As Zambia marks the labour day today on which workers commemorate the value of human capital President Edgar Lungu says this is one of the most unusual labour day holidays in Zambia’s recent history where workers will not gather as they are forced celebrate it from homes.
The President has however urged workers to use this opportunity to reflect on their real individual and collective contributions as Patriotic citizens of Zambia in this challenging time.
He said it is also a time that workers should take stock of the efforts Government is putting in place to cushion the impact of this slowdown on the lives of the average Zambian family and businesses, large and small.
“We hang on to the hope and trust that we shall overcome and our dedicated labour force and human capital will once again go back into their productive units with most of them employers and creators of their own jobs”, he said.
President Lungu highlighted some of the ways in which his Government is supporting workers’ contributions with a lot more mitigating and supportive measures being rolled out.
He said the Bank of Zambia has provided a K10 Billion line of credit to banks that may face liquidity challenges and has also directed the Minister of Finance to ensure that priority is given to SMEs adversely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak such as schools, gymnasiums, restaurants, bars, and nightclub owners whose businesses have been halted and have sent their workers home.
The President said Commercial banks are obliged to give them loans at an affordable rate to enable their businesses to survive.
President Lungu said his Government has already released K500 million to the public service pensions fund to pay over 1,500 retirees or their beneficiaries adding that government has already released K170 million to banks to clear third party arrears.
He said the government has already released K140 million to various road contractors and decided to waive tax penalties and interest on outstanding tax liabilities resulting from the impact of COVID-19 which will assist companies and businesses to manage their cash flows during this period when they are faced with reduced revenues.
He added that the Government will extend the list of medical supplies that are not subject to import duty and value-added tax for an initial period of six months. This is also meant to expedite the provision of medical-related devices needed to support the fight against COVID-19.
The President said he has already directed the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, and Industry to ensure that all chain stores prioritize local agricultural products in their localities. Under the circumstances we are in, only products that cannot be sourced from locals should be imported saying this is the only way that Zambia shall collectively achieve its national strategic objective to: “Produce Local, Buy Local, and Use Local”.
President Lungu acknowledged that for Zambia to achieve its desired inclusive, robust, and resilient economic growth in the near-term and in the long-term, the nation must first; produce local, buy local, and use local, and then export more.
“To our nation’s labour force in the formal and informal sectors, you are the true value of this nation. I thank you once again for your contributions to this nation”, he added.