Monday, May 20, 2013

Put measures in place to win credibility, Mutesa urges govt
By Fridah Nkonde and Kabanda Chulu
Sun 19 May 2013, 14:00 CAT

GOVERNMENT should urgently put in place measures to win credibility and avoid the chaos which the removal of subsidies is expected to unleash, says ZED president Fred Mutesa.

Commenting on the removal of subsidies on fuel and maize sold to millers, Dr Mutesa said every major policy reform was bound to produce winners and losers.

"It will always be a delicate balancing act. It is to be expected that losers will resist unpalatable measures while those who stand to gain from such measures will celebrate. The PF government has removed fuel subsidies and announced intentions to do the same with maize subsidies. These measures will face fierce resistance from the ordinary people who anticipate their already depleted pockets to be hit hard," he said.

"At the same time, government will strain to justify that these moves are necessary if resources are to be made available to other needy areas.

Those who lived in the 80s and 90s will recognise that we are essentially back to the times of structural adjustment and the austerity which goes with it. It takes astute political acumen to manage this process. When the IMF tried to impose these measures in Africa in the 1980s, the continent was rocked by social upheavals that saw a number of governments tumble. That is not the way we want to go. The PF is caught between the rock and hard place."

Dr Mutesa, Zambians for Empowerment and Development president, said there were things which the government could do to win credibility and avoid the chaos which its austerity measures threatened to unleash.
"The first thing is to sequence these difficult policy measures in a way that reduces the social cost on the vulnerable groups. The shock therapy that government is trying to administer is unlikely to leave many Zambians standing. If anything, government will just build up social resentment against itself," said Dr Mutesa.

"Secondly, government should be seen to be in the forefront of belt tightening. Citizens will be hard to convince that government has no money if at the same time the President keeps appointing defecting opposition politicians as deputy ministers resulting in unnecessary expenses since they have to be maintained at a great cost."

And NAREP national secretary Jevan Kamanga has urged the government to make people understand the new developments because 'good' policies can cause destruction if not properly implemented.

He said it was saddening that the government had continued to make decisions without regard to the impact they would have on the people.

"These changes may be necessary but the rate at which they are being implemented is simply unbearable for the majority of Zambians. We cannot understand why the PF administration has decided to inflict more suffering on its citizens who are already struggling to make ends meet. It is worrying to see a government that is willing to donate two million litres of fuel to another country yet refuse to better manage the removal of subsidies in order to cushion the impact on its own citizens," said Kamanga.

"The PF administration claims that it is spending too much on subsidizing citizens yet it is prepared to spend colossal amounts on 'engineered' by-elections and a bloated cabinet. We advise government to concentrate on policies that will better the lives of people and not bow down to pressure from international institutions which have no heart for the poor. Even a good policy can cause destruction if not properly implemented. Government must engage the people and help them understand and transform before making decisions that have a negative impact on their well being."

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