Saturday, September 19, 2009

Worst economic crisis may be over – Rupiah

Worst economic crisis may be over – Rupiah
Written by Chibaula Silwamba, George Chellah and Ernest Chanda
Saturday, September 19, 2009 5:25:09 PM

ZAMBIA’S economy is showing indications that the worst economic crisis may be over, President Rupiah Banda said yesterday. But Kafulafuta MMD member of parliament George Mpombo has described President Banda's speech as hollow.

And President Banda said he was pleased that while some media organisations exhibited unethical journalism, the majority remained professional.

Officially opening the fourth session of the 10th National Assembly in Lusaka, President Banda said the mining sector, which is the mainstay of the Zambian economy and was under severe constraints, was beginning to recover.

“This is largely due to the measures my government introduced in the 2009 budget and the rise in the copper prices. The mining industry has shown signs of recovery,” President Banda said.

“Today, Zambia’s economy is showing indications that the worst may be over. I am confident that the 2010 budget will further consolidate measures to cushion the Zambian economy against the effects of the global economic crisis. As a result of the measures government put in place, our economy is still expected to grow this year though with a reduced projected gross domestic product [GDP] of 4.3 per cent. The inflation rate is also expected to drop from 16.6 per cent in 2008 to 10 percent this year.”

He said the developments in the world financial markets continued to negatively impact the Zambian economy and that meant that his government must continue to implement measures to ensure that Zambia positioned itself to benefit from the recovery.

“Our overall financial performance and condition of our banking sector remained stable,” he said.

President Banda said the year 2010 would go down the annals of history as the year in which his administration implemented the change in the budget cycle.

“I am convinced that this change will improve the management of the budget since implementation of programmes will now begin in January, giving government a full year to implement its budget. It is my expectation that the nation will rise to the challenge of ensuring that this change is used to overcome the failure in the past to utilise all the funds,” he said.

“A recent debt sustainability analysis indicates that Zambia’s debt is sustainable in the midst of the world economic crunch.”

Still on the economy, President Banda said his government remained resolute in adhering to medium and long-term development planning instruments.

“In the medium term, the fifth national development plan 2006-2010 will be succeeded by the sixth national development plan 2011-2015, preparations of which have commenced and are expected to be launched in June 2010,” President Banda said. “By the year 2011, the Chambishi MFEZ [Multi Facility Economy Zone] alone, is expected to accommodate up to 60 zone enterprises with a projected output volume exceeding US $1.5 billion of which more than US $600 million will be exported. I encourage Zambians to take advantage of the opportunities to be created under this [MFEZ] initiative.”

On the media, President Banda said the government was considering privatising some government run and controlled media organisastions.

“…my government is considering a policy shift with regard to media ownership. My government is assessing the possibility of considering privatising some of the state owned media organisations. This decision helps in enhancing competition in the media industry,” President Banda said. “Government will continue to provide a conducive environment under which the media functions. I wish to commend those radio and television stations that have conducted themselves in a responsible and ethical manner in performing their duties. It is pleasing to note that while other media organizations have exhibited unethical journalism, the majority have remained professional. I congratulate them.”

President Banda said the government had engaged the media on the need for self-regulation and that consultations on the freedom of information bill had reached an advanced stage.

“I am calling upon members of the public to take keen interest in the development so that the proposed law meets their aspirations,” President Banda said. “In order to increase outreach and diversity of information, government has commenced the decentralisation of the print media to all provincial headquarters by procuring printing presses for the provinces and these machines will also be accessible to the members of the public.”

On the National Constitutional Conference (NCC), President Banda maintained that he had extended its mandate by four months.

“It is my hope that the men and women sitting on the NCC will sacrifice their time to enable them complete the exercise within this extension,” President Banda said.

On the electoral reform, President Banda said the government would ensure that the voters’ register was updated in readiness for the 2011 elections.

“I direct that a permanent mechanism be established for this exercise as provided for under the law,” he said.

And President announced he had decided to set up a liaison office at State House to deal with issues related to Zambians in the diaspora.

“In addition, I have directed the Minister of Finance to work with [people in] the diaspora to facilitate their participation in growing the economy through investment in projects of their choice,” President Banda said.

On corruption, President Banda threatened to fire corrupt government officials.

“Corruption continues to be a major concern to my government and indeed to all development-minded persons and institutions. This is more so given the recent revelations of mismanagement of public resources in some ministries. Fighting corruption remains a top priority of government,” he said.

President Banda said the Anti Corruption policy he recently launched would lay emphasis on proactive measures to prevent corruption from occurring and re-affirm the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) role as the lead institution in the fight against corruption.

