By Sean Tembo – PeP President
1. Any well-meaning Zambian will agree that the Patriotic Front and its Government have failed to properly manage the affairs of this country. Among the areas of failure are; the economy, corruption and breakdown in the rule of law whereby a PF cadre has more authority than any member of the security or defense wings. Similarly, any well-meaning Zambian will agree that if we are going to make progress as a nation, we need to change Government on 12th August this year.
But change Government from PF to who? Well, any honest person will agree that the UPND are currently the most well-positioned in line. They have the most support on the ground, they are the longest existing and have the most representation in Parliament. But is the UPND really the solution to our economic meltdown, endemic corruption and total breakdown in the rule of law? Are they really the cure to our disease?
2. To answer this important question, we need to fairly and objectively look at the solutions which the UPND are offering and how different those solutions are from what PF has been doing which has failed to achieve much.
3. Let us start with the economy. The economy is paramount in the governance of any nation. But it is even more so in the context of Zambia because our poverty levels are just too high. I have always held the view that it is blasphemous for a country as rich as Zambia to be so poor. We have so much potential in almost all sectors of the economy whether it be agricultural, mining, tourism etcetera, but we have very little to show for it. From one administration to another, all they have done is to sing about how much potential Zambia has. No administration to date has succeeded in converting the potential that we have into actual wealth for the benefit of our people. So if UPND is to be considered a savior to our economic ruins, then they have to present a clear solution of how they intend to convert our economic potential into actual wealth for the benefit of our people.
4. But what is UPND saying about turning around our economic fortunes? Well, they are saying that they will put the country on an IMF program and get an IMF loan. I must admit that this is the single biggest issue that l am fundamentally opposed to the UPND about. It does not matter to me whether people say l should not oppose my fellow opposition, but on the issue of how to turnaround our economic fortunes as a nation, l just can’t help it but oppose the UPND plan.
Putting the country on an IMF programme is a bad idea in more ways than one. Firstly it means that the UPND do not see all the economic potential around us which we can use to turnaround our economic fortunes. Secondly, it means that the UPND have no faith in their own ability to manage the economy and would rather place the mandate of managing the Zambian economy into the hands of the IMF. For the uninitiated, an IMF programme is a detailed list of economic policy interventions that you need to implement over a specific period of time which usually ranges between 2 to 10 years.
Once a country is on an IMF programme, it is not allowed to formulate and implement its own economic policies that are outside the policies that the IMF has prescribed. You are essentially relinquishing your authority to manage the economic affairs of the nation, and to a large extent your sovereignty too.
5. If the IMF policies were 100% good policies, l would not have any objection. But they are not. The IMF’s idea of fiscal discipline is extreme and essentially amounts to throwing away the baby with the bath water. For example, if you trim the civil service, it might appear to be a brilliant idea on paper because you are reducing the wage bill, but in reality you are seriously undermining the growth of the economy because you’re cutting down on the purchasing power of the population. In other words, the IMF has many textbook economic theories that they would like to experiment with once they put a country on their programme. Zambia and Zambians will be reduced to guinea pigs under an IMF programme. Every so often the IMF likes to test their economic theories and they always need a country to experiment on.
It is the same way that every so often, western countries always want to test their latest weapons of war and they always find an excuse to start a war somewhere. Once an opportunity for war has been presented, each of the rich countries will quickly send their troops so that they can test their latest rifle designs, latest laser-guided bombs and the like. The economic version of a war is an IMF programme.
6. For those who wish to argue that an IMF programme is a good idea, l would like to refer them to the IMF programme that was implemented on Zambia in the 1990s that was dubbed Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). Under that programme, the IMF forced us to sell 99% of our parastatals, regardless of whether they were financially viable or not. And guess who bought most of the parastatals for a song? Multinational corporations that share the same street address with the IMF in New York City.
I always get baffled that there are some Zambians out there, some with a reasonably decent education, who think that going the IMF route is a good idea. Such naivety is what has caused this level of underdevelopment in this country. 57 years after independence and we are still talking about having three square meals a day? By now we are supposed to be talking about how to avoid obesity! Such are supposed to be our problems and not basic bread and butter issues. But to achieve that, we need to a Government that can convert Zambia’s economic potential into actual wealth using Zambians and Zambian resources. W
e need a Government that has faith in its people. A Government that has faith in its abilities to formulate and implement sound economic policies. Not a Government that will hand over its responsibilities over the economy to an institution such as the IMF. An institution that was not elected by the Zambian people? It is on this basis that l personally don’t believe that the UPND has what it takes to make a positive difference on our country, should they be given the mandate to govern on 12th August. In fact, putting the UPND in power is the worst mistake that Zambians can ever make. And l say this with utmost sincerity.