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Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Re-Opening of CBU (Guest Blog)

It is good that the Copperbelt University (CBU) will re-open on September 13, 2009 following the indefinite closure of the institution prompted by student demonstrations designed to protest against the shooting of their fellow student, Cornelius Mwape, and to express their displeasure at President Rupiah Banda’s decision to appoint former Communications and Transport Minister, Dora Siliya, as Education Minister.

The protest against Dora Siliya’s appointment seemed to have been fueled by the findings of the Dennis Chirwa-chaired Tribunal, which established that she had committed the following breaches:

(a) Usurping the powers of the Zambia Development Agency, since the provisions of the Zambia Development Agency Act of 2008 do not give powers to a Minister to do what she did by engaging RP Capital Partners to provide consultancy services leading to the sale of Zamtel – a parastatal company;

(b) Unlawful signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) relating to the privatization of a parastatal company, which should have been signed by the Minister of Finance;

(c) Usurping the powers of Cabinet by unilaterally engaging in actions relating to the sale of a parastatal company which needed to be sanctioned by the Cabinet;

(d) Committing the Zambian government to a US$2 million contract with RP Capital Partners without any tender approval from the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA);

(e) Abrogating the Public Procurement Act on “limited selection” by not following the requisite tender process in the selection of RP Capital Partners;

(f) Deception in inserting a US$2 million agreement in the MoU signed by her to engage RP Capital Partners to provide consultancy services;

(g) Breaching of the Republican constitution by ignoring the legal advice of the Attorney-General in her dealings with RP Capital Partners; and

(h) The procurement of a radar system in which she was involved, which was against the guidelines in some clauses of the Cabinet Handbook.

However, the decision to expel the entire Copperbelt University Students’ Union (COBUSU) leadership should be rescinded because the student leaders did not stage the demonstrations by themselves without the involvement of the student populace that elected them into office. The decision to demonstrate, I believe, was made by the CBU student populace. I do not believe the students were lead into protests whose rationale they did not subscribe to. In other words, the decision to stage demonstrations was a collective one – made by the entire student body.

Therefore, it is wrong to punish only student leaders. And, as an old maxim teaches us, two wrongs do not make a right!

The proper form of punishment should have been to require each and every student at CBU to pay a fee intended to cover the damages to pieces of property incurred during the demonstrations.

There is also a need for the Zambian government to change the policy relating to the financing of higher education. The new policy should provide for high-school graduates who obtain a Division 1 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 college and university graduates who would sign contracts to work in the teaching, healthcare or agricultural professions within Zambia for at least 4 years should be absolved of 100% of their debt obligations.

Apart from government loans, there is a need to encourage commercial banks and other financial institutions operating in Zambia to consider lending for education as part of their business. The Indo-Zambia Bank students’ loan scheme launched at Mulungushi University in April 2009 is a good start in this endeavour.

Apart from inducing academic excellence in the educational system, such a policy would introduce an element of personal responsibility by students over the financing of their education than the current system of bursaries. A student who has personally obtained an educational loan, for example, would be more likely to avoid involving oneself in demonstrations that are likely to lead to a university closure and culminate in a financial loss to him or her.

Henry Kyambalesa
(Guest Blogger / Agenda for Change)

24 comments:

  1. Kyambalesa,

    I like the blend of incentives in this higher education policy and I think that it has a reasonable probability of achieving the stated goals if implemented. I am a bit unclear on what exactly graduation with "Distinction" or "Merit" means in practice, but I would hope that there is some sort of "grade curve" involved to prevent the terms from becoming watered down. In other words if "Distinction" is another way of saying "top ten percent of the class", then I think that is preferable to a practical definition of "distinction means my professors think that I am a good student who deserves to have 75% of my loan principle forgiven by taxpayers". I also like the idea of loan forgiveness in exchange for public service in targeted sectors (which typically doesn't pay terribly well compared to education costs), and I think the three AfC has chosen are good ones to start with (food, health, school).

    As for the expulsion of the entire elected student leadership, I guess the lesson being taught is that Zambia places the highest possible value on teaching democratic institutions, as long as students only vote the way that they are told to. I humbly suggest to the students not to have official leaders anymore if this is to be their fate, rather students should elect the university board members to the positions, so that they can hold themselves personally responsible for student actions in the future.

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  2. Yakima,

    Thanks for your observations.

