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Monday, 31 May 2010

Monthly favourites

The Zambian Economist churns out on average a whooping 50 blog posts a month! This is based on the last five months. In fact this average is somewhat lower than the 2009 average when we used to do around 60 blog posts a month on average. I took a decision to reduce the amount of posts given all else on my plate. In 2007, when we started, we had about 30 blogs per month. I suspect that 40 blog posts a month is about the most ideal. The reason is that I prefer people to absolve the material and then feedback. Too many posts leads to contempt! Just kidding - 40 is merely the volume that I think would allow me to be both an effective "curator" of a existing material and a "creator" of new original ideas on pressing issues.

That said, I have been think that given the volume of material we churn out its worth at the end of each month to highlight a post I thought was particularly important - just in case some people missed it.  I have been doing this so sort of implicitly. Eagle eyed readers will notice that on the right hand bar we have the "selected readings". This is pretty composed on a monthly basis. Based on this the following posts have been the highlight this year. Someone will obviously ask how I decide on a monthly favourite given that I must like all the posts. I have no formula, I just decide! Here we go :

January 2010  : Decriminalising would-be Mpombos
February 2010 : State of Zambian Internet
March 2010 : Public Interest Disclosure Bill, 2010
April 2010 : Economic Impact of MFEZs

Now for the current month and future months, the "monthly favourite" will simply be reposted - with the appropriately updated additional title and under the "quotable" theme on the theme cloud.

Dreams of airport cities

The National Airports Corporation (NAC) has apparently earmarked major infrastructure development at four international airports in the country, with the vision of turning Zambia into "a cargo hub for traffic in the region". The USA government is allegedly funding the development of the master plan (Mfuwe, Livingstone, Ndola and Lusaka) through the Ministry of Transport (about US$750,000). The master plan , unsurprisingly being developed by an American firm called Jacobs Consultancy,  is set to be submitted in July. The master plan will set out the plans for developing the four airports into airport cities which will have shopping malls, conference facilities, sports complex and other one-stop facilities.

The President has been promising to turn Zambia into a regional cargo hub since 2008! My view is that NACL are not well placed to take forward this vision. We need to break up ownership of these airports and allow them to compete. Separate ownership will provide better incentive for improvement in service and so forth. The Chinese model for deregulation of airports started with handing them over to local authorities. I am not sure how that would work in our context (local councils suffer from corruption problems) but NACL has failed to deliver and we should now be thinking creatively around this. For my broader thoughts on turning aviation round see here.

Unbridled arrogance

Copperbelt Mining Agricultural and Commercial Show (CMACS) chairperson William Osborn just does not get it :

Osborn further said if a fair system of taxing the mining industry on profits could be devised on the basis of negotiation, everyone could benefit. He said the government would realise more revenue that could be spent on improving some of the dilapidated infrastructure on the Copperbelt. “If government invested money on the railway system in the country, this would save the mining companies an enormous amount of transport cost and in turn save the government an enormous amount of money in road maintenance,” he said. Osborn observed that nearly all mine transport was done by road at present and that the system could no longer take it. He cited what he termed the dreadful state of the Mufulira-Sabina road and the huge volume of traffic on the Kitwe-Chingola road as examples.
Mr Osbourn is correct in identifying that the poor state of the roads imposes costs on all road users and particularly raises the costs of transportation for mining companies. He is also correct to note that "nearly all mine transport was done by road at present and that the system could no longer take it". In short mining companies have destroyed our urban and inter-urban roads.  However he is absolutely wrong to say "If government invested money on the railway system in the country, this would save the mining companies an enormous amount of transport cost". It does not make any economic sense whatsoever. Why would any person in their right mind ask the government to subsidise the damage that is being done by mining companies? The economic principle is the opposite. The polluter pays for the damage done, not to be rewarded!

Enock Kavindele expressed this point very well :
“.....As it stands, the [road] repair and rehabilitation costs are borne entirely by the government and cease to be their problem. In the next three years, both Kitwe to Chingola road and the Kitwe to Lumwana road will be completely damaged.....All this heavy traffic combined with all other road users will place an extraordinary strain on all services, utilities and infrastructure....the combined Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambian mines related freight volumes in 2010 would be 2,400 000 tonnes of copper ore per annum..... In Chingola, this will translate to having a truck on the roads every three minutes to and from. Roads in the town will become completely congested with the route between Chingola and Kitwe becoming almost impassable not to mention the hazardous conditions that will be faced by normal motorists and pedestrians".
The appropriate policy response is one we have been advocating since day one. We need to find creative ways in which new investment (mining and other sectors - it must be generic not sector specific) in the country can be tied to broader local investment in the transport sector. The model that is needed is similar to the framework that the UK has adopted under Section 106 of the Town and Planning Country Act (1995). This UK legislation basically makes it a condition that any new investment in any local area of the UK should be conditional on providing some minimum level of investment in schools, transport and other things, if the local authority deems necessary. The "nil-detriment" principle applies to inter-urban infrastructure under similarly supporting legislation (e.g. Section 278). Other nations have similar approaches.  Failure to take this approach will result in road and rail network that mirrors our crippling electrical situation. As the IMF noted, Zambia's infrastructure is lagging behind the rate of investment.  The economic principle here is simply one of polluter pays. The mining companies are destroying our roads more disproportionately than everyone else. They must bear the burden - not the government. In fact this should be easy to implement and something that would dramatically lead to empowerment of local communities.

It is the unbridled arrogance of the likes of Mr Osborn that we have this website. We must not entertain poorly thought out ideas from those sponsored by multi national corporations with little care for our people.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Tribal balancing

The same paper on "tribalism and elections" has an interesting statement by SACCORD Executive Director Lee Habasonda :

There is nothing wrong with tribal balancing; as a matter of fact it should be encouraged by all means, as long as it is done in the interest of the nation by ensuring that suitable candidates are given such positions. There is equally nothing wrong with a leader appointing his or her fellow tribes men and women as long as these are qualified for those particular positions and as long as these appointments are fairly done so that they do not alienate other tribes. 
I agree with the second statement, but it also negates the first statement. If you appoint people on merit then on what basis are you appointing people on their tribe?  You can't have both unless all the people have equal ability where merit then becomes unnecessary. But the chances of finding two people with exactly the same ability is remote. In any case by appointing someone based on tribe you are recognising they have something that the candidate from a different tribe doesn't have. In short, you are in effect implying that part of their capabilities includes their tribal identity.

That said I have a bigger problem than merely Mr Habasonda's logical inconsistency. More worrying is the statement that "it should be encouraged by all means". This is poor reasoning because apart from being impossible at the cabinet level (we have 72 tribes), it also suggests that he missed some civics classes in Grade 8! He has confused the nature of the three branches of government.

