Spending by miners in Chile is spreading through Chile’s economy, fueling a consumer boom and driving unemployment down to 6.2 percent in the second quarter, the lowest rate since 1973. The nation has become the wealthiest in Latin America, according to the International Monetary Fund, with per capita gross domestic product rising to about $16,300 this year from $4,780 10 years ago. The growth of copper mining and shortage of skilled workers mean many miners earn bonuses in excess of $30,000 for signing new contracts every two or three years. Mining giant BHP Billiton (BBL) says truck drivers at its Escondida mine get paid the equivalent of $80,000 a year, excluding bonuses, more than their counterparts in the U.S. Zambia on the other hand can just dream of such figures. The resource wealth is poorly managed.
A recent piece from Think Africa Press on Zambia's rising debt levels made interesting reading : "Just six years on, Zambia started borrowing again, with the Patriotic Front (PF) government currently preparing to complete its first interest payment on last September’s 10-year $750 million Eurobond...many critics accuse the government of an antiquated debt policy with insufficient parliamentary oversight. Others lament wasted potential in the tax system that could see development dollars raised without onerous terms or interest. Why can't Zambian journalists do such investigative pieces rather than obsession with party politics?
Daily Nation reports that government has allegedly awarded the contract to supply the nation’s diesel needs to Dalbit Petroleum Limited; a company Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba claimed wanted to bribe him. The Daily Nation claims to have obtained a copy of the government letter offering Dalbit the diesel supply contract although security officials have yet to clear the company. Dalbit was also cited by the Wynter Kabimba-led Energy Regulation Board Commission of Inquiry for irregularities which were blamed for the loss of US$2 million during the Rupiah Banda regime.
Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu recently said that government had heightened security measures following online reports that Zambia is among the countries targeted to be attacked by Al Shabaab. Mr. Lungu told ZNBC News in a phone interview that people should also be on alert following these reports. He has appealed to the media to help government in sensitizing the masses. I was not sure whether to weep or laugh when I read this story. Mr Lungu needs to realise that he can't protect Zambia by simply relying on the Zambian Watchdog or Facebook reports. He needs to focus on gathering his own intelligence.
The Sunday Times recently went "tabloid". It announced that it was changing its editorial content. From now on readers will be provided with a type of ‘compressed’ journalism involving "stories that are condensed into a simplified, and easily-absorbed format..[and] use of large and many pictures, as well as emphasis on sensational stories, as well as those bordering on crime, gossip, profiling eminent individuals...and celebrities.". I understand why they see the need to change their editorial approach. They are trying to survive the financial mess. But this new approach raises another questions than it answers : How does this new editorial approach make better use of tax payers' money? Why are we subsiding papers that will now just compete with banality?
Chola Mukanga | Economist
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