    Graduation with Distinction, Merit, etc. is based on the following grading system generally used at the University of Zambia and the Copperbelt University:

    A+ = 86–100% Distinction
    A = 75–85 Distinction
    B+ = 70–74 Merit
    B = 65–69 Very Satisfactory
    -------------------------------
    S = Satisfactory
    C+ = Definite Pass
    P = Pass
    C = Bare Pass
    CP = Compensatory Pass
    D+ = Bare Fail
    D = Clear Fail
    E = Worthless

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  3. Kyambalesa,

    Thanks for unpacking that for me, the use of "merit" and "distinction" makes clear sense now.

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  4. Kyambalesa,

    I particularly like the idea of private sector involvement in higher education in the form of offering scholarships, and loans in the case of banks.

    I have previously on this forum suggested the private sector gets more involved by way of offering internships to students, which would help in producing graduates with skills immediately relevant to industry. I knew of a few organisations that got involved in that; not sure about now. It's a win-win situation, and above all it's a noble cause.

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  5. Kyambalesa,

    There is also a need for the Zambian government to change the policy relating to the financing of higher education. The new policy should provide for high-school graduates who obtain a Division 1 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.

    Why not go all the way and get universal education through college (say, the equivalent of an associate degree/bachelor's degree, and leave higher education to the already established universities).

    That would be one of the pillars of ensuring the creation of a middle class that includes 90% of the population or more.

    (Also, there should be a lot of technical and vocational colleges to create a good mix of real skills and academic qualifications.)

    How about guaranteeing the right to higher education in the Constitution?

    Zedian,

    I have previously on this forum suggested the private sector gets more involved by way of offering internships to students, which would help in producing graduates with skills immediately relevant to industry.

    Maybe every major corporations could sponsor a small college that is tied in with their own HR requirements and HR department.

    This would be mutually beneficial, as the corporations are ensured that they get personnel that is local, already familiar with their business culture and whose qualifications they know and understand.

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  6. Mr K,

    I can see you're itching for a wider education reform debate, and so am I, especially if stories such as this are true.

    Malaysia has an interesting policy whereby the top students are sponsored through university at home and abroad by the govt. However, the catch is that should any student fail to obtain a certain class of degree, the sponsorship becomes a loan to the student!

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  7. MrK,

    Provide for free education up to the college level would certainly be a noble pursuit.

    The need to provide for quality education and training for our fellow citizens is one of the major issues that have been pressing hard upon my heart over the last 23 or so years.

    But upon considering a number of factors (which I have summarised below), I have found the following to be a more realistic policy on education and training in Zambia: we need to abolish examination fees, as well as abolish Grade 7 and Grade 9 elimination examinations, and to provide for free education through Grade 12 as an initial step in the provision of accessible education for all Zambians.

    In arriving at this conclusion, I have taken into account the following factors, among others:

    1. Long-Term Sustainability: The steady growth of Zambia's population will necessarily lead to an increase in training and educational institutions, a higher number of students and trainees, an increasing demand for larger numbers of teachers and faculty members, and problems relating to the financing of the education and training of Zambians in privately operated educational and training institutions.

    Currently, we have over 7,360schools offering srudies from Grade 1 through Grade 12. And we have over 3,034,950 enrolled in these schools.

    Over time, the provision of education and training up to university or college levels will become unsustainable. In other words, we would eventually not have adequate resources left to cater for enhanced agricultural production and food security, public health and sanitation, the development and maintenance of public infrastructure, defence and security, and the fight against crime, among other essential projects and programs.

    This is perhaps one of the reasons why it is rare, if at all, to find a country anywhere in the world today that provides for free university or college education.

    2. A Recipe for Corruption: Free university and/or college education would provide opportunities for government leaders and wealthy Zambians to corruptly push their children and relatives with poor educational results into institutions of higher learning. I noticed this in the mid-1970s when some high-school graduates from my school who had Division 3 certificates but were from prominent families found themselves at the University of Zambia, while some Division 1 and 2 certificate holders could not gain acceptance into the institution.

    3. Student Demonstrations: Free university education (through bursaries) is partly to blame for recurrent student demonstrations and abrupt closures of universities in Zambia due to complete reliance by students on free money provided by the government. Government loans at nominal interest rates would make it possible for college and university students and trainees to borrow money according to their needs, and to use it wisely, knowing that they would eventually pay back the loans.

    4. Rewarding High Performers: There is also a need to promote academic excellence through government scholarships and discounts on loans for high performers.

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  8. MrK,

    I am sorry about the beginning of the first sentence of my previous submission; it is supposed to start with "Provision" ...

