Tuesday, January 01, 2008
By Florence Bupe
Tuesday January 01, 2008 [03:00]
LET us make poverty our sworn enemy as we enter the new year, former information minister Vernon Mwaanga has advised. Giving his reflections on the year 2007 yesterday, Mwaanga said although Zambia had recorded limited successes particularly at macroeconomic level, there were also a number of failures and disappointments for ordinary citizens.
“2007 has been a year of mixed blessings. We have witnessed limited successes, particularly at macroeconomic level, but it has also been a year of failure and disappointments. We have witnessed a growing Ramadan of discontent among poor people who feel we are not doing enough to address their needs,” he said.
Mwaanga said the country had recorded significant statistical achievements, but empahsised that there was need to do more to meaningfully reduce poverty levels.
“During the last year, we also experienced statistical achievements by way of the single digit inflation rate, exchange rate stability and enhanced GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth. However, poverty levels in the country have remained disturbingly high,” Mwaanga said. “I’ve always accepted that the fight against poverty is not going to be a sprint run, it’s going to be a marathon. So it’s important to get fundamentals in place and do more to fight poverty.”
Mwaanga warned that it was not in order to leave the fight against poverty to cooperating partners but that their efforts should only be complementary.
“Our cooperating partners can only help but as Zambians, we need to do more to address the problem of poverty and glaring inequalities among our people. Statistics show us that a great majority of our people are poorer now than they were at independence, and this is not a credit to all of us collectively,” Mwaanga said. “The economic trickle down has been painfully disappointing. No matter how successful the economy may be, if it does not deliver the basic needs such as food and employment, the people will become disillusioned and angry.”
Mwaanga recommended that this year, the government should focus on beefing up resources in social sectors such as education, health and housing infrastructure.
“The struggle for economic independence should be about bridging the gap between pronouncements and achievements. We need to tone down the trumpets of pronouncements and focus on achievements. If we don’t practically address the growing poverty levels, we risk losing the gains that have been made,” he said.
And Mwaanga observed that the country has registered progress on the political scene.
“I must accept that one of the major achievements is the constitutional making process which is in progress. I must, however, urge those mandated to draw up the country’s constitution to build on this progress that has been made as we enter this new year. As we embark on the process, it is also important for our leadership to show high levels of maturity,” he advised.
He reiterated that Zambia needed a good constitution that would protect its people long after its architects were gone.
“The people who are making the constitution will not always be there, so it’s important that they put aside personal interests and concentrate on coming up with a constitution that will protect every Zambian at every level of society,” said Mwaanga.