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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Cost of Rushed Policies

The High Court last week ruled that former local government minister Nkandu Luo breached the rules of natural justice when she banned Tujilijili - leading to damages to be awarded to the 15 liquor companies:
"I award damages to the applicants for loss of verifiable stock or equipment which must be assessed by the learned Deputy Registrar of the High Court in the absence of agreement. In awarding these damages, I am satisfied that if this was a claim made in ordinary proceedings by way of writ, the applicants would have been awarded damages as a remedy for the losses..."
- Justice Sichinga

The ban remains but damages payment will now cost government huge sums of money. The 15 companies claimed to have employed around 1, 000 people directly. They said Luo's rushed decision left many people job losses, creditors lost their monies, and they lost business revenues. The big question is who else will now join the queue to sue Government? Lawyers will be studying the judgement carefully. She rushed her decision because she wielded much power because the law allowed her to use a statutory instrument which required little input from parliament.

All of these issues (especially the large compensation cost to Government) could have been avoided had the ban come through with wider public debate and careful reasoning. It was the usual typical knee jerk policy  development that we have come to expect from Zambian politicians. Banning had some merit, but Luo's assessment was one dimensional and her policy execution was poor. She did not take on board broader questions such possibility of diversion to new drinks (new drinks have already replaced Tujilijili), criminal justice costs and  costs of litigation. The councils have also found it expensive to police the whole thing. 

Question : What can be done to ensure the government consults more on its decisions?

Copyright © Zambian Economist 2013

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