Let me present an AGENDA of the national priorities which potential leaders need to espouse in order to deserve the precious votes of Zambians. I compiled the AGENDA hoping to secure enough financial and material resources to contest the forthcoming presidential by-election.
Priority 1: Existing Projects and Programs
The new leaders would need to adopt and implement all the national projects and programs that were started or planned by previous governments in Central Province, Copperbelt Province, Eastern Province, Luapula Province, Lusaka Province, Northern Province, North-Western Province, Southern Province, and Western Province.
They would also need to honor all bilateral and multilateral agreements, conventions and protocols that have been consented to by the current and previous Zambian governments with countries and institutions within the African Union and beyond.
Priority 2: A Smaller National Government
There is a need to perform existing and planned government functions with fewer Cabinet Ministers, and to abolish the positions of Deputy Minister, Provincial Minister, Provincial Permanent Secretary, and District Commissioner. There is also a need to initiate restrictions on leaders’ trips to foreign countries. And, among many other cost-cutting measures, we need to reduce the number of Zambia’s foreign embassies by having clusters of countries to be served by single embassies.
Besides, we should not entertain any calls for the creation of the position of Prime Minister.
The savings to be realised from the cost-cutting measures should be invested in improving education and training, healthcare services, infrastructure, crime-fighting, and agricultural production and food security.
We also need to apply the savings to be realised from getting rid of meaningless top-level positions in the national government on employing more teachers and healthcare personnel, and on improving their conditions of service.
Besides, we need to ensure that retirees and retrenchees from the civil service and privatised state companies are promptly paid their overdue terminal benefits. It is high time we made it possible for them to enjoy the fruits of their labor!
We need to create a smaller and more efficient government that will not overburden taxpayers or resort to heavy borrowing of funds to finance the provision of public services. In other words, we need to rescue our country from its current addiction to loans. We can, therefore, not wait to embark on the process of creating a government that will live within its means!
Priority 3: Decentralisation of Power
We should decentralise economic and decision-making power to provinces by ensuring that dis-tricts and provinces are administered by elected district mayors, provincial governors, provincial police commanding officers, and provincial prisons commanding officers. We need to make it possible for citizens nationwide to assume and exercise greater authority over the socio-economic affairs of their communities.
There is a need for citizens to elect leaders in their respective districts and provinces rather than have leaders like District Commissioners, Provincial Ministers and Provincial Permanent Secretaries imposed on them by the central government!
Besides, such decentralisation of power would make it possible for districts and provinces to function as nurseries for national leaders.
Priority 4: Free Life-Saving Healthcare
We should provide free life-saving healthcare to all Zambians that would be respectful, that would recognise personal dignity, and that would adequately provide for personal privacy. Besides, healthcare facilities and personnel are in serious need of a government that would really address their needs and expectations with respect to medical supplies and equipment, housing, transportation, salaries and allowances, and retirement benefits.
In all, there is a pressing need for leaders who are committed to waging a vicious and relentless war against HIV/AIDS, malaria, cholera, diarrhea, cancer, tuberculosis, whooping cough, and other deadly diseases.
Priority 5: Free Formal Education
It is essential for government leaders to abolish examination fees on inauguration day as an initial step in the provision of accessible education for all Zambians. Besides, there is a need to abolish Grade 7 and Grade 9 elimination examinations within 1 year of assuming office, and to provide for free education through Grade 12 at least.
In March 2007, the National Assembly recognised the need for such a policy by supporting calls to phase out Grade 7 and Grade 9 final examinations. But given the current bloated national government, free education from Grade 1 to Grade 12 will remain a pipe dream until the people elect leaders who are committed to the creation of a smaller and more efficient government.
To promote scholarship and academic excellence in education and training, high-school graduates who would obtain a Division 1 would need to be automatically awarded scholarships upon being accepted at any Zambian college or university.
