By Henry Kyambalesa
With a Human Development Index (HDI) score of 0.561, Zambia is currently ranked 141st out of 187 countries – a rank that falls within the 'medium human development' category. And while there was a declining trend in the country's HDI between 1980 and 1990, there has been a rising trend in the Index between 1990 to date. This is certainly a good trajectory!
However, we should not be content with our current HDI ranking; we should strive to pull our beloved country from the 'medium human development' category into the 'high human development' category!
According to the United Nations Development Program's Human Development Report, the HDI is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living.
The HDI report ranks countries in four categories as follows: very high human development, high human development, medium human development, and low human development.
There are many factors which can bolster a country's quest to attain a high and sustained level of socioeconomic development and improve its ranking on the HDI. Such factors include the following: (a) quality and accessible education and training; (b) an accessible and well-maintained public healthcare system; (c) food security; (d) sustained peace and stability; (e) stringent pieces of legislation designed to protect the fragile natural environment; and (f) an enabling environment designed to induce both local and foreign private investments.
With respect to "an enabling environment," a country's government and public officials need to provide adequately for various kinds of guarantees, inducements, and essential public services and facilities designed to incentivise both local and foreign private investors, such as the following:
(a) A well-developed transportation infrastructure and adequate transportation services to industrial, commercial, and residential areas to ease or facilitate the distribution of production inputs and finished products;
(b) Adequate public services (including police protection, fire protection, public utilities, and decent housing), as well as telecommunications, educational, vocational, health, and recreational facilities;
(c) A competent, independent, and well-remunerated civil service, without which a government's plans cannot be efficiently and effectively implemented;
(d) Equitable sales, corporate, and other taxes, as well as tax concessions and inducements that are more attractive than those in alternative countries or regions which investors are likely to consider for investment;
(e) A viable and efficient financial system, including the Lusaka Stock Exchange (LuSE) and all other financial institutions in the country;
(f) A reversal of the current emphasis on stabilizing inflation at the expense of job creation and economic growth by placing greater emphasis on job creation and economic growth through low interest rates and progressive reductions in taxes in order to stimulate investment, savings, and consumption;
(g) An ambitious program designed to lure private investments which can lead to the creation of new jobs, facilitate socioeconomic development, and create a more competitive economic setting that can promote efficiency, as well as compel business entities to improve the quality of their products and also charge relatively lower prices;
(h) Political and civic leaders who are fair and honest in their dealings with private business institutions, and stable economic policies (including a formal assurance against nationalization and/or expropriation of privately owned business undertakings by the national government);
(i) Political and civic leaders who are genuine and resolute in their fight against the scourge of corruption in governmental and non-governmental settings;
(j) Less bureaucratic licensing, import, export, and other procedures, and adequate information about investment and marketing problems and opportunities in the various sectors of a country's economy and in cross-border markets;
(k) A system of justice that is fair, impartial and independent in both word and deed; and
(l) A social safety net designed to adequately cater to the needs of economically disadvantaged members of society that is not subject to political meddling or manipulation.
These inducements, services, facilities, and guarantees, among a host of other things, can enable economic units to operate more efficiently and eventually deliver economic and social outputs to society at reasonable costs and prices.
Zambia, like any other country that is striving to meet the basic needs and expectations of its people, would, therefore, do well not to expect meaningful socioeconomic development to drop within its borders like manna from heaven; heightened and sustained socioeconomic development has to be adequately planned for and resolutely pursued.
An important requirement in this endeavor is for individuals and/or political parties seeking elective positions in government to adequately define the projects and programs they intend to pursue, and provide realistic time frames for accomplishing some or most of such projects and programs.
In future elections, therefore, I wish to ask all my fellow citizens who are eligible to vote not to readily support political candidates or political parties that will not have realistic implementation schedules for some or most of their contemplated projects and programs.
In conclusion, we should all doubt the seriousness of any political party whose Manifesto, or any semblance thereof, provides only an open-ended wish list of projects, programs, and policies without giving any time frames when voters should expect to see tangible results relating to the party's plans.
(Editor's note : ZE regularly invites leading experts, opinion makers and analysts to share contrasting perspectives on important issues facing the country. If you wish to submit a piece for discussion please get in touch).