A fiercely independent article in the Sunday Times (government owned) argues that emerging problems in the Zambian economy are not receiving the attention they deserve, with the blame lying squarely on the Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, the minister of Finance and the governor of the Bank of Zambia (BoZ). Excerpt:
.......In the previous article, we showed that due to serious conflicts of interests in the FRA board composition, price manipulation and monopolistic tendencies, or collusion cannot be prevented by that body. Without going too deeply into the ineffectiveness of the FRA, the worrying clouds over the national economy are not receiving the attention these clouds deserve.
The three leading persons in facing the worries are the minister of Commerce, Trade
and Industry, the minister of Finance and the governor of the Bank of Zambia (BoZ). Let us see what they have been doing and should be doing to assure us Zambians that the national economy is being looked after in our interest which is to say, shortages, exorbitant prices, inflation, exchange rates, jobs and prosperity are all under constant review to ensure stability.
In the old days price control, supply of commodities (e.g. sugar, mealie meal, petroleum products, wheat flour, bread e.t.c.) were under the overview of the ministries. It is only price control which has been abolished by statute but in place has been established the Zambia Competition Commission (ZCC) under the Fair Trading and Competition Act with wide powers. These powers including regulating economic activities to prevent cartels, abuse of monopoly position and uncompetitive
In short whether it is the FRA, Zesco, water and sanitation service company, bread, meal and flour prices and so on, the ministry through the ZCC, Zambia Bureau of Standards and its licensing powers should and can ensure availability of goods and services at fair prices regularly. It may need to discuss with or bring to the attention of other ministries and bodies but it should not be a by-stander. The development of vertical integration (Zesco and Zambia Sugar for instance) should not be allowed to continue to distort the economic balance as they behave exactly in a manner which is against the national interest.
Some questions: how much stock is carried to prevent panic buying or price manipulation for such items as petroleum, maize, wheat, rice, beans and so on? How many months would the stocks last at normal consumption without pushing the prices up? Which division in the ministry supervises this activity —monitoring and regulating? The levels of these stocks should be subjected to regular review by Cabinet or a Cabinet committee. Although the ministries of Agriculture, Energy and water are production units, it is commerce, trade and industry which should be greatly involved in preventing what is happening in other countries: protests by farmers and consumers, go slows by truck drivers, unaffordable prices of basic food stuffs, manipulation of prices and warning others in Government against activities or decisions which endanger stability and availability of goods at fair prices in the nation.
The Minister of Commerce Trade and Industry should take time off from hob nobbing with foreign investors and address these concerns in concert with others in Government if necessary.......