Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Wednesday December 19, 2007 [03:00]
Economic growth should not be for the sake of showing favourable economic statistics. If economic growth does not result in improved living standards for our people it is useless, it is of no value. All our economic activities should be aimed at giving our people a sense of dignity that comes with having a solid roof over their heads, running water, electricity, education and health services and all the other services required in an organised society.
All our economic activities must be targeted at meeting the needs and wishes of the masses of our people, especially the workers and the poor. We must at all times act in accordance with the needs and wishes of the masses. All that our government does must start from their needs and not from the desire of any individual, however well-intentioned.
The concerns raised by our finance minister Ng'andu Magande and outgoing Norwegian Ambassador to Zambia Terje Vigtel raise serious questions about the way our government is being run and the way the affairs of our people are being managed. It doesn't profit anyone to record some good economic growth in the country when at the same time poverty is deepening. This raises the question of where the money is going.
And we are glad that Magande is being very honest on this issue at the risk of antagonising himself with his fellow ministers and the appointing authorities. But this is the way things should be - obligations to the people should take precedence over being nice to one’s government colleagues and to the appointing authorities. We must be responsible in the use of money made available to meet the needs of our people.
We should never forget that no matter how good the economic indicators may look, if they are not translated into the provision of the basic services to our people, they will mean nothing. There is nothing which makes people more appreciative of a government than that it should be able to deliver services.
It is difficult to understand how ten million dollars meant for the treatment of livestock diseases in Western Province was used because there is nothing on the ground to show for it.
Ten million dollars is a lot of money which, if spent properly in such a poor province as Western Province, should leave a big impact and its results should not be difficult to see. It is clear to us that we will not achieve much as a nation if we do not work hard at organisation and approach practical problems using our own heads. This may seem to be an abstract and rather vague opinion but it is something very important.
Very few of our economic gains will reach our people if corruption is not curbed. In all walks of life in Zambia, corruption is rampant. This malady has turned into an epidemic, taking into its grip the whole nation. Politics is perhaps worst affected by it since politics is the last resort of a scoundrel.
Unscrupulous and immoral ways to accumulate wealth and usurp political power are the order of the day.
Today very few of our politicians don't consider it their birthright to grease their palms with public money obtained in all sorts of ways, including dubious government allowances and contracts. If leaders of our nation, the representatives of our people and public servants are corrupt, abusing and misusing public funds, how can honest living be expected of a common man?
Government business is certainly not conducted in an efficient, effective and orderly manner.
Government contracts are not being granted to the most honest, competent and fair businessmen. They usually go to the most corrupt and shrewd dealers who don't usually deliver but are generous at sharing their loot with our representatives and public servants.
These are the ones who don't hesitate to make huge donations to those in government and the ruling party. The result of all this corruption is that a public project that would generally cost, say one million dollars would be completed for not less than 15 or 20 million dollars. Where is this type of money going to come from in a poor country like ours?
Magande and Ambassador Vigtel's concerns are well supported by the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee reports.
But the question is: Why have things turned out this way? Is it a question of lack of a serious and committed leadership? Or is it simply a question of competence of the political leadership of our country? We believe it's a combination of all these things.
The civil and public service is full of very senior officials who have been given an opportunity by the President to make money over their three-year contracts.
Most of them are at sea with their jobs because they don't have the experience of running such big public organisations with such huge budgets. For some, their only qualifications for these jobs are their connections with the President or those close to him.
Instead of the lives of the masses of our people, whom these officials are paid to serve, improving, what we are seeing is a disproportionate improvement in the lives of these officials. They cannot really be said to be servants of the people - they are the masters; the primary beneficiaries of all this economic growth.
There is need for the so-called servants of the people to serve the people wholeheartedly and never for a moment divorce themselves from the people and their needs; they should in all cases proceed from the interests of the people and not their own self-interests.
This is what it means to be servants of the people. Their duty is to hold themselves responsible to the people. Every word, every act and every policy of theirs must conform to the people's interests.
To make Zambia prosperous needs intense effort, which includes among other things, the effort to practice strict economy and combat waste - the policy of building up our country through diligence and frugality. The principle of diligence and frugality should be observed in everything.
Thrift should be the guiding principle in our government's expenditure. It should be made clear to all civil servants and public workers that corruption and waste are very serious crimes. Our campaigns against corruption have achieved some results, but further efforts are required.