By Saboi Imboela President- NDC
As National Democratic Congress, NDC, we today take time to briefly reflect on Zambia’s political and economic trajectory from birth, the time it was a teenager, all the way to adulthood at 58 years old today.
Born on 24th October, 1964, Zambia only had 100 graduates at independence and our forefathers were left with Western systems that their own people could not effectively run unless they embarked on an ambitious program to educate their people, get expatriates and also use whatever home grown talent or expertise that they could find. Our GDP in 1964 was $0.84B, Per Capita income was $242 and our growth that year was an amazing 12.21%. This was further pushed to 16.65% growth just the following year in 1965, but sadly a good number of the UNIP years were characterised by negative growth after that.
At 18 years old in 1982, Zambia was a teenager that had just reached adulthood.The party in power then was still the liberation party called the United National Independence Party, UNIP, led by our first President Dr. Kenneth Kaunda. The GDP of Zambia was $3.99B, Per Capita income was $638 and unfortunately the percentage of growth in this year was -2.81%. This was despite the fact that the economy had grown by a whooping 6.17% just the previous year in 1981 and 3.04% in 1980.
By the age of 28 years in 1992, Zambia was led by the second ruling or governing party the Movement for Multi- party Democracy, MMD, led by the second Republican President Dr. Frederick Titus Jacob Chiluba, popularly known as FTJ. The MMD took over power from UNIP after a 27 year reign of the first President. So at 28, Zambia was more optimistic and ready to concur the world. The MMD embarked on very ambitious liberalisation and privatisation programnes to try and deal with the stagnation that had been caused by some of the One Party State policies of UNIP. Despite the adverse effects of the Structural Adjustment Programmes, SAPs, that came with privatisation, people were able to own private properties like houses and it also dealt with the issue of many retirees becoming destitute due to lack of home ownership and the like.
Politically, Zambia, in 1991, also moved from Socialist policies to Democratic or capitalist ones. The GDP of the country by 1992 was $3.18B, the per Capita income was $376 and the growth that year was at -1.73%. By 1993, MMD had pushed the growth to 6.80%.
Zambia at the age of 48 years old had another ruling party the Patriotic Front, PF under Michael Chilufya Sata who was the 5th President of the country. Power had just changed hands the previous year in 2011. So at 48 years in 2012, Zambia’s GDP was $25.50B, Per Capita income was $1,763 and growth was 7.60%.
Last year in 2021, the GDP of the country was $21.20B, Per Capita was $1,121 and growth was at 3.57%. Zambia is now 58 years old and political and economic reform programmes that made us see the figures above are not very clear. It has to be mentioned that for us to develop, we need to have a constant or sustained growth of over 6%, China started growing at an average of 11% per annum and that is why it is the way it is today and a marvel to watch by other economies. So growing at less than 3% and in negatives is not good for Zambia.
The UNIP led government prioritised nationalisation, import substitution programmes, building infrastructure, giving its citizens good quality free education, etc. The MMD anchored its programmes on privatisation and allowing free market forces to run the economy. The PF embarked on an ambitious infrastructure development programme and direct empowerment programmes of some selected groups of women, youth and even men.
The UPND has made pronouncements that are yet to be verified. They claimed to have inherited empty coffers from the PF, but the very first budget they made just two months after forming government saw them increase Constituency Development Funds, CDF, which is given to all 156 Constituencies of Zambia. They increased it from K1.6B to K25.7B per Constituency in the 2022 budget and further increased it to K28B in the 2023 budget. They further claimed to have employed over 30,000 teachers and over 11,000 health workers. So much for empty coffers. But most importantly, their recruitments are something that no one can verify, as two months ago, the government announced that over 17,000 teachers have been put on the payroll and we are still waiting to see if all of them will be put on the payroll or if the 17,000 and 30,000 figures were genuine in the first place.
The UPND seems to be wholly dependent on the IMF for its economic recovery plan. The optimistic plans they shared while in opposition seem to have disappeared into thin air.
Some people, including their ministers, say that they need more time. But this is one year after they came into office and we do not know where we are going. Liz Truss in the UK had to resign just after 44 days on the job because our friends know that someone has to hit the ground running when they get into these jobs than asking for time even one year later. This is because they were voted for on account of ambitious programmes or manifestos that they pretended to want to implement for the country once sworn into office. We cannot get there in one day, but we need to be assured of the journey and how we shall get there, because currently the UPND seems not to even have a campus or direction for the journey.