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  9. Cho,

    This is the first guest blog that has made me a bit uncomfortable on
    two accounts:

    1. His proposal to charge each and every student for the damage of property

    2. His opinion on how governement should award scholarships.

    Having been a student at CBU, I have an understanding of how the
    student union operates. Their modus operandi tends to lean towards mob
    psychology. In as much as the students were aggrieved by the verdit of the tribinal, i believe that their decision for mass action through demostrations was uncalled for. I say this because there are better methods of them sending their message of displeasure to Dora: case in point UNZA's position to not disallow her from attending the graduation ceremony (this was highly effective in that the minister clearly got a message of no confidence from the highest institution of learning albeit her alma mata). In addition, the SRC must dialogue with the universities administration. I believe the administration is also to blame (case in point the shooting of the student).

    As opposed to pursing the law enforcement agencies to give an account of the shooting they opted to neglect this case and instead focused on the demonstrations. What message are they sending?

    The CBU students should realise that "Jumbo" rarely yeilds anything. I recall having to pay a fine for a few cars my comrades had damage(where was I? at a local pub with my mates playing pool and having a pint). I believe CBU's next SRC must reflect on their history and refine their methods of protest in order to get desired results.

    Regarding the scholarships, I can understand that he is striving to get some sort of incentive for the brainy! But I think there is need to look at the whole bursary system. I believe the entire system requires a complete overhaul. My father was bursaries secretary and he too acknowledged that there was a need to revamp this particular department of the Ministry of education.

    I am not sure if you have blogged on this issue, but i believe it does require serious debate....so
    there I task you to do a blog on the state of our student financing.

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  10. Mwe15,

    You said you were uncomfortable with the proposal to "charge each and every student for the damage of property," and called for students to "reflect on their history and refine their methods of protest."

    Given that this advise has clearly not been heeded by some elements amongst CBU students for many years, how else would you propose some sort of deterrent measure?

    While I do not support police heavy-handedness, as an innocent person who got caught up in unruly student demonstrations, once as a passenger in a mini-bus and another as a motorist, I would not have much sympathy for such students facing up to their handiwork by way of fines.

    On the other side, police brutality is an area of serious concern, as is the lack of investigation of resultant cases. Why are the police allowed to use live ammo on unarmed civilians? It's one of those things that's remained unchanged from the colonial days!

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. Zedian,

    I can see you're itching for a wider education reform debate, and so am I, especially if stories such as this are true.

    I just read the story, and it confirms that the problems already start at the grade level.

    This underscores my idea of using at least half of national revenues for every local government council and having them create and run schools with a decent budget, so that even areas as remote as the one in the article are serviced with decent schools, hospitals, security and utilities.

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  13. Kyambalesa,

    2. A Recipe for Corruption: Free university and/or college education would provide opportunities for government leaders and wealthy Zambians to corruptly push their children and relatives with poor educational results into institutions of higher learning. I noticed this in the mid-1970s when some high-school graduates from my school who had Division 3 certificates but were from prominent families found themselves at the University of Zambia, while some Division 1 and 2 certificate holders could not gain acceptance into the institution.

    The use of privilege I would say is unavoidable. Even in the communist Soviet Union, there were elites (most of which survived the end of communism and are still in charge today).

    I don't think the moral hazard argument is very persuasive, when contrasted with the benefits gained from having most of the population with a degree or certificate from an institute of academic or professional education. The benefits of this increase of social capital for the population are enormous. For instance, a lot of opportunities for business today are left on the table, not because people don't have the money, but don't have the knowledge - about markets, the internet, agriculture, etc.

    At the heart of any small business is someone with a skill. Universal education is going a long way to guarantee that this person is also well qualified.

    Zambia needs to create hundreds of thousands of SMEs, which is where real development lies. It will eliminate unemployment, raise incomes and therefore raise demand and create markets for consumer and capital goods, and it will create social stability through greater economic security.

    Contrast this with the pursuit of foreign corporations for the sake of seeing economic activity, irregardless of whether the country or economy actually benefit from that activity, the neoliberalism of today. (In fact even the MFEZ's and foreign corporations would benefit from a highly educated workforce, and local SMEs.)

    Currently, we have over 7,360 schools offering srudies from Grade 1 through Grade 12. And we have over 3,034,950 enrolled in these schools.

    1) According to the US Bureau of Statistics, in 2008 there were the following number of children between 5 and 19 years of age:

    5-9 1,703,783
    10-14 1,532,596
    15-19 1,369,952

    Total: 4,606,331

    (Source: Us Census Bureau - Click on tables, select the year 2006, and then excel - there are slightly differing numbers for the year 2006 on this website. Such are the peculiarities of the Census.gov website.)

