A few years ago, in 2014, I did a feature column in the “Bulletin and Record” issue for July titled ‘If I was the President of Zambia’ in which I laid out a ten-point plan for Economic Recovery. I reminded readers that being President does not mean that you are omnipotent and that somehow you know everything. You are simply the vision carrier and leader of many other leaders. The key role of a President is to influence and coordinate all the efforts of the Government towards fulfilling the vision of the nation. Zambia’s economy is in dire stress and the Government needs to take serious measures.
We face rising fiscal deficit, current account deficit, and to cap it all growing public debt. When we add to it, a bloated Cabinet and, huge public service costs eating more than 60% of domestic revenue which also is declining, means that this Government has very little room for error and will have to face reality.
Zambia needs to redesign her jobs and wealth creation programmes for better results. As President of Zambia I would spearhead the development and implementation of a Ten Point Agenda for Growth and Development. My simple and pragmatic ten-point agenda, would incorporate, small and growing business, entrepreneurship, vocational education and job centres; graduate employment and business process outsourcing, public works and local content development and innovation in its overall coverage. However, there is need for these to be implemented in such a way that they encourage the youth, rural dwellers and the poor to participate in and benefit from the process, while also complementing them with lower taxes, reduction of interest rates as well as incentives to businesses. Specifically, the following key ten points are proposed for Zambia’s growth agenda:
1. Support and advocate for the enactment or amendment of a new constitution with a specific chapter on a People’s Bill of Rights that will herald a new age where rule of law, equal opportunity and property rights lay a strong foundation for political and economic transformation in Zambia.
2. Mobilize the leadership of both Government and business sectors behind job creation through the organisation of a ‘Presidential Economic Summit on Job Creation’ where business, civil society and Government can broadly identify challenges to accelerating job creation and economic growth and identify job creation imperatives and the key interventions to address them;
3. Enhance education and skills development for all, THROUGH
a. the construction of new school buildings, particularly in rural areas and high density urban centres
b. provision of computers for students
c. scholarships to poor families all the way through to tertiary education
d. development of more technical and vocational higher institutions of learning
4. Creation of three million new jobs by:
a. Complete reform of the tax system, reduction of income taxes and implementation of a flat corporate tax system of 20% across the board
b. Enactment of a Local Content Policy for empowerment programmes for small Zambian business owners
c. Development of two million hectares of land for agricultural business in partnership with large private agribusinesses
5. Economic empowerment and wealth creation – Zambia has yet to develop industrially. This reform should be focused on wealth creation through diversified production. This requires a mindset change amongst Zambians to choose to work, as hard work by all is required to achieve this reform.
6. Reduce the size of Government by reducing the number of Ministries to only 17 each supported by a professional Permanent Secretary plus a cabinet level Chief of Staff at State House. Some of the current Ministries would be restructured into Statutory Government Agencies or Departments headed by Directors or Director Generals.
7. Decentralization of progress and development across the country through the development of transportation networks like the railway, inland waterways and digital infrastructure and designation of Zambian border areas as ‘free trade zones and logistics hubs’.
8. Decongestion of Lusaka Metro by forming new cores of government and housing centers in Chibombo, Chongwe and Kabwe/Kapiri Mposhi;
9. Power and energy diversification infrastructural reforms in this critical sector through the development of sufficient and adequate power supply will be to ensure Zambia’s ability to develop as a modern economy and an industrial nation by the year 2030 using PPP methods.
10. Food security reform to make a decisive move away from maize dependency. The emphasis should be on the development of modern technology, research, financial injection into research, production and development of natural biological ‘organic’ agricultural inputs will revolutionize the agricultural sector leading to a 5 – 10-fold increase in yield and production. This will result in massive domestic and commercial outputs and technological knowledge transfer to farmers and creation of employment for many youths across the country.
Growth, job creation and shared prosperity lies in creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and small companies to find financing, accessing new emerging markets, and building new networks to connect innovators, suppliers and customers across traditional geographies. To be clear: this paper does not simply call for more Government tax revenue-sharing with the people. The changes we need to accelerate private-led innovation in regions and communities do not begin, or end, there. What we need instead is to create the incentives and architecture for a new Regional Race to the Top, for all Zambia’s regions. We need creative approaches for public private collaboration. Change begins with the business sector and local community stakeholders at the centre of the conversation – not as an afterthought. There is too much on the line for our economy to be bogged down in oversimplified debates from the past. We need decisive actions from the Government and the people of Zambia. We need to rise above partisan politics and provide alternatives to our Government. It is time for a new generation of Zambians to take up this leadership challenge.