Press Release from The JCTR :
ZAMBIA SHOULD INVEST IN LABOUR INTENSIVE SECTORS, SAYS JCTR AS THE AVERAGE COST OF FOOD IN LUSAKA REACHES K901,500
High food prices are increasingly becoming a perpetual challenge to many Zambian households, says JCTR during the release of the March 2010 Basic Needs Basket (BNB). The BNB has been exhibiting an upward trend in the cost of food items since the last quarter of 2009. The latest BNB shows an average nominal increase of K41,250 from K860,250 in February 2010 to K901,500 in March 2010 for a family of six in Lusaka. The increase was mainly driven by
increases in the cost of vegetables, dry fish, eggs and cooking oil.
According to the JCTR, food is not only intrinsic to human and economic development, it is also a matter of basic social justice. That is why requirements of food must be fulfilled at all times to free the human resources necessary to effectively pursue other areas necessary for deepening and promoting development. However, considering how basic the food items in the BNB list are, any slight increase in the cost of food has the potential of increasing levels of poverty and under-nutrition, especially among the poor.
“Since income is mostly derived from work”, says Miniva Chibuye, Coordinator of the Social Conditions Programme at the JCTR, “the key to reducing poverty is growth of the purchasing power of the poor”. This point can further be underscored taking into account the situation such as is obtaining in Zambia where a huge number of the population is competing for very few formal sector jobs. This fact means that the country needs to reverse the low employment trends by creating more jobs.
The challenge for Zambia however, is to harness opportunities for increasing growth rates to 7 percent or higher recommended for sustained reduction in poverty levels and for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). “More critically”, says Ms. Chibuye, “the quality of jobs, and the access which the poor have to decent earning opportunities are crucial determinants of poverty reduction and should be embedded within the country’s investment strategy”.
The JCTR would like to reiterate the sentiments from the Economic Commission for Africa in their 2010 Economic Report on Africa, which encouraged countries to adopt proactive policies in order that employment shadows economic growth.
This could be done by investing in high productive and labour intensive sectors such as agricultural, which is often the principal source of incomes for the poor. Other labour intensive sectors that the country should further invest in include textiles, construction, and tourism.
But the growth process continues to be severely constrained by bottlenecks such as the cost of energy, infrastructural problems and inertia in implementing some institutional reforms. These certainly impede entry of the poor into forms of wage employment upon which they are most dependent. The barriers can be lowered by among others, appropriate investments in transport, communications and money transmission facilities.
Furthermore, the country should aim to achieve growth that is distributed equitably through enhancing income earning opportunities for the poor. It is only by enabling the poorer households to favourably participate in the growth process that poverty can sustainably be reduced in Zambia. The JCTR strongly recommends that this issue be embedded not only in national development processes but also in political processes.