    2) According to the Ministry of Education, there are (in 2006):

    Schools
    High Schools: 534
    Basic Schools: 7,635

    Students
    High Schools: 193,726
    Basic Schools: 2,982,835

    Teachers
    High Schools: 13,537
    Basic Schools: 52,527

    (Source: Ministry of Education)

    That would mean that about all children elligible for basic school are in basic school, and the problem is in keeping them in school for the higher grades.

    In 2005, the labour force was 4.9 million.
    (Source: ZAMSTATS)

    I think it is safe to say that the majority of the population does not go beyond basic school. Perhaps we shouldn't even be talking about more colleges, but more high schools.

    What I find telling is the huge difference between the number of basic schools, and the number of high schools.

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  14. MrK,

    I agree that the next step before universal college education should be considered is the issue of access to high school education. To be fair, the current near-total enrollment of primary school age children is a recent development spearheaded by the governments attempts to achieve the MDGs over the past several years. However, as the article Zedian referenced points out, mere enrollment is no guarantee of quality in education, and there will have to be substantial continuing investment in improving primary education facilities and staffing as well as expansion to accommodate population growth. It will be challenging to expand secondary education substantially without losing momentum in primary schools.

    I also agree that greater decentralisation of revenues and responsibilities to local authorities could help ensure more even distribution of education funds, but there may need to be some remaining centralised oversight, and benefits to be had from support functions such as bulk textbook/supply procurement, teacher recruitment and ongoing training. Even a wholesale distribution of a large proportion of government funds as you suggest would still require a set of mechanisms which would guarantee that the local authorities would actually spend it on education. An even more decentralised alternative would be some sort of per-capita redeemable voucher which parents give to schools and schools in turn exchange for direct expenditures from ministry accounts. This puts the issue of school funding and performance primarily in the hands of parents and teachers, with the bureaucracy acting as facilitator and quality control.

    I think that this is one of the things that makes the policy proposed by AfC for higher education loan programmes with performance/service based incentives is an appropriate solution given the current set of resource constraints. Rather than promise certain results and then scramble to try and find enough money to pay for them, I think that it is better to engage people by presenting them with the actual resources available and try to divide them wisely and fairly. Given limited government scholarship funding, which students are most deserving of partial or total loan forgiveness? This proposed distribution looks both productive and fair to me, with the emphasis on the individual student, but I am open to alternatives.

    I am not certain that the Constitution is the best place for a universal higher education policy should one become feasible in the future, to me it seems more of an opportunity than a right like access to water or shelter or freedom from discrimination. In other words, if one makes a list of all their constitutional rights and then asks, "Which one can I most easily live without?" then the answer should be, "None."

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  15. Henry I imagine does not live or frequent Kitwe. The CBU students were not demonstrating against Dora, it was to delay exams - an old trick used by a few beer drinking students to extend the study break.

    Then after the shooting incident, one would have expected a more restrained demonstration. Instead, they severely beat up a 76 year old man and burnt his car. Is that really protest against the shooting of their fellow student? Moreover, the reasons given by the union to demonstrate was not the shooting itself or police brutality as one would have expected, but "we want Mwape taken to South Africa for specialist treatment..." absolutely unreasonable.

    If you ask me, they are lucky to get away with an expulsion only.
    Should have been slapped with charges as well.

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  16. Very very true. Kyambalesa is completely off track on this one. The purpose of the demo was clear on TV and the students union demands. It had nothing to do with Dora’s appointment. You must live in a different world because this whole incident started with a thief being caught on campus. Police rushed in when the mob that caught the thief became destructive. Unfortunately, one of the students got shot in the processes of defusing this mob.

    The students then held a demonstration over the shooting of their colleague who was now hospitalized. They accused Dora of not taking action over the incident and demanded that she should resign for being ineffective.

    The second riot started when they were watching the 19:00 news on TV and the students complained of poor coverage of their demonstration earlier in the day. They were also upset that Dora still did not act in their support and that she never resigned, either.

    This is when they stoned innocent motorists severely beating up the 76 year old Mr. Conde and eventually stealing the K200 million he had in the vehicle before setting it ablaze.

    The demo had nothing to do with Dora’s appointment. It had everything to do with Dora’s failure to resign after failing to take the demanded action over the students shooting. It also had everything to do with poor coverage of their demo earlier in the day.

    Kyambalesa, you may have your own ideas over Dora’s appointment but please be sincere and stop pinning these ideas on the students of CBU. You are misleading our nationals and the erring students have been expelled on merit.

    This action is no different from what the US or UK school authorities would have done in such a situation. Students are meant to go to school to learn and not to fight political battles for you.

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  17. Kyambalesa, I think you've been found wanting. LOL!

