Friday, January 02, 2009

(TIMES) CEEC to iron out bottlenecks

CEEC to iron out bottlenecks
By Business Reporter

THE Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) is working on intervention measures to address bottlenecks that have resulted in reduced applications for money under the empowerment programme. CEEC chairperson Jacob Sikazwe said the commission would work with various stakeholders to address some hurdles that have been identified in accessing the CEEC funds.

He was speaking in Lusaka yesterday at a media briefing. He said many would-be applicants had complained of the complex format of application forms, limited access to the forms in rural areas, and collateral conditions as some factors that had hindered their application for funds. So far, only 432 completed application forms have been received from the 29,139 forms distributed countrywide. Of the completed forms, only 81 have been processed.

“The CEEC has taken note of the issues raised and will put in place interventions to address the issues,” Mr Sikazwe said. He said the commission had embarked on a six-week provincial tour which began on December 22, to address the concerns. The CEEC is working with Zanaco, National Savings and Credit Bank, Finance Bank and Standard Chartered Bank to administer the funds. He noted that some districts did not have bank presence and that had affected the processing of the funds.

“We are also working on other modalities that include identifying institutions such as micro-credit institutions, non-governmental organisations, cooperatives and non-banking financial institutions to help administer the funds,” Mr Sikazwe said.
He said the issue of collateral was handled differently for each project and that it was important for applicants to realise that collateral allowed for a loan to be secured in the event of non-performance of a project.

The CEEC will also partner with market committees, cooperatives and associations, including cross-border associations, to ensure that their members accessed the money.
Early this week, Vice-President George Kunda said the Government was considering reviewing conditions for the CEEC to incorporate a component of social welfare fund to benefit groups that might not benefit because of failure to meet the stringent conditions.

Mr Kunda said this in Mkushi at the weekend in response to concerns that the CEEC would only benefit people who were already rich.

“The Citizens Economic Empowerment Fund is a new initiative of the Government and in similar respect, we want to review this idea so that we can see whether we can create a social welfare fund that can benefit vulnerable groups,” Mr Kunda said.
He stressed, however, that the culture of not repaying loans had compelled the Government to attach stringent conditions to the fund.

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