The latest rise in electricity prices will hurt Zambians who are already struggling with the ever-rising cost of living, not to mention our local businesses which should be the lifeblood of the economy and represent the best hope we have for creating enough jobs for everyone.
The country is already facing massive power blackouts leading to job loses in key sectors of our economy. Now even the few hours businesses get some power for minimal production has increased in cost through the rising electricity tariff.
This price increase comes at a time businesses are struggling with the recent fuel price increase that has hit most business houses resorting to gensets.
Even worse, there has so far been no clear and alternative policies on mitigating the current electricity deficit other than planned imports at the time we have also continued to export power to other countries despite our own power deficit.
We have been shocked by the handling of the power crisis by the PF government, who has focused their efforts on distancing itself from the cause of the problems. They claim that it is caused only by low level waters and is therefore beyond human control. Let us be clear that if it were not for the continual underinvestment and mismanagement of our power generation, transmission and distribution network over the years, including the past 4 years of PF government, this problem would not have arisen. At this stage we should in fact be bringing more capacity online each year to open up opportunities for Zambians to improve their living situation and local businesses their prospects, not facing the reverse.
While electricity and power projects are known to be expensive, for a government that has borrowed more money than at any other time in our history how is it possible that this sector has been so neglected? If we do not have the money ourselves to invest then the other way to tackle this problem is to encourage private investment in energy projects, and there are some places where this is already happening on a small scale, even using renewable sources that bring additional benefit. However, investment in Zambia under the PF has never been more unattractive. The failure of the PF government to plan and invest in the sector, or to attract those who are able to develop projects in Zambia has resulted in great cost to the Zambian people, in terms of jobs, lack of access to power and high prices.
How did government let us get to this state? There are two possibilities: one, they have not understood and appreciated the work and investment that is needed in the sector. If so this is unacceptable and they must wake up – it is their full time job and this is not good enough. Zambia deserves better! The second possibility is that they thought they might get away with not investing, that they could hold out until after the 2016 elections and then Zambians would have no choice but 5 more years of PF government, regardless of whether they have electricity. They have been caught short and should be responsible enough to shoulder the blame for the hardship so many are now facing as a result.
Issued by: UPND National Campaign Centre, Lusaka