Friday, February 08, 2008
By KASUBA MULENGA
SOME opposition members of Parliament (MPs) have welcomed the introduction of the windfall tax on copper mines but have urged Government to find alternative revenue measures in case of a disagreement over the new revenue regime. Nchanga MP, Wilbur Simuusa (PF), alleged on Tuesday that some mining companies had already started showing signs of resentment as they wondered what would happen to the mining agreements they signed with Government about six years ago. He was contributing to the motion on estimates of revenue and expenditure for 2008.
“If the mining companies refuse the new tax measures, do we have plan B? Let us save ourselves from embarrassment by finding alternative means of revenue,” Mr Simuusa said.
He urged Government to urgently find a solution to revenue problems which might arise from the mines before the country was embarrassed.
Luena MP, Charles Milupi (Independent), said although members of the House welcomed President Mwanawasa’s announcement about the introduction of the windfall tax on copper when he officially opened Parliament, they needed to see the figures, like the projected US$415 million income, in this year’s budget.
Matero MP, Faustina Sinyangwe (PF), said government should be careful when re-negotiating agreements with foreign investors in the mining industry.
“When negotiating with would-be investors, Government should do so with the heart to ensure that mineral royalties trickle down to the people,” she said.
Mrs Sinyangwe said mines should build schools, clinics and other social amenities like the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines, used to do.
Meanwhile, Mr Simuusa said the country needed a realistic and radical approach to attain the goals outlined in the Vision 2030.
When President Mwanawasa launched the Fifth National Development Plan and the Vision 2030, he said there was need to revamp the country’s industry and technology to attain meaningful development.
“What the President said were good plans. What they need is better implementation,” Mr Simuusa said.
And Mr Simuusa backed other members of the House in calling for an increase in the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
Earlier, Mfuwe MP, Mwimba Malama (PF), said CDF should be increased to K2 billion for rural constituencies and K3 billion for urban ones from the current K200 million for the country to attain meaningful development.
Mr Malama said an increase in CDF budgetary allocation would also reduce on regional and tribal finger pointing, as development would be moving at almost the same level.
And Mr Milupi said Government needed to go to rural areas to exploit natural resources like minerals and oil if this year’s budget theme “Unlocking Resources for Economic Development” was to be realised.
Mr Milupi said it was unfortunate that rural farmers had lost their capacity to grow crops because of adverse factors like the poor distribution of the Fertiliser Support Programme.
He said rural farmers also needed equipment to enhance crop production.