The issue of representation has nothing to do with the Executive branch of government. The question of "representation" is one which relates to the Legislature. The representation of the local people in government decisions is reflected by the composition of MPs in the National Assembly. They principally fulfil this role through making laws on behalf of their constituency ("legislative function"). They also have an additional function of representing the views of their constituency to Parliament e.g. special problems they are facing which the Executive branch has failed to address ("advocacy function"). It is not the role of Executive to "represent the local people", since in a well functioning society such functions would be performed by an effective Legislature. The MP's role is to ensure that the local preferences are fully reflected in national decisions. These are not arguments I expect the State House to make, they are on too many trips to think of such, but I do expect an NGO with wider international exposure to carefully weigh what they say. Unless we start thinking properly on these issues, we are in danger of plunging our country in chaos. Every tribe will demand a seat on the cabinet table.Encouraging the Executive to be representative is not only dangerous but it grossly miseducates our people on how government functions.  

If people feel they are not well represented they should direct their effort on two areas. First, ensure the Legislature is adequately representative and is holding the Executive to account. When you have a well functioning Legislature and Judiciary you wont care on about the misplaced need for a representative Executive.  Secondly, we should push for greater efforts to devolve power from the centre. The issue here is devolving governance. We must look at the current system of governance and dream of better and more coherent system of governance, where people are able to get involved in shaping their destiny. In my view the cries for national tribal balancing within the Executive are not only fuelled by ignorance but also desperation - people don't feel they are being heard in policy making. A key way to begin to resolve this to devolve more power to the local level. A starting point should be what I have called A traditional approach to Zambia's development.

Tribal Zambians? Revisited (Updated)

I noted there was a possibility of tracking down that SACCORD paper on tribalism and politics. Many thanks to a friend who of the Zambian Economist who has managed to make this available to us - you can now access it here. Just as well we did because it is not a new report - it was actually released in November 2009. Also it is not the revolutionary paper I thought at first, on the contrary it merely repeats what everyone knows. But its useful for students looking to research and write better material on this. The issue of tribalism and elections in Zambia is one which can be subjected to good theoretical and empirical explanation in the Erdmann tradition.

Inflation Statistics - May 2010

The annual rate of inflation, as measured by the all items Consumer Price Index (CPI), decreased by 0.1 percentage point from 9.2 percent in April 2010 to 9.1 percent in May 2010. The decrease of 0.1 percentage point in the annual inflation rate in May 2010 is attributed to a "decrease in some food prices". The recent increase in fuel prices will be reflected in the June 2010 CPI. More detail via the CSO Monthly Bulletin.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Admin Issues (Search)

After using the new embedded blogger search function, I have realised it is not as effective as the original custom search we had. So I have decided to revert back to the custom google search for the website. I have moved this towards the bottom of the posts (or above the "twitter updates"). Returning to the custom search also allows readers to pick up searches relating to the House of Chiefs and Zambian Elections 2011.  Apologies for any disruption this may have caused.

Fundanga on growth prospects..

Friday, 28 May 2010

PF Policy on Parastatals

The same article as this story has the following comments by the Leader of the Opposition on PF policy on parastatals :

The policy of PF on these parastatals ZNBC, Zesco and ERB is that we shall give the first 25 per cent shareholding to the workers, then we will give 24 per cent to the Zambian people and 51 per cent to people with money because at the moment, companies collapse and when companies collapse the people who suffer are the workers and their children.
This is similar to the ZANACO model, except here under the PF model government has no share. We can safely assume the reporter has misquoted Mr Sata on the Energy Regulation Board [ERB] being a parastatal. The main point though is that this model still leaves the Zambian people with foreign investors controlling 51%. That would equal to foreign ownership of ZESCO and ZNBC. Quite worrying. Not only are there are far better policies one can adopt with respect to parastatals, but we must avoid generic models. I would hope the PF-UPND are undertaking a more systematic review of parastals that recognises the different challenges facing parastatals to better inform tailored policy options. Generic policies are seldom effective. With this in mind, its better tactics for the Opposition to speak of  "we shall consult on options with the public, which may include X, Y or Z".  ZNBC is particularly tricky and I would suggest for that one must not necessarily privatise but to look to the BBC and other organisations for better models of regulation. ZESCO we could revisit the PPP model proposed here as part of the decoupling process.

Satonomics, 3rd Edition

Another burst of unscripted reflections from the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Michael Sata this time focusing on the problem of corruption :

"There is corruption today because people have uncertainty of who they are and what they are and what they are doing. When there is no uncertainty there would be no corruption because people will protect their jobs. Today, there is corruption because people are not sure whether they would be there tomorrow"
The first thing to note here that the corruption he has in mind is largely bribery coupled with stealing. Its not other forms discussed here (e.g. nepotism, political corruption). Its always good to precisely define the nature

Quick notes

IPS on Chinese concerns of a western plot to undercut its expanding presence on the continent.

Global Research on the Pentagon's new "colonial" efforts to carve out Africa into military zones.

IRIN on the mobile hospitals of Swaziland, now facing cash problems.

MS Zambia on some early findings from their forthcoming report on access to justice in Zambia. The finds are as  expected.

Daily Nation on the proposed construction of a new $780 million power line linking Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya expected to be operational by 2015.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Luapula Manganese, 4th Edition

A useful diagram of manganese price trends in the last three years  to put this article in context. The average cost of extracting manganese ore in Luapula is in the region of $52 - $70 per tonne.  The price of refined manganese is just under $3000 per tonne (the article puts this at less than $2000 which is a gross underestimate - I suspect it was using £s). As the article rightly points out "the value addition is what Zambia is losing out on, because the raw ore is transported through Tanzania to China for processing. So the super profits are reaped by foreign investors, in the same pattern that the European colonial powers used to follow". If Zambia can process the manganese it could reap at least $1000 per tonne, if say it costs $1500 to process plus export costs (assuming manganese remains above $2500, which it has always done. In the meantime there are moves towards setting up a smelter by foreign investors to reap the benefits and perhaps reduce some transport costs. But very little of that revenue capture will benefit our people.

Luapula Manganese, 3rd Edition

A useful update to the issue we have previously discussed here and here. Look for that huge margin quote between the production costs and the value of refined manganese :

New mining activities - a mixed blessing for Luapula, Hope Mwelaisha, CSPR Luapula, MS Zambia Newsletter (May 2010):

Manganese mining is causing trouble in Luapula. Photo: Lena Vind-AndersenLand degradation, deforestation, potential health related epidemics, raw material exhaustion, worn-down roads and losing out on an economic potential. This is the price that the people of Luapula are paying for the short term benefit of the mining boom in the province.

