, without a clue what they are going to do with that power that will make a huge and positive difference to the country. Which is why people cannot make a real distinction between them. And also why there was no policy debate during the last elections.