All other high-school graduates and working Zambian men and women wishing to pursue further studies should be granted with low-interest loans upon being accepted into classroom-based or correspondence-based study programmes offered within Zambia. Loan recipients who would graduate with "Distinction" should be excused of 75% of their debt obligations, while those who would graduate with "Merit" should be absolved of 50% of their debt obligations.
And all citizens who would graduate from Zambian colleges or universities with "Distinction" should be automatically awarded scholarships to pursue higher education or training programmes within Zambia or in foreign countries — that is, upon advising the government that they are accepted by accredited educational or training institutions to pursue further studies.
Besides, we should provide for the establishment of computer laboratories at educational and training institutions nationwide, and for eventual connection of computers to the Internet. We need to equip the youth with the computer skills they need in order to compete successfully in the modern socio-economic system.
And we should establish an accreditation board to monitor, regulate and boost the standard and quality of formal education and training nationwide.
Fellow Zambians, we need to make a sustained effort to cater for the basic needs of the educational system. Some of the basic needs are as follows:
(a) Schools and classrooms that are adequately equipped for both teaching and learning;
(b) Qualified, self-motivated and well-paid teachers or lecturers in every classroom; and
(c) Competent school administrators on competitive conditions of service, and adequate office supplies and fixtures.
The youth are our beloved country’s most important treasures — they are the jewels of our Motherland! It is, therefore, surprising that we have continued to pay lip-service to the educational and other basic needs of our country’s youth.
The issue of Grade 12 students in private schools not being able to sit for examinations due to the lack of examination centres also needs to be tended to with the urgency it deserves. In this regard, government leaders need to work closely with the Private Schools and Colleges Association to have examination centers at private schools at public expense.
We need to be seriously concerned about the education of all citizens, irrespective of whether they are in government-funded or privately operated schools.
Priority 6: Agriculture and Food Security
We should boost agricultural production through government-financed irrigation dams and canals, cattle re-stocking and disease control, a fertilizer subsidy, and zero value-added tax on agricultural inputs and raw food. We should also promote food canning, efficient marketing of agricultural produce, and agribusiness.
Besides, we should promote agricultural schemes by municipalities, the civil police, the prison service, the defence forces, and by educational and training institutions in order to enhance Zambia’s food security and self-sufficiency.
We should also revitalise Farmer Field Schools nationwide to teach integrated plant nutrition in order to enhance soil productivity through the application of both mineral fertilizers and organic sources of plant nutrients.
We should strive to make food readily available and affordable in order to make "good milile" or "kulya bulotwe" the norm in each and every Zambian household within the shortest possible time!
Priority 7: Sustainable Rural Development
We should foster development in rural areas through attractive incentives for investors in such areas. And we should provide adequate public services and facilities in such areas — including police protection, an inter-modal road network, postal services, fire protection, low-cost housing, electricity, and access to clean water.
We also need to provide for educational, vocational, recreational, telecommunications, and healthcare facilities in rural communities.
Priority in providing for these essential public services and facilities should be given to resettlement schemes nationwide.
There is also a need to streamline the process of issuing title deeds and make it possible for the deeds to be issued in the shortest possible time.
Priority 8: Economic Growth and Job Creation
We should bolster job creation through heightened promotion of both private-sector investments and small business ownership. Moreover, we should reduce interest rates by at least 2 percentage points per year over a period of 4 years. Also, we should reduce Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) and corporate taxes by 5 percentage points, and value-added tax (VAT) from 16% to 12.5%.
It is high time citizens had a government that would make it possible for them to keep more of their hard-earned incomes for investment, savings and consumption!
This is one of the practical ways in which leaders can stimulate the national economy and create more jobs. And it should be one of the practical ways in which the government can broaden the tax base by getting more citizens to work who are going to pay taxes.
(a) We need to achieve at least 7% annual growth in our national economy’s output.
(b) We need to attain at least 3 percentage points annual reduction in unemployment.
(c) We need to attain at least 2% annual growth in per capita income.
(d) We need to attain a 5% annual growth in exports through an ambitious promotion of non-traditional exports and attractive incentives to local suppliers of products currently being imported.