The last two years have seen an explosion of mining activities in Luapula. Genesis Procurement, who presently employs more than 200 locals in their large-scale mining for manganese, is the main actor on the new Luapula mining scene, but dozens of small-scale miners are also taking part in the search for the valuable mineral - manganese.

The Luapula Provincial Programme Management Team of the national Civil Society for Poverty Reduction has conducted a research on the effects of this mining activity, and the findings are both positive and negative. On the positive side, there are the new job opportunities created, either directly through the large scale mining operators, through individual small-scale mining or indirectly

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

FDI and Governance

Increased foreign direct investment (FDI) in Zambia is often banded about by politicians as an endorsement of their politics. What are we to make of this ?

It is certainly true that more democratic systems should provide enabling conditions for increased FDI.  Countries which are more democratic have resilient sets of institutions that allows rule of law to prevail, of which a critical feature (under broader definitions of rule of law) is separation of powers between the Executive and Judiciary. This usually allows the judiciary to hold the power of the Executive in check thereby fostering better rights protection, contract enforcement and so forth. [Although we should not here that the literature between improvement in rule of law and FDI is still subject to enormous debate, largely due to methodological and data problems]. Related to this is that democracy may reduce the associated "political risk" of a mild authoritarian regimes coming into power and seizing all the foreign assets or abrogating existing contracts. Stable transition of power, all things being equal should lead to better enforcement of contracts and a general enabling condition for foreign investment. That of course depends on how genuinely democratic the country is. As I have noted in previous comments this threat of overturning contracts is only limited where the level of democracy is truly embedded through deeper consensual politics - where agreements between government and foreign corporations are truly transparent and have cross party support. Something lacking in

Another day, another party, 5th Edition

You will forgive for forgetting to announce the recent launch of the Alliance for Democracy and Development by Charles Milupi. I have been suffering from one-man parties fatigue. This is the fifth party launched in the last year! (In case you have forgotten the others :  Mr Sondashi's FDA ;  Saviour Chishimba UPP ; the mysterious ZANC ; and Chipimo's NAREP ). I have always defended the right of people to congregate despite the huge externalities involved. Lets us be clear Mr Milupi will not be President next year - neither has he started off on a democratic footing. Anyone who starts off in a party by declaring himself President must rightly be judged with skeptism.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Reason 4 - Musokotwane Critique

In a recent interview on the Ministry of Finance public relations programme Cultural Remodeling Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane argues against the restoration of the windfall tax :

"When you tax the revenue and not the profit, you are basically closing the mines..Indeed this country still has windfall tax but windfall tax on profits which is called variable income tax. What we rejected was windfall tax on revenues"
This argument is covered in the Eight reasons for rejecting higher mining taxes under  Reason 4 : The profit variable tax does the same job as windfall tax . The standard response as set out in that post is sufficient.

As a public servant Minister Musokotwane can be contacted by any Zambian via email and engage his thoughts on the same.  Email addresses : situmbeko.musokotwane@mofnp.gov.zm  and smfarm@zamnet.zm

I am hoping to have a page with government email contacts for readers keen to be in touch with national leaders. Change begins with YOU. More importantly change comes with activism. You must be prepared to act and lobby politicians for policies that are favourable to our people. How do you think mining companies got those Development Agreements? How do you think western NGOs like SIAF & Christian Aid managed to have them abolished under President Levy Mwanawasa?

If you have an email contact of key / important government officials  please forward it to us to help build up the directory for readers - email to : cho@zambian-economist.com

Monday, 24 May 2010

Tikondane : A community school with a Big Heart



Tikondane is a feel-good story about a sanctuary in Katete by one woman Elke Kroeger-Radcliff, who believed she could make a difference and then went out and did so: a place where education, empowerment & empathy work together to create a viable and productive community in rural Zambia. Visit their website and get on board with your support. Their story can also be found here. Incidentally, it reminds me of the school "Fountain of Life" started by Princess Kasune Zulu as narrated in her book Warrior Princess.

Reason 7 - Bantubonse critique

In a recent debate hosted by EAZ and World Bank Frederick Bantubonse argues against higher mining taxes :

Mr Frederick Bantubonse of Chamber of Mines observed that there was a wrong perception in Zambia that the mines did not contribute to the economy arguing that the mines should not be treated differently from other sectors. He said that many mines are not in a paying tax position but this is temporary and soon it will pass but even before the mines start paying tax they are contributing other taxes such as rates and through workers PAYE.
This argument is covered in the Eight reasons for rejecting higher mining taxes under  : Reason 7 : We are already benefiting through employment. The standard response as set out in that post is sufficient.

A reason to be cheerful

Zambia said on Saturday its 2009/10 white maize output rose by 42.1 percent from the previous year, making it the highest crop harvest in about 22 years which will help to maintain low inflation....total maize production rose to 2.7 million tonnes, beating last season's harvest of 1.9 million, to leave the surplus at 1.1 million tonnes....Zambia initially planned to export between 50,000-80,000 tonnes of maize this year, with commercial farmers urging the immediate export of up to 178,000 tonnes of 2009 carry-over stocks to ensure better local prices for this season's crop.Industry officials say exports could now be much higher.
Its not all doom and gloom and we must congratulate government and our hard working farmers (including the traditional leaders) for this historic achievement. One hopes that this will provide a measure of confidence for the government to push for further reforms especially with regards to exports and FRA. More on this year's achievement via Reuters.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Meaningless press statements..

ULP's Sakwiba Sikota on the need for "Marshall Plan" for Luapula and Western Province :

The ULP feel that in order to get greater equity within the country it is necessary to pay extra attention to the two least developed provinces in the country. The aim of any government should be to ensure that no province or region is left behind in development. The statistics we have show that the two provinces which are lagging behind in terms of development in Zambia are Western and Luapula Provinces.

Compared to other provinces Western and Luapula Provinces are least developed in terms of education, agriculture, health infrastructure, road infrastructure and Direct Foreign Investment which is channeled to the province. There is a need for Government to increase funding in these areas so that Western and Luapula Provinces can catch-up with the rest of the country in terms of development.
What Sikota does not say is just how one funds such a transformation. We all know what needs to be done. What the opposition needs to do is go beyond that and cost these proposals. Crucially they should set out how such a Marshall plan can be funded. The statement as it stands is meaningless. I have previously excused the opposition for failure to cost their proposals but we cannot allow such meaningless approaches any longer. It is true the government does not provide sufficient information, but that does not excuse these opposition leaders for at least beginning to move beyond mere pronouncement and wish lists. They must begin to show intellectual leadership - and that is what is lacking in our nation.

Eight reasons for rejecting higher mining taxes..

