By Fanny Kalonda
FINANCE minister Situmbeko Musokotwane says he feels sorry that government has to be begging for finances.
Speaking at the first private sector day in Lusaka on Monday, Dr Musokotwane also said the government is not going to give tax holidays to mining firms but bring tax levels to where they are supposed to be.
“So, for us, that is very clear and in the next few years, then led by the President, the issue of taxes we want to gradually reduce taxes because when we don’t reduce taxes there will be no enterprises coming up. No jobs while people pay Pay as You Earn. So don’t listen to those who are saying we are giving tax holidays. There are no tax holidays that we are giving. We are only bringing the tax levels to where they ought to be,” he said. “But the problem with many of you when these people talk unreasonable things, you keep quiet and come to the office and say ‘you are doing a good job’. Don’t come and tell me, go and tell those people who are…let’s have more voices of reason. I feel sad. I feel sorry that we have to beg all the time. It is not our intention. Our intention is to make our… independent so that in the next 10 years, we shall also be contributing to those who are not fortunate enough. But for now, I will swallow my pride and ask for contributions.”
Dr Musokotwane thanked the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for its US $500,000 contribution to the country.
International Finance Corporation – a sister organisation of the World Bank and member of the World Bank Group – is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector in developing countries.
He however said there was need for more investment and the money was not enough.
“…IFC, thank you for the agreement that we have signed for you to contribute US $500,000 to facilitate this process. This money is not quite enough. Can we have our colleagues, cooperating partners…We are also going to put money into this ourselves to ensure commitment,” Dr Musokotwane said. “We have already put in money but can I ask cooperating partners to chip in and with that I think we will be ready to sign the agreement. And I wish this forum best success so that we don’t just end at talking but we deliver those jobs that we are talking about. IFC, I want to assure you that you are not forcing us. I want to assure you that you are not forcing us. It is us who are forcing you to get this job done. To get the environment clean, to attract more money. But I also want to urge you as I have always done, put more money in Zambia. I know you have put some but we are not satisfied. Put more money. And when you put that money in Zambia, we are not here to make you lose money, we are here to make you make profit. We are here to make the private sector make profit, because without the profits, you cannot sustain the jobs that we are talking about.”
Dr Musokotwane added that the government was committed to dealing with the country’s critical issues affecting young people such as unemployment.
“If you listen to the majority of people in this country, especially the young ones, there are two critical things on their minds. Number one is jobs, and the other one we are talking about decent jobs here. A survey that was taken some years ago, not so long ago, clearly indicated that the biggest problem on the mind of the young people is jobs, jobs, jobs and second; incomes,” said Dr Musokotwane. “The quality of life that people used to enjoy some time back is no longer available. I also want to state that these two problems that I have mentioned here they are very important for our nation. This is gun powder waiting to explode if we don’t do anything to resolve these issues. Not only that, I think the kind of leadership that we have now, we don’t want any citizens… We would feel humiliated if any of our citizens are among those trying to go across the Mediterranean Sea to go and look for jobs elsewhere. It will be humiliating.”
IFC vice-president for Africa Sergio Pimenta said the institution would do more in line with the World Bank Group partnership to create economic diversification with the government and ensure a conducive climate for private sector development.
He noted that the cost of capital remained the biggest constraint to the growth of the private sector in Zambia.
“I was really impressed, I must say, that this is one of the open dialogues that I have seen. And it’s just the beginning. The public and private sectors are not very patient. They all want to move fast. They all want to move quickly. But Rome was not built in one day, neither was Lusaka. But I see the progress and I see the direction. And I really congratulate you all for all of this,” said Pimenta. “IFC has had a fruitful relationship with the public and private sector of the people of Zambia. This relationship ranges from investment, in financial institutions, in agribusiness and also in tourism. I heard this morning that we need to do more in that sector. But also, telecommunications and energy…I agree with the Minister of Finance that we need to do more and we can do more in Zambia in line with the World Bank Group partnership to create economic diversification. To this end, we are keen to developing our collaboration with the government to ensure a conducive climate for private sector development…The cost of capital remains the binding constraints to the growth of the private sector in Zambia…”