(e) We should expect to attain a relatively high annual rate of inflation of around 20% owing to contemplated reductions in taxes and interest rates intended to stimulate both the supply of goods and services and the demand for goods and services in order to bolster job creation and economic growth. We need to reverse the current emphasis on stabilising inflation at the expense of job creation and economic growth. By the way, the attainment of single-digit inflation is a target that is appropriate for countries that have already achieved a high level of job creation and socio-economic development. Zambia is clearly not one of such countries!
In matters relating to the economy and job creation, we should earnestly seek the active involvement of the Zambia Association of Manufacturers, the Zambia Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Economic Association of Zambia, the Civil Society for Poverty Reduction, the Zambia Federation of Employers, and the labor movement in the provision of decision inputs.
Priority 9: Affordable Water and Electricity
We should provide for strict and direct governmental superintendence over the supply of water and electricity to facilitate the charging of lower reconnection fees and lower rates and tariffs by utility companies. Besides, we need to provide for rapid rural electrification and accessibility to clean drinking water nationwide.
In this endeavour, we should initiate cost-cutting measures to be adopted by suppliers of water and electricity as follows:
(a) We should work with executives of water supply and sewerage companies in devising a standard and lean organisation structure to be adopted by the companies, except private providers that exclusively serve their employees;
(b) We should provide for a forum at which utility companies would be afforded an opportunity to suggest viable ways and means by which the government could facilitate the process of making public utilities less costly to consumers; and
(c) We should require all public utility companies to find ways and means of reducing marketing, public relations and administrative costs, and to seek low-cost suppliers of machinery, equipment, office fixtures and supplies, sub-contracted services, and so forth.
We cannot talk about electricity without considering other important sources of energy. Among other things, we should provide for attractive incentives to the private sector to engage in the exploration and/or supply of other forms of renewable and environmentally friendly sources of energy — including natural gas, solar energy, wind-generated electricity, methanol, ethanol, and propane.
Moreover, we should re-structure the Energy Regulation Board in order to enhance its efficiency and effectiveness.
Besides, government leaders need to work with the Zambia Association of Manufacturers, Zambia Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and oil marketing companies in designing a mechanism for pricing diesel, petrol, jet fuel, kerosene, bitumen, and related products that should take into account the needs of the transportation, manufacturing and agricultural sectors, among others.
And there is a need to seriously consider the prospect of either reducing or completely phasing out the Strategic Reserve Fee and value-added tax on sources of energy.
Priority 10: State-Financed Housing Schemes
We should seek to convert the National Housing Authority into an autonomous, self-sustaining and revenue-generating entity, which should incorporate all existing national public housing programmes. Its mandate should include the following functions:
(a) Implementation of home ownership schemes for all civil servants;
(b) Provision of low-cost housing units for low-income families nationwide; and
(c) Management of a home-ownership scheme for low-income families to be financed through low interest mortgages.
In this endeavor, we should also prohibit forced relocation of squatter compounds nationwide until:
(a) Low-cost public housing units are made available by the National Housing Authority; and
(b) Site and service areas designated by local authorities for resettlement are furnished with running water, electricity, public transportation routes and portals, and other essential public services and facilities.
To bolster the availability of low-cost building materials nationwide, we should provide attractive incentives designed to induce investments in the production of cement, timber, window panes and frames, paint, bricks, roofing materials, doors and door frames, and construction equipment.
Priority 11: Caring for Disadvantaged Citizens
We should make an earnest effort to care for adults and children who are economically and/or physically disadvantaged through such institutions as the Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Children In Need, the Zambia National Federation of the Blind, the Zambia Heroes and Freedom Trust, the Salvation Army, the Zambia Red Cross Society, the Twalumba Senior Citizens Organisation, the Senior Citizens Welfare Foundation, the Zambia Interfaith Networking Group on HIV/AIDS, independent operators of orphanages nationwide, and many other non-governmental organisations and agencies of foreign governments.