Today, we turn the tables and present the most cogent arguments that could be made, if I was hired as a “spin doctor” for Rupiah Banda and help argue against relatively higher taxation than at present (It is taken for granted in the post below that higher taxation would mostly likely involve restoration of the Mwanawasa mining fiscal regime, with windfall taxation at its heart ). I offer eight reasons that can be put forward for rejecting higher mining taxes - offering both the central argument to substantiate the reason and then the counter-argument (response). Effort has been made to be impartial but also succinct. One can write an essay on each of the arguments, but for ease of access I have tried to summarise them. I’ll leave it to the reader to expand on them and decide whether the “argument” is stronger than the “response”. By nature of the "title" and this introduction, I have shifted the burden of proof onto those seeking change.

Reason 1 : High taxes would reduce competitiveness

  • Argument: Increasing mining taxes when are other countries are not changing their tax systems, with the exception of Australia, would make Zambia uncompetitive in this important area. Zambia is a small country and we not exactly renowed as an attractive place to invest. It is because of the mining revival that we are now having investment in excess of $3bn annually. We have also seen that countries that have imposed windfall taxes have lived to regret. For example Mongolia once raised its mining taxes only to find itself in a quagmire with investment drying up! We must also remember that low taxation is the bedrock of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). It is therefore critical that we see mining in the overall context of Zambia’s successful FDI policy. No one doubts that low taxation is critical component to that.
  • Response: The argument is based on false premises for several reasons. First, Zambia’s taxation threshold has enormous scope for increasing taxes without harming competitiveness.  Zambia has one of the lowest tax regimes in the world. Prior to 2008, the effective tax rate stood at around 32%, with the Levy Patrick Mwanawasa (LPM) changes it was intended to rise to 47%. LPM put it best : "with

Saturday, 22 May 2010

The world of mining taxation

As high mineral prices have risen a number of governments have been looking at ensuring how their countries can get a larger share. The list below provides some quick examples, to help put the Zambian debate on windfall taxation in perspective. We have mentioned many of these as part of our global "mining watch" series :

Tanzania : Tanzania’s parliament has passed a new mining law that increases the rate of royalty paid on minerals like gold and requires the government to own a stake in future mining projects.

Ghana  -Africa’s second biggest gold producer, plans to double the amount mining companies pay in royalties as part of a broader effort to boost government revenues from the sector, the country’s finance minister said in November.

Australia - In early May the Australian government slapped a 40 percent tax on mining profits to fund a boost to workers’ incomes in an election year.

Canada - Quebec’s authorities recently announced plans to hike mining tax rate to 16 percent from 12 percent, by January 1 2012. In the words of Quebec authorities : "the existing 12 percent tax rate is insufficient to allow fair compensation for the use of a non-renewable resource that belongs to the public domain.."

Chile :  Top copper producer Chile in April raised royalties on the mining sector to help reconstruct the country after a big earthquake.

Corruption Watch (Task Force), 3rd Edition

Another update on the on-going Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigation of officials at the defunct Task Force on corruption. The Auditor General's report for 2005 revealed that the institution maintained an off-shore account, the anti- corruption fund in the United Kingdom but was not available for audits. It also cited unconstitutional expenditures and that the Task Force failed in record keeping and lacked internal controls for financial management. More detail via Times of Zambia.

Friday, 21 May 2010

African Poverty and Property Rights

James Robinson argues that the absence of property rights lies at the heart of Africa's underdevelopment. We have previously discussed Robinson's material (e.g here).  The critique is in line with the "institutional school" led by Acemoglu which rightly emphasise that institutions are the fundamental cause of underdevelopment, although here Robinson pushes the reductionism too far. However, what is intriguing, and rightly so in my view, is that he does not then go on to argue that we need property rights now! For good reason, as well see herehere and here. Rather he offers a broad sets of "solutions for Africa" written largely for the American audience. One of the solutions is the need to change the "political trajectories of society" through supporting civil society as a way of altering the balance of power. I touched on this here.

Poverty in Africa: What History Teaches About Property Rights, James Robinson, Insider Online / Defining Ideas, Commentary :

One of the burning intellectual and policy issues of our day is the poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, attracting the attention of everyone from entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates through movie stars such as Madonna and Angelina Jolie to rock stars such as Bono and Bob Geldof. The World Bank measures poverty levels by the number of people who live on less than $1 a day; the majority of those people, around 350 million of them, live in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, Africa is the only part of the world in which the absolute number of poor people is increasing. By

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Tribal Zambians? Revisited

The Southern Africa Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) has a new report where it argues that tribalism in the Zambian voting pattern is "a false consciousness peddled by desperate politicians than a reality". I am trying to get hold of their report (its not on their website). So we only have SACCORD Executive Director Lee Habasonda's summary :

This study concludes that to a large degree 'tribalism' represents false social consciousness. It is used by desperate political elites with an insatiable lust for attaining or preserving power at all costs and with little regard for the social consequences that follow the championing of such a retrogressive ideology.

It is meant to build the political capital of elites by projecting a social mentality of 'them' versus 'us' among ordinary citizens. Politicians who run out of ideas find it much easier to appeal to nebulous 'tribal' sentiments that address concrete social class issues that affect peasants or workers....The study notes that 'Tribal' consciousness was fomented and encouraged by the colonialists through their policy of divide and rule to maintain dissent under control.

Unfortunately it has become a favourite strategy of our politicians to raise the bogey of tribalism in reference to other opponents as a way of concealing the same activities which they condemn in others. In the post-independence era, the ideology of 'tribalism' has become a handy weapon among the arsenal of desperate political elites jostling for power.....
One certainly hopes there's much more than set out above, which amounts to the obvious. At face value though this does appear to confirm the tribal findings previously discussed in this academic paper. Incidentally, in the same article, Mr Habasonda suggests that the best policy for dealing with this is : "to equally distribute political and economic benefits in every province" ; and, the "need for the law makers to introduce an electoral formula of proportional representation which will ensure that all the tribes in Zambia are represented in electoral outcomes". No mention of devolving more powers to the local level? or pursuing more robust structural alignment that brings chiefs to the centre or reorienting the education system by mandating cross learning of languages? There are many things that can be done....but one gets the sense tribalism suits some political actors wishing to maintain the current political configuration. So the SACCORD report will go to the bottom of some shelf or used by the cadres as smoking paper.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Facebooking...

I assume that is what being on Facebook is called. Eagle eyed readers will have noticed that I recently created a facebook page for Zambian Economist. It can be accessed here or on the left side bar. I had previously resisted creating a facebook page, but I have now "given in" for several reasons.

