PRESIDENT Levy Mwanawasa has challenged Zambians living abroad to be active participants in Zambia’s economic development by remitting more funds for entrepreneurial ventures and sourcing strategic partners to lift the country out of its doldrums.
Speaking to a group of Zambians living in Seattle and Western Canada at the Seattle Marriot Waterfront Hotel, Dr Mwanawasa said while his Government had seen the reduction of poverty levels from 75 per cent down to 68 per cent,there remained “much to be done” to trickle down the economic benefits toeveryone.
“We have had to take very hard measures at the expense of political popularity and Zambians have paid a heavy price for it. We felt that it was far better unpopular now and get things done than die being condemned,” he said.
There was positive economic growth over the last six years; tourism, agriculture and mining sectors were success stories. To crown it all, Zambia’s achievement of the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) status had helped lower the international debt stranglehold from $7.2 billion to $600,000. He confirmed that some oil deposits had been discovered in Zambia.
Zambians abroad must take a keen interest in developments back home and look for ways of supporting their former schools and remitting a little extra to support entrepreneurial initiatives.
“If you were a student of UNZA, you should send money to rehabilitate their room you lived in. Similarly you can send computers to your former colleges or high schools,” he said.
He said much of the challenge was to forge networks and alliances between potential donors, interest groups or foundations willing to learn from and partner with Zambia in various sectors.
In response to a question from Fred Muyumba on why the president had not forgiven his predecessor, Frederick Chiluba, Dr Mwanawasa said the former president was presumed innocent until proven guilty by Zambian laws. He had decided to let the courts handle the matter because it was the right thing to do.
He explained that there was no ill-will towards Dr Chiluba whom he referred to as ” a dear friend”. Although he had powers to pardon some “you can only pardon someone who has been convicted of a crime, which Mr Chiluba has not.”
Dr Chiluba still continued to receive his pension and his entitlements as a former President. “The government has sent him abroad for treatment at out expense.”He said he owed his life today to Dr Chiluba in so many ways.
Dr Mwanawasa said his call to have Dr Chiluba return some of the money said to have been taken from the Government had been spurned.
Speaking at the same meeting, Commerce Trade and Industry minister, Felix Mutati said Zambians abroad should consider cutting down on food consumption so they could remit at least $1,000 or more to their relatives.
Health minister, Brian Chituwo reported that Zambia had linked up with financial partners like the Bill Gates Foundation to help fight malaria, the number one killer of children and expectant mothers.