With respect to the unemployed youth who are currently roaming the streets, we should fully and promptly revitalise the Zambia National Service (ZNS) production camps and make it possible for them to enroll in government-financed entrepreneurial and other skills-training programs to be offered in the camps on a voluntary basis.
The Chiwoko ZNS Camp in Katete, the Chishimba ZNS Camp in Kasama and the Kitwe ZNS Camp should periodically recruit unemployed youth to pursue vocational training programs — which should include courses in carpentry, auto-mechanics, agriculture, bricklaying, plastering, tailoring and designing, and shoe-making and repairing.
The vacated refugee camps dotted across the country should also be utilised for skills-training purposes.
Graduates from skills-training centres should be encouraged to form joint business ventures, and should be provided with start-up kits and financial resources through relevant government ministries, the Youth Empowerment Program, and the Resettlement Department under the Office of the Republican Vice President. And institutions like the King George Centre in Kabwe should be expanded to accommodate larger numbers of graduates.
Priority 12: The Fight against Corruption
We need to seriously fight corruption because it has subverted the political process in our beloved country; it has thwarted economic growth and stability; it has undermined honest enterprise; it has discouraged foreign direct investment; it has eroded the country’s moral fibre; and it has tarnished Zambia’s image.
But like any other problem confronting us today, corruption cannot be effectively fought without first understanding its causes. Since independence, the causes of corruption in Zambia have included the following: an unstable political setting; regular reshuffles of political appointees; a weak legislative system; a weak judicial system; excessive, cumbersome and/or rigid administrative routines and procedures; inadequate wages, salaries and fringe benefits; and delayed payment of wages and salaries for employees on government payroll.
We should, therefore, bring corruption under control through:
(a) Sustained political will and zero tolerance of the scourge;
(b) Streamlined administrative and bureaucratic procedures;
(c) Provision of adequate remuneration to civil servants and public officials;
(d) Compulsory ethics education in educational and training institutions;
(e) Passage of strict pieces of legislation designed to prevent conflicts of interest in institutional settings;
(f) Limitation of recourse to immunity by public officials and business leaders and their organisations;
(g) Fostering the development of a free press to facilitate the exposure of unscrupulous activities in institutional settings;
(h) Provision for an anti-graft hotline for individuals and organisations to report acts of corruption anonymously or otherwise;
(i) Strict enforcement of the code of conduct established by the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct Act of 1994 for deputy ministers, Cabinet ministers and members of the National Assembly; and
(j) Active participation in bilateral and multilateral conventions, protocols and declarations designed to fight corruption, particularly in the areas of prevention, prosecution, asset recovery, and international cooperation in generating rules for extraditing alleged fugitive perpetrators of corrupt practices.
Priority 13: The Fight against Crime
We should combat crime and other social vices nationwide through localised police units by allocating more money to the police units to enhance their capabilities in terms of communications, transportation, crime-fighting gadgets and equipment, and security cameras for installation in town centres and on major roads and streets.
Moreover, we should provide for the electrification of houses for police officers nationwide. There are just too many law-enforcement officers who are having a hard time preparing meals and uniforms in readiness for work due to the lack of electricity in their houses.
Priority 14: Competent Government Leaders
Let me now talk to you about the issue of experience in politics and governance.
Clearly, socio-economic conditions in the domestic, regional and global environments are changing constantly. As such, yesterday’s approaches to the resolution of our country’s problems are not likely to do an effective job; after all, they have evidently and lamentably failed to do the job in the past!
We, therefore, need leaders who are willing to develop new attitudes, skills and strategies in order to wrestle successfully with the complex and volatile socio-economic conditions of our time.
As such, we should expect all government leaders to consider themselves as being on job-on-training regardless of the extent of their previous experience in politics and governance. And such leaders should be technocrats, and not clueless figureheads!