First, some readers requested that we have a Facebook page because "many Zambians are on facebook more than any other medium". I had no way of proving the validity of this statement, but after checking several Zambian websites with pages, I was convinced that may be this is true. One thing I do know is that it is the most visited site by Zambians in Zambia. I am just not able to verify this across the globe. I should also point out it is not often I receive "suggestions" on how to improve connecting with readers. Usually the queries I get are around "Cho, what is X" or "Cho, this was good" or "Cho, can you send me X". Compliments are good but I value most practical suggestion, apart from those giving donations of course, which I remain eternally grateful for.

Secondly, it provides a good way to "see" readers.  The visual aspect of Facebook is good. For example, it matters to know whether the site is read by grandees  or young graduates.  Or is the readership mainly male or female? Knowing the readership is very important for any blogger principally because it ensures that posts remain relevant. But also because it may provide information that allows one to reach those constituents who don't read the Zambian Economist. So if I found that women don't read this website, I may ask whether that is because the "gender" aspects of Zambia's economic development are not fully explored, etc. Google analytics simply tells me that thousands are reading but it does not provide this visual aspect.

Third, I am always open to new ways of making it easy for readers to access the material. We have many people who follow us on twitter (my personal account and the Zambian Economist account). We have hundreds of readers who subscribe to our email lists and feeds (see left column of website). We also have some readers who pick us up via "google friends". In short, if a new medium is born tomorrow I think it is right that we use that medium provided it carries minimal cost. Not least because by doing so, we signal to those lazy keepers of government websites and government owned websites that there's no need to be Neanderthal when good these things can be done at zero financial cost.

This brings me to my fourth and final point. It has minimal opportunity cost. Being a one person band, I try and not do too many things that runs counter to my other commitments when I am not blogging, and there many of those besides being a husband! But unlike twittering, a facebook page is easy to run. So for those with website/blogs do consider having one. I certainly hope our poorly run political parties will consider that medium as a way of reaching a certain constituency.

Anyway, those are my main reasons, which may or may not be useful. The basic point though is that if you are on facebook, then what are you waiting for? Sign-up to the page!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

How the copper mines won, 2nd Edition

It has been a while since we last checked the the global copper prices. Another look confirms the general upward trend. We have long breached the copper price level at which President Mwanawasa introduced the windfall tax (in January 2008), with prices now oscillating between $7000 and $8000 per tonne. The windfall tax was designed to match rises in the price of copper: it was set at 25 percent while copper sold for $2.50 per pound, 50 percent for the next 50 cents and increased to 75 percent when copper fetched above $3.50 per pound.

Meanwhile, Ng'andu Magande has now firmly joined the "yes camp" as pressure continues to to grow on the Banda government to see sense on this life and death issue. The people want to see the Mwanawasa fiscal regime restored. As we continue to say, either we see change in this area or we all concede the mining companies are shamefully dribbling our people through state machinery.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Zambia Gold Honey Project



A video highlighting the mission and foundation of the Zambia Gold Honey Project, a company started and run by Gonzaga University students to help farmers in rural North Western Province achieve more monetary autonomy and develop micro finance programs for the future. When I read about projects like this I just wonder why there not many such projects run by the diaspora.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Quick notes

China announced last week that it is ready to provide equity amounting to $1 billion for the Kafue Gorge Lower power plant. The total cost is estimated at $1.5bn with construction of the plant expected to begin next year and completion in 2017.

In another development, China will apparently provide $5 billion in loans to private mining companies, according to President Banda. This follows an agreement signed between the Ministry of Mines and the China Development Bank. Why an agreement between the government and CDB?

The Times of Zambia heralds Kansanshi's "huge dividended" of $18.1m. The dividend was paid to the Government through ZCCM-IH which has a 20 per cent stake in the mining firm based in Solwezi. KCM's copper production in 2009 was 244,979 tonnes.

The other news of course is that of India's understated investment. Felix Mutati (Commerce Minister) revealed this week that FDI from India in the last three years is worth over U$D3 billion. A large part of that is the $1.6n Konkola Deep Mining Project.

The ERB announced 13 percent fuel price increase this week, the second big price increase this year. According to the ERB the prices of petrol and diesel had to rise again, following January's 15 percent increase, due to higher global oil prices. The ERB operates without a  Chief Executive Officer.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Book Reading Goal : Week 15

The Idea of JusticeThis week I turned my attention to two books on justice.

The first was The Idea of Justice, by Amartya Sen. The author seeks to develop an alternative theory of justice based on "comparative justice". An extremely poor book and quite disappointing in many respects. Sen is a brilliant economist, but philosopher he is certainly not. Not only does the book simply rehash his old material, but there's no proper grounding of justice. To be fair Sen's view is that we don't need to have a theory of justice, what we need is be able to compare existing or different conceptions of justice. But clearly if we have no grounding for justice, who is to say what we end up with is justice? The book is also poorly crafted! It is quite repetitive and Sen's thoughts appear scattered and incoherent.

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?The second  book was Justice : What's Right Thing to Do? by Michael J Sandel. This is the first book I have read by Sandel though he has written on these matters before. The book is essentially an illustrative survey of the various conception of justice. It is a sort of a pop version of a more detailed review. Quite useful for those new to the topic of justice. However, for readers who are interested in justice issues at a deeper level, I would strongly advise to read the best book on the subject by the best moral philosopher of our time - Justice : Rights and Wrongsby Nicholas Wolterstorff. Its an incredible piece of writing, though the 400 pages may scare some. As I said, only for the committed reader! The difference between Wolterstorff and Sen is like light and darkness on these matters, both in presentation and clarity of thought.

Book Reading Goal Review
Books Read So Far : 18 books
Remaining Books to Achieve Target : 32 books
Weeks Remaining to Achieve Annual Target : 33 weeks

Friday, 14 May 2010

Elections 2011 Project - Update

The response so far to our Elections 2011 proposal has been quite positive, certainly much better than I expected. One never knows how fellow "arm chair" analysts respond to such practical demands! But we have been good, so thank you. I know I have still to respond to one or two queries, but do keep them coming.

If you have not yet expressed interest,  get in touch!

As by way of progress, I am working on a dedicated Zambian Elections website for the project - still in its infancy, but it does exist!  www.zambian-elections.com  So yes, I am still committed to this, and as I said feedback has been pleasantly positive!

Unlike the Zambian Economist website, I realise that the success of this initiative really does not depend on me, since I'll merely edit, coordinate and bring external players on board. I am therefore totally dependent on those who are willing to write. So get on board if you haven't and let us get this show ready for 2011!

The lady doth protest too much, methinks!

