UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has challenged the PF government to tell the nation what actions it is implementing to lessen the burden on the people which has came about as a result of the county’s broken economy.
In a statement, Mr Hichilema said more and more analysts including international organizations are confirming what has already been established as major challenges afflicting the county’s economy but that the PF government seems to be clueless as to what mitigating measures to put in place.
He said there is reason for the PF government to continue waiting in putting up remedial measures to avert the continued detoriation of the county’s economy saying if your business is running a loss but you want to survive then you do not wait a month.
Below is the statement issued by the UPND President.
Planning for Economic Growth and Prosperity
As the weeks go by and our President remains silent on what action he intends to take to fix our broken economy, more and more analysis and confirmation of our challenges comes from all quarters. The most recent projections include figures from the UK’s Economist Intelligence Unit that estimate real GDP growth will stand at just 2.8% in 2016 – the lowest level since 1998. Yet to date no one seems to be clear on the programme of action proposed by our government to tackle the slow down and reduce its negative impacts on the people, or if indeed there is any such plan.
We have all been rehearsing and dissecting the economic problems we are facing as a nation for some time now – they are no great mystery, and the important ones have been established, including power shortages, high inflation rates of over 20%, policy uncertainty and lack of confidence, prohibitive interest rates, lack of diversification and an education sector not well matched to the labour market demand. What we in the UPND are trying to say in reaction to this is that we can drive our own solutions. Together we can fix our economy and get Zambia back on track.
If your business is running a loss but you want to survive then you do not wait a month, a year or even longer to take action, but you identify the reasons for that loss and weigh up what you can do to address the situation. For example, if you are not selling enough fritters to make any profit you may decide that you need to reposition your stall to attract more passers-by, or perhaps you need to check the competition and vary your recipe to stand out with customers. What we have failed to see from the PF and President Lungu when it comes to managing the economy is anything beyond an occasional acknowledgement that business is not good today, this has been going on for too long now and talk needs to re-focus on solutions.
What we continue to call for is an urgent weighing up of the options open to us, and the launch of a decisive plan of action, timeline for delivery and expected results, as well as the names of those to be held accountable for implementation.
When resources are limited, as they are in our case, then planning becomes particularly important because prioritisation is the key to making sure a little investment will go a long way. These investments must go into areas that will have positive multiplier effects, and the plan must be made with an understanding of which areas we should tackle first that will then put us in a better position to tackle other problems thereafter.
Looking at the various economic challenges we face it is clear to us in the UPND that a big focus on supporting Zambian businesses to become competitive and grow is of primary importance. By supporting our Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) we can oversee accelerated job creation and by bringing inflation down then we reduce pressure on interest rates and can subsequently look to reduce these to the further benefit of business. Support must start with a clear and simple regulatory environment that is easy to understand and that keeps start-up and permit costs low. It must be followed with education and training initiatives and complemented with improved access to finance.
More broadly, policy certainty and confidence is an area that requires very little monetary investment by government, only vision, consultation and ultimately decisiveness.
Reforming our education system to better prepare and train students for jobs and business can also be achieved largely through consultation and collaboration with teaching professionals and industry. In the 21st Century we can also take advantage of the great advances in technology that enable us to deliver new tools and resources quickly to wide and remote areas, such as electronic textbooks and e-Readers. This is an area we want to invest in by cutting back on wasteful expenditures, such as frequent international trips with large delegations and endless by-elections.
Another area for investment, alongside local industry, has to be power. Investors have been pulling back from Zambia because of uncertainty and the continual changing of the goal posts by government. If we can confidently and decisively engage industry to tell them what projects we want to see, what incentives they can expect and reassure them of the stability of the terms of contract and rules of operation then investment will follow.
If the PF expects another five years in office then we must ask what is their plan and why have we never heard of it to date? We cannot continue to set ourselves up for failure by allowing uncertainty and external factors to overrun us without taking any action in response. What will be done today, tomorrow and the day after? If we want economic growth and prosperity then together we must take control of the reins of the economy and get Zambia moving forward.