Economics Association of Zambia President Dr Lubinda Haabazoka says it is dangerous for Zambia to have people without qualifications in Economics issuing statements about the state of the economy.
Dr Haabazoka has since suggested the need to enact a law that will stop non economists to comment on economic issues.
He said it is saddening that people whose core expertise is not economics related have been given a platform to speak and advise on national economic matters.
“We have seen people become prominent commentators on national economic issues without having solved any problem in econometrics,” Dr Haabazoka noted.
“It is very dangerous as a country to open expert debate on national economic issues to parties that do not even have a background on the history of economic thought. Last week it came to my attention that in this country as an economist, you don’t qualify to teach or practice public financial management (literary Public Finance),” he stated.
Below is the full statement from Dr Haabazoka
Just like in law, economics in most cases is not an exact science. The danger of this is that you find different views on any issue. Law and economics will in most cases attract non specialists to give opinions about issues relating to the field.
This is very good because it gives specialists in these fields an idea of how their trade is perceived. But we need to understand that common sense does prevail when we go into the details.
In Zambia for sometime now, we have seen a number of individuals and organizations commenting on national economic matters! That is very good because it means citizens are very much interested in the economic aspects of Zambia’s development.
What is rather saddening is that people whose core expertise is not economics related have been given a platform to speak and advise on national economic matters! We have seen people become prominent commentators on national economic issues without having solved any problem in econometrics.
It is very dangerous as a country to open expert debate on national economic issues to parties that do not even have a background on the history of economic thought. Last week it came to my attention that in this country as an economist, you don’t qualify to teach or practice public financial management (literary Public Finance).
I am beginning to fear for my country.
Zambia has a lot of commenters on a lot of issues. You will find a lot of people that comment on any issues. Why do people court the media? Why do people speak so much? What is the purpose? Self recognition or what?
Well I can only answer for academicians. In academia, one important factors considered for promoting is community service. Commenting on various issues in either print or electronic media scores points in our promotion criteria. Our freedom to research and speak in our field of expertise is enshrined in the republican constitution.
We have a lot of intelligent economists in the ministry of finance and even the Bank of Zambia. You don’t hear about them because that is not part of their job description. For some who move to academia, you hear about them almost immediately. So what is the motivation for those whose core business is not advocacy to speak on national economic issues?
What we should avoid is having a situation where people use common knowledge to convince government (politicians at policy level) and in most cases citizens to take certain positions on national economic issues. Our friends the lawyers have protected themselves by going statutory.
Accountants won’t even allow you to touch a balance sheet if you are not a chartered accountant. So as economists why have we opened our area to everyone? Economics sounds simple but is a very difficult field. You need to understand theory and the quantitatives for you to succeed in solving economic problems.
Economics has certain rules and in most cases when these rules are ignored, you arrive at wrong conclusions. Economics does not sing to popular tunes just like law. A rapist can escape jail when there is no evidence. Just like in law, we can’t assume things because that is what is perceived to be popular. It is easy for non specialists to rush into unfolded popular conclusions.
But for us economists and more especially those in academia, until certain conditions are met, we cant give a verdict.
In some countries, media houses will ask for your CV before entrusting you with a platform. In Zambia anybody can speak however they want and whenever they want. Let us do an experiment.
Let us for the month of November ask for CVs of experts we collect information from. I can tell you that the newspapers will be blank and news will be quiet for November.
We should not argue with pressure groups and non specialists on national economic issues. Just like we don’t argue with engineers or lawyers, I also ask others not to move into our field. But we have to be careful because economics has a lot of other related fields.
Actually business studies, development studies among others are part of economics. Those we embrace.
When we argue with fellow economists, we argue on substance. We in most cases will even refer to different schools of thought and outline weaknesses of each school. The one with less weaknesses is the one we agree to take. In some cases we never even agree but arrive at the same answer despite takin different routes.
That is what makes economics great! Some economists are quantitative, some are qualitative and others are both.
We need to set strict economic ethical rules in this country. Sometimes you hear NGOs formed to fight gender violence talk about interest rates in the certain platform with economist. I have shared platforms unfortunately with economists who in an argument move from issue based debate to personal attacks.
To such economists, please revisit theory. Sometimes you need that to sharpen your experience.
To my fellow media outlets, please watch Bloomberg and transfer what they do to your business/economics news rooms. That way, the country will positively benefit from economic debate.
My personal thoughts from Florida.