He said the government would establish a Serious Frauds Unit under the ACC to specifically investigate complex corruption cases and an Independent Financial Intelligence Unit to monitor suspicious financial transactions.

“Forensic systems shall be developed and procurement audits shall be undertaken in all major spending ministries, provinces and agencies. I wish to reiterate my earlier warning to all public officers including members of my government that I will not hesitate to take action against those found wanting,” President Banda warned.

On tourism, President Banda said the government had this year embarked on the rehabilitation of the Chipata-Mfuwe road leading to the South Luangwa National Park at a cost of K200 billion.

“The South Luangwa National Park is another priority area for tourism development. However, poor accessibility to and within the area continues to pose a serious constraint to further development of tourism. Government, therefore, has this year embarked on rehabilitating the Chipata-Mfuwe road leading to the national park at a cost of K200 billion,” President Banda said.

He said the tourism sector continued to rank high on the government’s development agenda as it held great potential in the diversification of the economy.

President Banda said the government would embarked on targeted and focused development of priority tourism areas with particular emphasis on the Kasaba-bay and Livingstone areas.

On agriculture, President Banda said K471 billion had been given to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to purchase farm produce.

“I am happy to note that Zambia managed to produce enough food to meet its requirements and surplus to export,” President Banda said. “Government is aware that a lot of food goes to waste because of poor storage. Therefore, government through the FRA is rehabilitating silos and storage sheds to ensure that food produced is properly stored.”

He said government was concerned about crop levies imposed by councils on produce being transported across district boundaries.

“Since farmers have difficulties in finding markets for their produce, these levies only serve to complicate the marketing of crops. I have directed the Minister of Local government and Housing to abolish the levies,” President Banda said. “In 2010, government will focus on strengthening disease control programmes through among others the creation of disease-control zones.”

He also observed that the Fertiliser Support Programme (FSP) in its current form had weaknesses in implementation modalities and needed to be reviewed.

President Banda said in this farming season, the FSP would cover 500,000 small-scale farmers as compared to 250,000 covered last season.

On education, President Banda said the opening up of the education sector had brought about substandard institutions.

“There is concern with the many illegal and substandard learning institutions that have sprung up,” he observed. “To address the shortage of teacher accommodation, 280 houses are under construction in various parts of Zambia.”

On health, President Banda said drawing on the success of the Itezhi-Tezhi district mobile services initiative, which received an award from the United Nations for its outstanding performance, his government was further exploring the feasibility of delivering more mobile health services.

He also said a stretch of 175 kilometres on the Zambia-Malawi border was physically marked this year and the same would be done on the border with Mozambique.

“It is important that councils which have ceased to plan development under their jurisdiction resulting in the mushrooming of unplanned settlements fulfill their obligations,” he said.

He also expressed disappointment at chieftaincy succession wrangles and called for amicable resolution of such disputes.

President Banda also announced that he had set up a team, headed by Dr Kenneth Kaunda, to spearhead tree planting exercise.

He also directed that public buildings in the country should be built in a way that would make it easier for the physically challenged to move around.

President Banda commended defence force personnel and assured that the government would build more houses for them.

On labour, President Banda said the need to create jobs need to be balanced with productivity.

“The government is concerned with the spate of wild-cat strikes that the nation has experienced in the recent past,” President Banda said.

President Banda advised public workers, parliamentarians and ministers not to ask for unrealistic salary increments.

But later in an interview, Mpombo said President Banda's speech lacked seriousness.

“It’s hollow, there is nothing significantly new. It’s more or less a repetition of last year’s speech… I think it has no punch. It’s a speech that is suffering from multiple fractures; a multiple compound fractured speech, it’s not inspiring at all. I would want to describe it as a speech that is very short on inspiring people,” Mpombo said.

Asked if he was satisfied with President Banda’s claim that he was committed to fighting corruption, Mpombo said President Banda was yet to convince people about his commitment to the corruption fight.

“You see, so far he has to convince the country that he has got that punch or determination. He has got to convince the Zambians and a lot of people, I think a lot of people are not inspired,” he said. “My thinking is that the President is not being taken serious by his action, because even on good governance he is promoting political lawlessness, taking the country backwards. So I think very few people would take him seriously.”

And when asked what sort of a speech he was anticipating from the President, Mpombo said he expected a focused speech.

“An electrifying speech, speech focused on economic issues; an issue-based speech that would inspire the international community, a speech that would have outlined good measures particularly in agriculture; because you see, in agriculture it’s not about fertiliser alone. Agriculture is good road infrastructure, agriculture is good policies, agriculture is about irrigation. This is a very narrow aspect of just to say bags of fertiliser, that’s not agriculture. Agriculture is about good marketing policies,” said Mpombo.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home