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Thursday, 31 January 2008

ZIPPA Press Release on ZESCO

ZESCO’s responsibilities to the public

How far, if at all, should ZESCO be held responsible for damage caused by the recent nation-wide power failures? The answer to this question must await the findings of the enquiry announced last week by the Energy Regulation Board. But this is the right time to say that the enquiry should be open to members of the public, who should be free to attend and to give evidence. Its proceedings and findings should on no account be kept confidential to the ERB and the government. Nothing must be hidden or swept under the carpet. The long-suffering public is entitled to full information.

Nor is it too early to comment on the company’s treatment of its customers. Even if the evidence given to the enquiry exonerates ZESCO from negligence or technical incompetence, there can be no excuse for the present utter disregard of customers. It is perfectly possible to programme load shedding, and to announce publicly which areas will be affected and for how long. Users of electricity must receive warning, so they can minimize inconvenience and dislocation, and protect products and equipment.

As for harm suffered by customers, whether caused by equipment failure or deliberate power cuts, there can be no question of the utility claiming immunity. For anyone to state that ZESCO will not pay compensation is extremely presumptuous. The law, quite rightly, gives no blanket protection to suppliers of electricity.

Zambia Institute for Public Policy Analysis

Murray Sanderson
Executive Secretary

29th January 2008

Lifting the veil....the 2008 Agriculture Budget

If you want to understand what this year's budget means for agriculture, this presentation is a good start - 2008 Agricultural Sector Budget Analysis: Comments from FSRP cooperating with MACO/ACF/CSO. Presented at Agricultural Consultative Forum Breakfast Meeting: What is in the 2008 National Budget for Zambian Agriculture? (Pamodzi Hotel, Lusaka. Jan 30, 2008)

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Exposing corrupt politicians....lessons from Brazil

Over the holidays, I read a new paper that discusses the Brazilian approach to fighting corruption, through randomised audits and public dissemination of performance.

In 2003, as part of an anti-corruption program, Brazil’s federal government began to select municipalities at random to audit their expenditures of federally-transferred funds. The findings of these audits were then made publicly available and disseminated to media sources.

Using a dataset of corruption constructed from the audit reports, the authors compare the electoral outcomes of municipalities audited before versus after the 2004 elections, with the same levels of reported corruption. They show that the release of the audit outcomes had a significant impact on incumbents’ electoral performance, and that these effects were more pronounced in municipalities where local radio was present to divulge the information.

Their results highlight the value of having a more informed electorate and the role played by local media in enhancing political selection.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Zambia Budget 2008

The Finance Minister, Mr Magande delivered the 2008 National Budget on Friday, apparently under emergence power from a generator. Lusaka was under the shadow of darkness due to persistent power cuts that continue to bring the nation to standstill. I'll speak on that issue in due course, especially in relation to the hospitality industry! In case you have not read Friday's budget, you can access it here.

The President's opening speech to Parliament two weeks ago pre-emptied the key budget announcement on the new mining tax regime, leaving us with the only notable surprises being the removal of the VISA waiver and a a small reduction in VAT from 17.5% to 16% - probably the wrong tax to reduce anyway if we really want to help domestic producers. That said, here is what Magande is promising you for 2008:

68. Mr. Speaker, against this background, the Government's macroeconomic objectives for 2008 are to:

(a) achieve real GDP growth of at least 7 percent;

(b) bring down end-year inflation to no more than 7 percent;

(c) limit domestic borrowing to 1.2 percent of GDP; and

(d) maintain the coverage of gross international reserves at no less than 3.6 months of import cover.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Zambians abroad...on Zambia

Its common knowledge that Zambians abroad get limited opportunities to influence matters at home. For example, Zambians abroad cannot vote and are not taking part in the constitution process (the NCC). A few weeks ago the President noted that Zambians who have been abroad for more than 10 years cannot even contest for the Presidency. Its therefore encouraging to see the latest journal of the Zambia Institute for Public Policy Analysis (ZIPPA) cover articles from Zambian experts around the world. The ZIPPA quarterly journal is circulated to all parliamentarians, government ministries and other important Zambian bodies. To my knowledge this is the first time that Zambians abroad have come together to write on a common topic. We applaud ZIPPA for putting this journal together and hope for more in the future.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

The Next Billion...

The Boston Consulting Group have produced a fascinating article called Decoding the Next Billion Consumers , which argues there's large consumer segment in the developing world that is just waiting to be tapped. I watched Bill Gates last week touching on the same issue at the World Economic Forum (Davos).

Back.. and still blogging....

I am now officially back to full blogging after my long break and full Zambian wedding!!!!! I hope my new status as a married man will improve the quality of the blogging...not quite sure how, but bashi bukombe told me that everything gets better after you are married..lets hope thats the case for New Zambia in 2008!!

My thanks to those who have continued the exchanges on the blog since Dec 24th. Unfortunately during my time in Zambia, I did not get a chance to get involved in the many fascinating exchanges taking place on the blog. The persistent power cuts facing the nation coupled with the continuous unreliable nature of internet access in Zambia limited my ability to access the internet. When you have traditional and church counselling, amatebetos and then the wedding, all packed within three weeks, you need other things outside your control to go smoothly. Its 2008, and as I write in my flat in London, many Zambians are now sleeping without power tonight. We have 10% of Africa's water resources, but many Zambians tonight cannot even access water in their homes. More than ever, our nation needs all of us to get involved in the debate on how to deliver a new and better Zambia!