Accordingly, the citizens we should consider for top-level government positions should come from a diversity of institutional settings — including the Bank of Zambia, the World Bank, educational and research institutions within Zambia and in the Diaspora, professional associations, the civil service, the business sector, and existing political parties and alliances.
They should be among Zambia’s sons and daughters who are adjudged to possess the necessary knowledge and skills relating to the overall missions and objectives of the government ministries and agencies which they would be expected to administer. Accordingly, they should be expected to translate national policies into concrete benefits for all Zambians.
Besides, we need leaders who understand the need to make a quick transition from campaigning to governing upon being appointed or elected to positions of authority.
We also need leaders who recognise citizens’ right to vote for candidates of their choice with-out being threatened that their communities would be excluded from the development process if they do not vote for candidates fielded by the ruling political party. After all, every person and every place in our beloved country deserves a fair share of the national cake!
We should also make an earnest effort to promote the active participation of women in all spheres and facets of Zambian society through high-level presidential appointments at Cabinet and Permanent-Secretary levels. Also, each of Zambia’s 9 provinces should be well-represented at Ministerial and Permanent-Secretary levels.
Priority 15: Promotion of Zambian Culture
We should make an earnest effort to preserve our country’s national treasures, including national monuments, museums, and historical sites through the National Heritage Conservation Council and a new Ministry for Culture and Community Services. Besides, we should promote our cherished cultural and traditional values, as well as promote traditional music and culture-related crafts.
We should also provide for government subventions to support the local publication of biographies on notable citizens in any field of human endeavor. We have an obligation to catalogue the exemplary accomplishments of our fellow citizens for future generations.
In this regard, I am thinking about outstanding individuals in sport, politics, journalism, broadcasting, music, art, business, teaching, science and technology, trade unionism, the military, law enforcement, community service, civil rights, and traditional leadership, among many other facets and spheres of human endeavor.
The government subventions should also be made available to support the publication of books and booklets on traditional ceremonies nationwide. And we should require municipal councils to provide for the naming of some of the new streets, parks, playgrounds, residential sites, and public buildings in their areas of jurisdiction with names of traditional ceremonies or deceased prominent Zambians.
Priority 16: Garbage Collection and Disposal
Zambia’s towns and cities are currently experiencing serious problems at all stages of solid-waste management — that is, the collection, sorting, transportation, and disposal of garbage.
Unfortunately, the accumulated garbage in our midst is a very serious health hazard. For instance, piles of uncollected solid-wastes facilitate the formation of pools of stagnant water and create breeding grounds for mosquitoes and, as such, dispose residents to the deadly malaria parasite.
Besides, outbreaks of cholera, meningitis and other contagious diseases in the country have been directly linked to the absence of effective solid-waste disposal systems, together with the lack of potable water in some communities and unhygienic street-vending of foodstuff.
National leaders should, therefore, provide for adequate financial grants and incentives to local municipal councils and private organisations in order to facilitate the regular collection and recycling of solid wastes, the production of biodegradable products which can naturally break down into elements that are less harmful upon being discarded, and the manufacturing of reusable products and parts of products.
Priority 17: Libraries and the Internet
Provincial governments should be expected to provide and run public libraries in their areas of jurisdiction. The national government should bolster the efforts of provincial governments in this endeavour through sustained financial and material support.
And we should strive to narrow the gap between Zambians who have access to the Internet and those who do not have access to such a facility by making the Internet available at centrally located public libraries nationwide.
Priority 18: The Fragile Natural Environment
We should provide adequately for the financial and material needs of the Environmental Council of Zambia, created under the Environmental Protection and Pollution Control Act of 1990 to protect the environment and control pollution so as to provide for the health and welfare of persons and the environment.
We need to make it possible for the Council to perform its mandate of coordinating environmental management efforts nationwide, fostering awareness about the need to protect the fragile natural environment, and enforcement of regulations pertaining to the control and prevention of air, water and solid-waste pollution.