    Mwe15, Ntheye and Anonymous are all correct in their description of the CBU fracas and the psychology behind it.

    Maybe if more parents paid for their kids education this kind of nonsense would not occur.

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  18. FMD,

    "Maybe if more parents paid for their kids education this kind of nonsense would not occur.

    There is an element of truth in that some people tend to take free things for granted, however I do not think it goes as far as what you're suggesting here.

    For instance, higher education is free in Scandinavia and was free in the UK until very recently, but there is no evidence of unruly students. None whatsoever.

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  19. Anon,

    "Students are meant to go to school to learn and not to fight political battles for you.

    Students are entitled to have their own political opinions (as they're of voting age), and must be allowed to express those opinions peacefully.

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  20. When parents pay for your fees, you will make sure not to let them down by being expelled over misbehaving. Paying parents assure their kids focus on getting an education as a means to sustain their own lives, as the primary idea behind going to school.

    We all have different political opinions whether at school or at work or even at the nearby pub. But this is no excuse for raising hell at work, school or the nearby pub. When you are old enough to vote, you should be wise enough to behave in a civilized manner. You will never find fee paying students rioting. They are always studying. It is the government funded students who get into university through connections and then use this place as a means to develop political power.

    Our students and nurses are being corrupted by politics peddled by the opposition who choose only to oppose everything government initiates as a means to oust the ruling party, and this corruption is causing civil strife because the poor students have no idea that they are being used to fight battles for others who live in peace brandishing big cars.

    Students have resolved that they should riot every time they want something even if it is as small an issue as a meal allowance increment. They hold government to ransom as they threaten to stone innocent people’s vehicles just so that government must agree without negotiation, to these students’ terms.

    This lawlessness has become a norm!

    So let’s not sugar coat it and make it look like these kids are standing up for their rights. They were put there to learn and not to become a political tool to be abused by the opposition.

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  21. Yakima,

    agree that the next step before universal college education should be considered is the issue of access to high school education.

    I think society would be changed, if children 6-12 has basic education, 12-15 had secondary education, and 16-20 had a good, vocational/professional education (with an option to move into higher education/university).

    Actual professionals (car mechanics, doctors, lawyers, accountants), including the retired, could be given short teacher courses and give professional education, reducing the teacher shortage. Also HR departments of corporations could have a role in both creating curriculae and providing instructors.

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  22. Ntheye, Anonymous and FMD,

    My be you need to blame the trusted local newspapers, such as the following, for the reasons that prompted the demonstrations by students:

    -----------------

    TIMES OF ZAMBIA / 13 August 2009
    CBU, Unza Students Protest

    COPPERBELT University (CBU) students yesterday staged a demonstration to protest against the recent shooting of their fellow student, Cornelius Mwape.

    ... The protest was also intended to express displeasure at President Rupiah Banda's decision to appoint former Communications and Transport Minister, Dora Siliya as education minister. ... [Duncan Nyirongo] said that the students would not return to class until Mr Banda reversed his decision on Ms Siliya and removed her from the position because the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct tribunal found that she breached the Constitution. ...

    -----------------

    THE POST / August 13, 2009
    Dora must go, demand CBU, UNZA students
    [By Patson Chilemba, Agness Changala, Mutuna Chanda and Zumani Katasefa]

    UNIVERSITY of Zambia (UNZA) and Copperbelt University (CBU) students yesterday demanded that President Rupiah Banda revokes the "immoral appointment" of Dora Siliya as education minister. ... [Nyirongo] said it was demeaning to the integrity of the nation and that of the students to have a person who had failed to follow the laid down procedures on national issues such as Zamtel to serve as education minister. ...

    Mwe15,

    I happen to have been both a student and a lecturer at CBU, and I also have a personal understanding of how students and their union leaders operate -- that they are mature enough to behave and act rationally as individuals.

    I do, however, respect your opinion that "Their modus operandi tends to lean towards mob psychology."

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  23. MrK,

    Thank you for including a link to the US Bureau of Statistics in your posting. It is useful. I have noticed the following differences in the 2007 statistics I gave in my posting (which I obtained from some U.S.-based source) and the ones you have extracted:

    Schools: 8,169 v. 7,360

    Students: 3,176,561 v. 3,034,950

    The thrust of my argument in this respect, though, is that the provision of education and training up to university or college levels will become unsustainable over time.

    In other words, we would eventually not have adequate resources left to cater for enhanced agricultural production and food security, public health and sanitation, the development and maintenance of public infrastructure, defence and security, and the fight against crime, among other essential projects and programs.

    ReplyDelete

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