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Friday, 25 May 2007

A new helping hand?

Herman and I had previously blogged about how to ensure that Zambian graduates have equal accesss to jobs as foreigners. It seems Government has new ideas of its own - they have gone for selective banning of certain work permits. Permanent secretary of the ministry Ngosa Chisupa is quoted as saying "government will disqualify applications for work whose professional skills could be offered by Zambians".

I remain skeptical. For one thing I don't see how banning truck drivers helps indigenous "professionals" - presumably these are non-professional jobs. Secondly, even if this was extended to other jobs as Mr Chisupa intimates, I still think "banning" people is not the way forward - improving information between foreign companies of any sort and the Zambian graduates remains the best remedy.

2 comments:

  1. Given that I live in the US, here it is widely accepted that the "Teamsters" (a phrase dating back to horse-drawn transport, locally around a century hence, but rapidly becoming viable again given fuel pricing) are a disproportionately powerful trade union due to their ability to create widespread economical disruption through strikes and slow-downs. Therefore it is not surprising that this would be the first Zambian trade union to gain recognition in international disputes over external interference, nor that they would advocate for and achieve the most restrictive and protectionist form of government intervention before all other sectors of the economy.

    While I sympathize with truckers (teamsters) personally, (it is no stretch to say that some of my closest friends are truckers), from a macro-economic standpoint I have to say that this can only be a result of poor rail infrastructure. Well maintained rail out-competes trucking every time, as well it should.

    The recent Zambezi bridging project is likely to increase the political power of Zambian truckers as to my knowledge there is no rail component included in this expansion of Zambia's admittedly limited export options.

    I guess what I am getting at is that I would have included a Botswanan rail-link to the South African ports in the deal, because Zambian domestic bio-diesel is still along way off, and the prices aren't going down any time soon.

    The idea that this particular restiction will have any affect on hiring opportunities for Zambian tertiary graduates is laughable at best (though it wouldn't be the first time I saw masters grads driving a truck for better cash). I also agree that similar "banning" regulations as applied to higher education qualifications will only serve to reduce the paltry 1% of FDI Zambia now attracts as a landlocked nation despite world-renowned mineral resources.

    On a related subject I would also posit that the lack of adequate rail linkage to SADC seaports is the primary stumbling block in the way of otherwise obvious economic choice over COMESA. Dispute to this position, as with all others I advocate, is welcome and encouraged.

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  2. It sounds like the truckers have enormous lobbying power!
    I guess the silver lining is that “lobbying” appears to be working in Zambia. That is important in a participatory democracy, although it has its own distortions if the Government is not genuinely representive.

    Your point on rail is indeed valid.
    From a pure “cargo” perspective it should be rail, road then air.
    However from a passenger perspective, it’s probably air, road and then rail – purely because people either chose getting there quicker (air) or being in charge of their trip (road).

    So when we speak of ensuring intra and inter-regional “connectedness” – we probably have to consider it on various levels.

    A strategy of improving trade certainly should focus on rail as you have said.
    Again experience from other nations demonstrates this e.g. the British, Japanese, French experiences of which rail was critical to their development. And these nations have not land locked: what more for us who land locked?

    The problem with rail is that requires serious capital.
    It’s therefore a funding issue – but once a network is in place the benefits are limitless. A quick scan of the Fifth National Development Plan reveals little in this area.

    LPM spoke about infrastructure development, but that was uninspiring – see link below :

    http://zambian-economist.blogspot.com/2007/04/presidential-misses.html

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