"I can’t rely on that. They give 50 per cent. That 50 per cent may sound exciting but in dollar terms I’ll tell you I get a US $1,000 per month, in Zambian terms its just about K5 million plus. My school going children, they are in private schools, one of them requires about US $2,000 per term, my daughter in London has to pay 10,000 ponds per year, that is just for fees, less accommodation and air transport"
The former first lady complaining of the hard knock life on a meagre $1000. Has Maureen Mwanawasa forgotten that 70% of Zambians live on less than $2 a day? Apparently she wants to lead the country one day. Presumably so that the $2 brigade can support her childrens' private schools and her daughter in London.  One can do nothing but moan for Zambia with this calibre of future leadership.

Linking Zambia (Think Zambia)

A new website focused on international investors looking to tap into Zambia. The basic concept is "to promote the Zambian economy and drive investment and trade to Zambia". I believe the website is based in South Africa.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Bill, 2010

I resumed reading some remaining Bills from the last seating of Parliament.  The The Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Bill, 2010 is an important development in the fight against corruption. The objects of this Bill are to :

a) provide for the confiscation of the proceeds of crime;  b) for the deprivation of any person of any proceed, benefit or property derived from the commission of any serious offence;  c) facilitate the tracing of any proceed, benefit and property derived from the commission of any serious offence; and,  d) the provide for the domestication of the United Nations Convention against Corruption
A key element is that is that the civil forfeiture proceedings will be treated as civil proceedings and not criminal proceedings, and therefore the burden of proof is somewhat lower. One of the criticism of the current criticism of the existing legislation on corruption relates to the burden proof for convicting criminals. Under the proposed legislation the State will only be required to prove their case on a ‘balance of probabilities’ as opposed to ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ which is required in criminal proceedings.  The other issue is that the Government will be able to recover obtained property without waiting for the conclusion of criminal proceedings. We will therefore see parallel routes taken with civil proceedings being swifter.  The combined effect of these changes is a stronger deterrence effect against corruption, all things being equal.

A Million Words Project Review
The following Bills remain from the last seating. Its my intention to read through these before Parliament resumes :

The Immigration and Deportation Bill, 2010
The Dairy Produce Marketing and Levy (Repeal) Bill, 2010
The Dairy Produce Board (Establishment) (Repeal) Bill, 2010
The Dairy Industry Development Bill 2010"
The Registration of Business Names (Amendment) Bill, 2010
The Engineering Institution of Zambia Bill,2010

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

JCTR Press Release : Decent Work

Press Release from The JCTR :
Decent work for all should be upheld, says JCTR

It is a well recognised fact that employment is an important engine for driving economic growth and sustainably reducing poverty. But statistics show high rates of unemployment and underemployment. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), of the three billion people who constitute the labour force globally, more than one billion women and men are either unemployed, underemployed or working poor.

Even though statistics in Zambia show that more than 80% are in one form of employment or another, most of these are either underemployed or classified as unpaid family workers.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Quick notes

We are apparently the first country in Eastern and southern Africa to introduce multipurpose electronic national registration cards that will be used for voting, accessing banking services and as driving licenses. Scary stuff in Europe, but apparently necessary to "prevent electoral fraud". Its one watch.

An interesting column in the Daily Mail on Government's work with the diaspora. The Zambia Development Agency is apparently putting together a concept paper, which no one seen, that will "strategise" how to tap into the diaspora to "create economic opportunity, reduce poverty and unemployment". Good to see Zambia Diaspora Connect leading on this for the diaspora, but let us hope we shall see papers soon..

China has over 95 percent market share in the global production of rare earth metals, but Tanzania wants to change this through the Wigu Hill deposit owned by Montero Mining. Apparently Wigu Hill has a lot going for it, both geologically and geographically. Rare earths are a collection of seventeen chemical elements in the periodic table, Scandium and Yttrium, and the 15 lanthanides. According to scientists, rare-earth metals are the key to 21st Century technology: Without them, we wouldn't have smartphones, hybrid cars or precision weapons.  The demand for such has been surging.

A row has erupted in Malawi of Government's sensible plans to ban polygamy. The Muslim Community has reacted with uproar : "We are totally rejecting it. There are also other ethnic groups [who practise polygamy] and they also totally reject this...If these people go ahead banning polygamous marriages it means many women will go into prostitution....Every woman has the right to be under the shelter of a man." The argument is false.  Its much better to argue that this is a "religious right" and go on to make that argument, assuming it is.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Dutch aid for political violence

Netherlands Institute for Multi-Party Democracy  comes clean :

With the support of NIMD, Zambia’s political parties have founded the Zambian Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID), which is instrumental in creating political consensus on democratic reforms. NIMD also supports the institutional development of political parties in Zambia. NIMD provides this support on a fully inclusive and strictly impartial basis: all parliamentary parties are eligible for support, whether in government or in the opposition. The allocation of funding is based on modalities determined by ZCID. NIMD respects these modalities.

In 2009 the amounts received by the parties under individual contracts with NIMD are as follows: UNIP: € 14,285; NDF: € 14,285; ULP: €12,931 (due to underspending); PF: € 14,285 ; MMD: €14,285 and FDD: No contract signed in 2009. These amounts have been verified by a chartered accountant. In 2010, no contracts have been signed by NIMD and the political parties. Consequently, none of the parties has received any funds from NIMD in 2010. NIMD and ZCID are currently discussing matters relating the partnership, which we hope will be resolved in a few weeks.
There are atleast two reasons why I think it is wrong for NIMD to fund Zambian political parties in this

A shallow strategy...

A new report from the Brenthurst Foundation allegedly commissioned by the Government. It claims upfront :

President Banda invited a group of international experts to visit Zambia in March 2010 under the auspices of the Brenthurst Foundation. On the basis of preparatory fieldwork and research by Brenthurst staff, the group visited major sites of economic development, held discussions with a wide range of stakeholders and organised a threeday orkshop attended by key players from the public and private sectors. This Report is based on the delegation’s findings and was drafted by Dr Greg Mills, Professor Jeffrey Herbst (USA) and Dr Stuart Doran (Australia). 
The Brenthurst Foundation is a Johannesburg-based think-tank established by the Oppenheimer family in 2005. If the name sounds familiar, its because of one  Nicholas Oppenheimer the chairman of the De Beers diamond mining company and its subsidiary, the Diamond Trading Company. He also has a large financial interest in the diversified mining company Anglo American. Keith Snow and others believe there's a clique that control mining interests in the region through many channels. For our purposes it is simply important to note that this is a "big business" report and therefore worrying that the President would invite such a group to provide advice on the future of our country.