Priority 19: Reformation of the Public Media
We need to seriously call upon the government to open up the Zambia Daily Mail, Times of Zambia, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), and the Zambia News and Information Services (ZANIS) in order to make it possible for all segments of Zambian society to articulate their needs, demands and aspirations through them. We should not allow the ruling party to continue to maintain a monopoly over the use of public media institutions. It is high time we demanded to gain fair access to such institutions!
There is also a need for the government to break up the public media through privatisation. The role of a free press in the creation of a system of governance in which accountability, transparency, rule of law, and public participation in governmental decision making cannot perhaps be overemphasised. We should not expect our multi-party democracy to function effectively without such a system of governance. The following is what each of these essential elements of good governance entails:
(a) Accountability: That is, availability of a mechanism for ensuring that leaders are directly and fully liable for the outcomes of their decisions and actions, and the appropriation of resources assigned to them;
(b) Transparency: That is, public access to information about the state, its decision-making mechanisms, and its current and contemplated projects and programmes — except for state se-crets and matters relating to public officials’ right to privacy;
(c) Rule of Law: That is, the existence of non-discriminatory laws, and law enforcement organs of the government that are efficient, impartial, independent, and legitimate; and
(d) Citizen Participation: That is, availability of channels and mechanisms through which the citizenry and non-governmental institutions can have an influence on the behavior and actions of public officials either directly or through representation.
There is also a need for the government to spearhead the creation of a "Public Broadcasting Corporation" designed to provide for the following:
(a) Coverage of parliamentary and judicial proceedings as shall be sanctioned by a board of directors to be constituted by Parliament or any other impartial organ of the government;
(b) Regular broadcasts of Zambian, African and world news;
(c) Non-partisan and non-sectarian educational, cultural and informational programs to be generated by ministries and government agencies;
(d) Coverage of sporting events and ceremonial activities; and
(e) Programming of government-censored movies and music which do not have the potential to promote moral decay in our country.
Finally, the effective checks and balances we seek to introduce into our system of government are not possible in a political setting where the government is a prominent player in the fourth estate — that is, the media. On the other hand, members of the private media need to be professional and responsible if they are to play an important role in exposing abuses of power and deficiencies in governance. They, for example, need to avoid statements or actions that are demeaning, inflammatory and/or harmful to others.
Fellow citizens, press freedom carries with it a great deal of responsibility on the part of jour-nalists. It is, therefore, important for journalists to remember that other members of society have constitutional rights which need to be safeguarded, too. In shorthand, a journalist’s freedom to report on any given issue ends where societal members’ rights also come into play — such as the right to privacy.
Priority 20: Sustained Peace and Stability
We should foster the evolvement of a society in which people’s rights and freedoms are fully recognised and respected by the government; and a society in which ethnic, cultural, racial, and religious diversity should be appreciated, tolerated and celebrated. Moreover, we should relentlessly pursue lasting peace and stability within Zambia and the African Union, as well as foster sound relations between our country and all peace-loving nations worldwide.
What I have outlined thus far are great priorities for our beloved country; they reflect the desires of many Zambians to give our beloved country a fresh start. And they are the kinds of priorities that will make it possible for us to make meaningful improvements in education and training, agriculture and food security, public health and sanitation, infrastructure and public services, commerce and industry, job creation and economic growth, crimefighting, and the overall well-being of all citizens.
But these priorities are meaningless without our individual and collective commitment to pursue them. We, therefore, need to give the mandate to a new cadre of development artists to jump-start the country’s socio-economic system so that it can adequately meet our basic needs and expectations, and the needs and expectations of future generations.
Together, we can realise the benefits of independence, democracy and economic liberalisation by means of simple, practical and commonsense solutions to the problems facing our beloved country.
Henry Kyambalesa (Guest Blogger)
Agenda for Change
Monday, 13 October 2008
Agenda for the next government? (Guest Blog - HK)
Let me present an AGENDA of the national priorities which potential leaders need to espouse in order to deserve the precious votes of Zambians. I compiled the AGENDA hoping to secure enough financial and material resources to contest the forthcoming presidential by-election.