Bad news always gets more hearing than good news. Which means we must work extra hard to hear and absorb good news. To ensure a balance in assessment, and recognising that often affirmation is more effective in provoking positive change than constant criticism, I asked our Facebook readers in April, “What are some of the good things currently happening in our economy and governance that has impressed you?". Here are the common seven things that they highlighted. [I emphasise that these are their answers - I have merely summarised them]:
(1) Zambianisation is back - in one phrase, Government policy was described as “pro Zambian”. There has been enhanced empowerment and preferential treatment of citizens in many key areas, especially construction where suppliers and contractors are now getting a larger chunk of projects. Readers applauded the 20% mandatory sub-contracting of citizen firms on all large value building and road projects and the requirement that road contracts below KR30m and building contracts below KR20m are reserved for Zambian contractors and suppliers. Some noted that the policy of industrial clusters and the new focus on a Zambian led industrialisation strategy bodes well for broader Zambian centred economic model that is not always reliant on foreign direct investment. They were optimistic that the rural areas may just roar back into life in the near future.
(2) Infrastructure galore – in one word, policy on infrastructure was described as “huge”. Many noted the vast resources that have been poured to upgrade infrastructure on many levels by GRZ and the private sector. Top of the bill was the road construction with Pave Zambia 2000 and Link 8000 winning wide applaude. Social infrastructure was also flagged up especially the new health posts andprimary schools being built. The upgrading of existing urban hospitals was lauded, as was the commitment towards new sports stadiums e.g. Mongu. Increased investments in energy were also noted as one of the better uses of the Eurobond money. Whilst the connection of Shangmbo to the national grid intrigued the readers, it was the private sector led projects and announcement of the Batoka project that excited many.
(3). Reinvoigorated monetary policy - in one word monetary policies were described as “proactive”. Many applauded the rebasing of the Kwacha as a “confidence boost” and reduced costs of computation. The capping of lending rates was heralded as an important step to stop “banks who have exploited us for a long time”. Inflation has remained stable despite the depreciation of the Kwacha. The Bank of Zambia (Amendment) Act 2013 was noted as a milestone in ensuring mining companies and other large investors brought back their profits to our local banks. The ban on the illegal trade in foreign currency, mainly US dollars also featured among many favourites.
(4). Competent mining policy – in one phrase the Ministry of Mines new approach on was described as “level-headed, competent and hard-working”. They noted GRZ's success, including : the bold takeover of Collum mining; increased reasonable taxation take with increase of royalties to 6% and reduction of capital allowances; restructuring of ZCCM-IH; increased mining investment; sorting out the emeralds auction mining; push towards value addition; creation of the Mineral Development Commission; higher wages for mining employers; commitment towards more GRZ ownership in new mines; and, greater focus on mining safety.
(5) Education, education, education – in one word, the Ministry of Education’s efforts were described as “progressive”. There is a new policy direction which has involved a mixture of legislation, policies and projects. These include the Higher Education Act 2013; new mathematics and science colleges; increased construction of universities; conversion of colleges of education to universities, with Nkhurum being cited as a great example; and, abolition of basic schools system. The focus on building new primary school and converting community schools was also praised.
(6) Inclusive government – in one word the PF's approach to governance was described as open. There was praise for Mr Sata allowing the opposition to be included in government. Many noted progress with respect to the constitution process, particular that it now looks to “include good things that Zambians have cried for the past years”. The Judiciary and Electoral Commission of Zambia were regarded as more independent now than in previous years. The general stance against corruption and tough decisions taken on ZRL were also noted. Many praised Mr Sata for being the most “pro-women” president of recent times, with many appointments of women in key leadership position. Finally, the creation of many districts and Muchinga Province was seen by some as a signal of GRZ intent to “take development closer to the people”.
(7) More money - it was generally felt that GRZ was quite pro-workers. Many pointed to the various policies including : seeincrease in salaries for many public and private sector workers; higher minimum wages; and, GRZ proposal to create a bank that would led to GRZ employees at a lower rate. The expansion in the public sector was also lauded as a solution towards increasing employment.
These were the main things the readers identified. In a short piece such as this we cant include everything. Indeed, I have not attempted any analysis of the points. But I hope I have summarised adequately and fairly the points many of them reflected. At the very least, they appear to be a useful indication of people's perception of where they think Government has been active.
Copyright © Zambian Economist 2013