But as I said to one person, the reputation "good" or "bad" is in the summation of things neither here or nor there. What matters is whether it has any substance. As it turns out it is actually a pretty poor report and the President would have done well to ask qualified Zambians to advice him. In many areas it shows a very poor understanding of where we need to get to truly mobilise Zambia. Brief comments on the three key recommendations :

Mobilising Zambia
"[There should be] greater efforts to sell to Zambians the benefits of a free-market economy and accelerated growth, perhaps using the 50th anniversary of Zambia’s independence (2014) as a reference point"
The report does not present any single empirical support that Zambia needs a greater role for the market than the State. Many people have argued that what is missing in Zambia is precisely the strong role of government to ensure a more robust structural transformation on the production side. True development is both a process and outcome. The "process" of how Zambia achieves growth  is important. This naturally calls for a pro-active involvement by the State in channelling the energies of private actors to foster the transformational exercise. Markets alone wont get you there. We cannot just sign up to a free market ideology without a comprehensive vision of what it will deliver.

Mining Taxation:
"For the copper industry, a win–win for government and the miners might involve adoption of Chile’s tax system as a best practice model....The Chilean system is predictable and uniform for all industries except that for large mining companies (producing over 50,000 tonnes a year of copper or its equivalent in other products) there is an additional tax which is on a sliding scale, but which peaks at 5 per cent of net sales, after production costs."
Earlier in the report they nailed their flag to the mast, peddling the mining companies' story line that the abandoned windfall tax was "so steep beyond certain thresholds that it paid mining companies to slow or completely halt production". This is foolish analysis because it confuses the administrative problem of double application of the profit variable tax and the windfall tax, with the merit of the windfall tax per se.    In general, I have problems with importing taxation systems applied to countries which are in better financial position or operating within a different atmosphere of revenue sharing. Zambia's approach to mining taxation should be comprehensive as argued here. With regards to the profit based mechanisms, as cited from Chile, the flaws are well known as discussed here.

Tourism :
Efforts could be made to expand bilateral links with South Africa as critical first step. South African operators have indicated an immediate willingness to increase flights into Lusaka given the right conditions. 
This is probably the most disappointing part of the report. It recommends getting South African operators into Lusaka. This is a shabby strategy and does not go far enough. I have previously touched on the key areas that need to be addressed to move the country forward in terms of aviation. This principally involves creating an enabling environment through greater liberalisation of air travel;  reducing the the cost of jet fuel; improving our airport infrastructure; privatisation of provincial airports (more competition); investment in Airport Traffic Control (ATC) infrastructure; and  investment in soft infrastructure - human capital. The Zambian Air Services Training Institute for example must be considered as critical to aviation development.

There are many other detailed flaws in the report which I'll leave others to spot. Its only 17 pages, so good weekend reading! One comforting thought is that having read the report it struck me that on this website we have chronicled the key areas! Which bodes well for our Elections 2011 project!

When incompetence prevails

Last week marked 17 years since the air disaster when national team players and officials perished off the coast of Gabon, on their way to Senegal for a World Cup qualifier. It also marked the exact time all of us have been waiting for the official report. The official line according to Deputy Minister of Sport Maynard Misapa is that Government is allegedly still trying to sort out diplomatic matters with Gabon:

“At an opportune time, the government will eventually avail the report, after the necessary diplomatic matters have been dealt with”.
When is the "opportune time"? 20 years after the incident? 30 years? 100 years? Why not just say we have no intention of releasing the report, times have moved on, so move with it? I am sure people wont get any more angrier than now. This of course is not the only disaster awaiting a report, but which compensation has already been paid, the Explosive Disaster  families victims are still waiting for theirs, and waiting they will. Did someone say in Africa we value the dead?

Thursday, 6 May 2010

A visionary icon

Jonathan Bwalya presents a short biography of Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, 30 years on since his death. Undoubtedly he misses one or two areas, and we also have no interplay between what Kapwepwe’s life teaches us now, but the piece is most commendable. I sense that Zambian historians in general have lamentably failed to project the power of history on current events. It is therefore left to the likes of Jonathan Bwalya to remind us:

Kapwepwe remembered 30yrs on, Jonathan Bwalya, Times of Zambia, Commentary :

January 26, 1980 started like any other, but somewhere in the mining town of Kalulushi legendary freedom fighter Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe was dying from a stroke that struck and left him paralysed two days earlier while visiting his daughter doctor, Sampa Kapwepwe. He was visiting associates and family on the Copperbelt from Chinsali in the Northern Province where he settled after resigning for the second time from the United National Independence

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

"Its like prison"

A quote from one of the workers on the TAZARA "express", featured in a wonderful documentary on the shambles that is TAZARA. The video is called African Railways by Sean Langan. Unfortunately its only available on the BBC iPlayer so its restricted to UK readers. Non-UK readers can read about the documentary here.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Hollow Statistics

Government's estimate of street children :

As government we are greatly concerned about the plight of children living on the streets because of the risks that they are exposed to. According to the last study undertaken by government, the number of street children was estimated at 13,500 and it is therefore important that initiatives meant to address this problem such as street children rehabilitation and integration programmes must be fully supported by all stakeholders...
A recent independent assessment :
The number of street children in Zambia almost doubled over the 1990s. National studies conducted in 1991 and 2004 estimated the number of street children in Zambia to be approximately 35000 and 75000, respectively (Tacon and Lungwangwa 1991; Zambian Ministry of Sport, Youth and Child Development 2004). This represents an increase from about 0.9% to 1.6% of Zambian children living on the street.
The first rule of policy development is to understand the scale of the problem. The government believes the figure of 13,500 while independent assessment estimate the figure can be as much as 75,000. This inevitably means that any solutions by government are unlikely to be adequate. These are not theoretical issues. As I have noted in the past issues of street children read across to three other areas :  child labour, child abuse and child trafficking. We therefore have to get the numbers right. More importantly, can you really trust a policy official who can't even count?

What is wrong with NCC?

Muna Mbulo summarises the flaws:

The current constitution making process is deeply flawed and will fail to deliver a constitution that is legitimate and provides a framework for the democratic governance of Zambia. The primary flaws in the process are the following:
  1. The process itself is inherently unrepresentative and is dominated by politicians;
  2. It is ill designed to build consensus and produce a constitution the country can be proud of;
  3. The constitutional conference or the legislation creating it do not say a word about its philosophical approach to the constitution but its phobia about values, transparency, institutionalisation of accountability and policy is clear in its decisions;
  4. It is not guided by any constitutional principles;
  5. It is not clear what attention the conference gives to the drafting itself, an essential component of preparing the constitution and
  6. The Constitution Conference gives the impression that it has little understanding of the functions of a constitution. Its slash and burn policy on the Mungomba draft appears to be uninformed by an understanding of what must be in the constitution and what maybe relegated to legislation. It has even less understanding of the dynamics and relationships between, institutions and procedures;
  7. It has shown disdain for the views of the public.
  8. It does not posses any idea about the meaning and significance of decentralisation. It confuses decentralisation of the center with devolution of power to local communities;
  9. It is not guided by an understanding of the abundant best practices in Africa and the rest of the world which have informed successful constitution making processes elsewhere e.g. Kenya, South Africa and Namibia to name just a few countries.
It further has no timeline for its work thereby making it open to abuse by those who want to exploit the process to make money, advance their accumulation agenda, or see payments in the form of sitting fees as an economic stimulus in these economic hard time. Already the process has lasted three years. In contrast both the Kenyan and South African process had very strict timelines and each lasted two years. In constitution making it is unwise to have an open ended process as the Zambian process has demonstrated.
A very good list! It summarises many of the complaints I have read. I can see a new paper on the horizon by a clever researcher: “How not to review the constitution: evidence from Zambia”! That said, I do think though that the last point is more complicated than Mbulo suggests. I have discussed this issue here. Fixed timescales creates other problems related to “incomplete information” among players and the incentive problems that generates.  Kenya in fact is a good example because the process has not finished with another draft under way!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Worth reading...

