Ministers must be accountable for what they say
I hope the President holds each Minister accountable for the public statements that they make especially when they are close to lies. One of the problems facing Zambia today is that almost every Zambian tells lies. And I don’t mean one lie. Lies are found in almost everything that we say. From the lies that our leaders have taught us, almost every child lies. The culture of unbridled lying is growing so fast and consistently that soon no one from outside the country will take us seriously. Then there is the problem of inflating what we say so that those listening can easily support us. Leaders do not care when they are doing this to their people. Then there is the careless talk syndrome. Leaders and each one of us simply talk what we want because no one checks on us.
Zambia, one of the most favorable investment destinations?
Let me put this in context. In the Lusaka Times of 6 February, Minister of Mines and Mineral Development, Hon Christopher Yaluma said, “Zambia remained one of the most favorable Investment destination in Southern Africa.” Without figures, people listening are likely to believe or not believe. That is why leaders like Ministers should first do research, prepare statistics and consult experts before they make statements. It is good for them because they will be saying things based on informed decisions and therefore will be more specific and avoid generalizations. The Minister was speaking at a very important Africa Mining meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. To qualify his statement, the Minister said, “The country had attracted some of the worlds largest mine houses which was a good demonstration to its favorable investment climate.” That is clever talk as usual from every Zambian, in particular leaders. They will simply say whatever they want.
The problem in our country is that no one holds anyone accountable for what they say. I have tried in my articles to translate what leaders say in statements in public by using figures. And here, after reading the statement from the Minister. I did a quick research of figures. One way to test the Minister’s statement would be to go to figures showing, in the last ten years, compared to the last almost 30 years to see the trend of how much Zambia has been attracting inward foreign direct investment (FDI) in relation to other African countries. So, Table 1 below shows that in 1990, in Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA), Zambia ranked number three after Liberia and Nigeria. Then, the Minister’s statement would be supported by figures. Ten years after, in 2000, the table shows that Zambia’s ranking dropped to a shameful fifteenth. But more importantly, and in line with the period that the Minister is referring to, in particular in 2016, Zambia’s ranking dropped even further to number seventeen.
The figures don’t match the statements
Yes, as the Minister correctly states, “The country had attracted some of the world’s largest mine houses which was a good demonstration to its favorable investment climate. And, “Zambia had a favorable investment climate in Zambia and this was confirmed by existing mines and green field investments in copper production that had risen to 770,597 in 2016.” But, how do you explain your statements in light of the reality that our country has in fact been overtaken by so many small countries that are now attracting more FDI from the world than Zambia, according to statistics shown? What is the point of showing off about a favorable environment for FDI when figures show that it is other countries that are benefiting? If it were true that Zambia is favorable, the figures would logically show that the country is ranking among the top five but is number 17 in 2016 dropping from number 3 in 1990. Do leaders simply want to make themselves happy when the situation on the ground is untrue?
Table 1: Zambia’s inward Foreign Direct Investment in $ Millions in Sub-Sahara Africa
In Foreign Direct Investment Stock too, Zambia is not competitive
In case the argument by the Minister is to discuss FDI stock that has already been officially invested and is part of the country’s GDP, again, as Table 2 shows, if he had spoken in 1990 when Zambia ranked number 4 in SSA, the numbers would have supported his statement. But speaking in the period 2016 when Zambia’s ranking fell to 10, with FDI stock of only about $15 billion, compared to Ghana’s $30 billion, it is perplexing that the Minister should make a public statement like he did on our behalf as citizens who are worried about the country’s eroding global and regional competitiveness.
Table 2: Zambia’s inward Foreign Direct Investment stock in $ Millions
|1||South Africa||9,210||South Africa||136,837|
The Emperor’s new suit
In the Emperor’s Suit story, two weavers tricked the Emperor in believing that they were experts who would make a wonderful suit for him that was invisible to anyone unfit for their position, stupid or incompetent. So, the Emperor allowed the weavers to go ahead and make the suit. When the Emperor parades in front of his people in the new suit at midday, there was no one who raised his voice to say that they did not see any suit on the Emperor because they feared reprisal or as stupid. Then the child shouted, “But the Emperor has nothing on his body.” The illustration of this is that we can all leave you alone and continue to say you are wearing a new suit. But there are long term consequences, perhaps too ghastly to contemplate. The best is for you to allow us to check on you and advise before you disgrace yourself in public. Instead of extolling ourselves, we should be mindful and focus on working hard so that at least we remain in the top five ranking or number 3 as was the case in 1990.
So, it is not true that Zambia is one of the most favorable investment destinations. And this is not being negative. Investors like the truth. They don’t like lies, dishonesty, dark cleverness, careless talk and inflating the FDI environment. The Minister can be proud that Zambia is attracting some of the best investors but they are largely in minerals. This should be complemented by investment in the manufacturing sector which, like mining can also create more and sustainable jobs. The Minister cannot be drinking champagne over lopsided investment. Equally, the dollar values are simply too low. We can be forced to believe that Zambia is the best investment destination and our children will believe that and fail to think and innovate in future. On the other hand, if we speak the truth and find solutions, I think it is better than fooling ourselves when numbers do not support our claims. We can all be loyal to our country by supporting lies. But of what use is this kind of culture which makes us gain by living a life of lies but makes us lose our soul?