GOVERNMENT has said that Zambians have not been able to enjoy the benefits of the current low global oil prices because of the exchange pressure that the Kwacha was facing from other international currencies.
Energy and Water Development Minister, Ms. Dora Siliya has said that the current exchange rate shocks directly impacted her Ministry which had to make huge purchases of oil and power at colossal amounts in foreign currency, particularly now when the country was facing a serious energy deficit.
Ms. Siliya is in South Africa as President Edgar Lungu’s Special Envoy to South Africa’s President His Excellency Mr. Jacob Zuma. She was speaking this morning when she addressed diplomats at the High Commission of Zambia in Pretoria.
The Minister, accompanied by directors in her Ministry, Mr. Oscar Kalumiana for energy, and Ms. Viola Mtamila for Planning, and Zesco director of transmission Mr. Webster Musonda, have been meeting chief executive officers of various companies in the energy sector.
Ms. Siliya pointed out that apart from oil and power requirements, the country was also faced with a widening deficit of food in some parts of the country which Government had to address through provision of relief food.
“To add salt to the injury, at a time when the world is experiencing low oil prices, our people cannot gain from that because the same foreign exchange that we could have been saving is now going to purchases of power and other emergency interventions,” she said.
“Others say we should not compare with other countries yet economies of the world are inter-linked. What happens when China stops buying our copper which has been our main source of foreign exchange for a long time? Obviously we lose revenue yet at the same time other countries still want us to pay for what we import,” She added.
The Minister explained that shortage of water in some parts of the country was the primary problem which was manifesting itself through load shedding which was a secondary challenge. She said her Ministry had realised that out of the 40 percent of water resources that Zambia boasted, the country only accessed four percent of this while the rest ran off to the sea, evaporated or sunk into the ground.
“It was not strange for the President to call for prayers as no one can manufacture rain. It was difficult for people to fathom that Kariba could dry up until pictures showing rocks at the Victoria Falls went round.”
“We are, therefore, engaging each other and other experts to see how best we can harvest this water for the benefit of the country. It is now clear that the northern and north-western parts of Zambia have water and so it is paramount that we start moving the bulk of water related investment into those regions,” she said.
She regretted that the new thermal power plant at Maamba Collieries did not meet the November dead line by which it should have brought about 300 megawatts on stream. Maamba is now expected to be operational by July this year while it is also hoped that some solar and hydro energy sources would have come on board by the end of the year.
Ms. Siliya said Government was working hard to ensure that power supply did not drop to levels beyond what was prevailing by employing various sources of energy such as through imports and fuel-powered generators as part of the emergency measures.
The Minister urged Zambians not to allow to be misled about the energy problems the country was facing pointing out that investment in power generation and transmission took long to mature.
“Nobody should come to you and claim that they can play some magic and end our problems just like that because even solar takes not less than a year to put up. I think debate on who did not do what is long gone. We should all be patriotic and put our energies together so that we find solutions to these problems,” Ms. Siliya said.
She called on the private sector to participate in finding solutions.
The Minister also urged consumers to adopt the use of energy saving bulbs, solar geysers and gas stoves as an effective way of conserving energy.