On State of Zambian Internet I bemoan the shrinking of the Zambian blogosphere : "A strange thing has happened in the Zambian blogosphere. Rather than grow, it appears to have shrunk in recent times. In the early days of this blog we saw all kinds of other Zambian blogs popping up. Today very few Zambians blogs are update or maintained. Many people discovered that starting a blog is quick and easy. Few realise how difficult it is to maintain one".

Its wonderful to see some new blogs which appear regularly updated and with genuinely fresh perspectives on issues. Worth checking out Seize the Moment, written by one of the regular commentators on this website. I have found it to be quite refreshing and its good to see Zambian women blogging.  The only problem with the blog is that it does not currently have a feature that allows you to track responses to your comments, but am sure this will be added. Another blog I have recently been following is Behind Independent Mind by Mazuba Mwiinga. It focuses on the politics with the gloves off! I particularly like the lengthy nature of the pieces. Taken together these represent worthy additions and hope they will continue updating them.  As I said, we are an endangered species.

Sharing the Proceeds of Mining, 3rd Edition

“The MMD is stealing these funds meant for the councils and President Banda will be answerable and personally I did not support the removal of windfall taxes and I am not part of that collective responsibility because as MPs we should be making laws that suit the wishes of the people and not what is happening”
The "funds" Hon Mwenya Musenge MP (Nkana) is referring to are the royalties which are supposed to accrue to local authorities under Section 136 of the Mines and Mineral Development Act 2008. The para states "The Minister responsible for Finance shall, in consultation with the Minister [responsible for Mines], a mineral royalty sharing scheme for distributing royalty revenues".  As we have previously noted the Government has failed to act on its legislation.  In a recent Parliamentary exchange, Hon Musenge raised the same concerns with no meaningful response from the other side. Hon Joseph Katema MP previously threatened to take government to Court, but that was hollow because Government cannot be forced to implement legislation by the Courts! It was a colossal failure by Parliamentarians to leave such an important clause for government to act when it feels like.

Incidentally, there's a long list of unimplemented ideas by government. Who remembers the Mining Community Trust Funds? What about the Environmental Protection Fund? All have never seen the light of day.  The problem in Zambia is not that we have no ideas, but that people do not hold government to account for the "formulated ideas".  But even when we have good ideas that are put into legislation, these are often taken forward in an incomplete fashion. The above is a prime example, but recently we had the same problems with the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistleblowers) Bill, 2010. A perfectly sensible legislation but one which is inadequate because of its failure to recognise the need for financial incentives. The quality of legislation that comes out of the House is really poor, as we are finding out in our on-going A Million Words Project.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Age of Criminal Responsibility

We have recently touched on the plight of children in Zambia. Natural questions arise as to why successive governments have performed poorly in this area, especially with respect to street children, child labour and child abuse and trafficking. These issues appear to signal the little value we place on our children, never mind that we appear to be setting records with our polygamous behaviour. There are certainly many issues that require a major rethink when it comes to how we treat children. Top of these in my view is the issue of "age of criminal responsibility" or "criminal liability".

Under Section 14.1 of the Penal Code, Part I, Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia a person younger above 8 years old is criminally responsible for his/her actions or omissions.  This is partially qualified by the fact that a person under the age of 12 years is not criminally responsible for an act or omission, unless it is proved that at the time of committing the act or making the omission s/he had capacity to know that he ought not to do the act or make the omission.  There is an urgent need to increase the minimal age of criminal responsibility, which is far to low compared to many countries. Needless to this law is a relic of colonialism, and although England raised its position to 10 years in 1963, with debate raging to increase it further.

Ages of Criminal Responsibility 
7 - Switzerland, Nigeria, S Africa
8 - Scotland, Sri Lanka, Zambia
10 - England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Australia, New Zealand
12 - The Netherlands, Canada, Greece, Turkey
13 - France
14 - Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, China
15 - Denmark, Sweden, Norway, New York (US)
16 - Spain, Japan, Texas (US), Poland
18 - Belgium, Luxembourg, most US states
The other problem is the difficulty in establishing the real age of the child accused of or having infringed the penal law, since the age claimed by children does not always correspond to the reality or because they sometimes are not aware of it. The difficulty in establishing ages of children coming into conflict with the law is a result of many children whose birth has not been registered.

I am hoping to return to these issues as part of the on-going series on Rethinking Justice, under the thorny issue of "Juvenile Justice".

Namwali Serpell's Muzungu

There's a new generation of extraordinary Zambian women that are achieving great things on the global stage. We have already seen Dambisa Moyo, Princess Kasune Zulu, Princess Nzindaba Nyirenda and the list goes on. Largely unrecognised in Zambia but they are making their mark.  The latest to have joined this list is Namwali Serpell, who holds a PhD from Harvard University and is an accomplished writer and academic. Namwali is on the short list  for the Caine Prize 2010 for African Writing  for her story "Muzungu".  I have not read the story but I gather it is featured in The Best American Short Stories 2009.  A recent interview on the same can be found here.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Governing in difficult times, revisited...

The violence that has rocked the Mufumbwe election has made sad reading indeed. The Post reported yesterday that "two people are confirmed dead and three others nursing serious injuries after a vehicle being driven by MMD parliamentary candidate Mulondwe Muzungu's son hit them early this morning around 05:00 hours".  And that is just a tip of the iceberg.  The Watchdog reports that after defeat to the UPND-PF pact, His Excellency President Rupiah Bwezani Banda appears to be blaming the opposition for the violence : "The President said it was regrettable that the campaigns in Mufumbwe were characterized by violence perpetuated by the opposition supporters".

The Opposition for their part have lost any little faith they had in the police after the arrest of Pact Co-Leader Mr Hakainde Hichilema. The other Pact Co-Leader Mr Sata  has since noted "since he [Kabonde] took