PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu approved the public discussion on the proposed electricity tariff increase so that he can gain cheap political mileage; a very shameful way to govern a nation, says Sean Tembo. Tembo, the opposition Patriots for Economic Progress president, said entertaining public debate on the proposed electricity tariff was something President Lungu should have never allowed to arise. He said allowing the debate to start and then reversing the proposal was done for political expedience and capital.
Last week President Lungu gave a directive for Zesco to suspend the proposed application to the Energy Regulation Board for upwards adjustment of electricity tariffs.
Zesco had made an application to the Energy Regulation Board for a 90 per cent tariff increase.
The ERB had even started conducting public hearings to receive submissions on the proposal.
However, President Lungu on May 5 instructed energy minister Mathews Nkhuwa to inform Zesco and ERB to halt the process immediately.
But during s Hot FM programme yesterday, Tembo said subjecting the matter to a public discussion had already sent shivers to investors.
“It is something that should never have arisen in the first place. That move was made for political reasons. They wanted a situation whereby people cry and cry saying why increase electricity tariffs by 300 per cent, can we appeal to our President to reverse the decision and them Mr Lungu comes and says hey, ‘I have listened to the plea of the people’…it was done for political expedience and capital,” Tembo said.
He further charged that allowing the debate on electricity tariff increase and then halt it pointed to policy inconsistency by the government, a thing he said drove away investors.
“It is a very simplistic way to govern for a number of reasons. When you look at the way investors operate, when you make a policy decision, the very fact that you had considered policy change to increase tariffs by that margin will send jitters to a lot of investors, especially in the manufacturing sector and those that have high energy consumption levels so what would happen is that they would scare away investors and they will take their money and invest in countries where there is policy consistency, where people are not running the economy based on gaining political mileage the way our president appears to be doing. To him, he scored a big political goal by listening to the people not realising that he has chased away a lot of investors,” he said.
“This has contributed to the adverse economic performance at the moment. He shouldn’t have considered it to start with. When you are running a government, if Zesco considers something, even before they made it public, they would consult the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Energy will consult cabinet before it becomes public…so it needs the approval of cabinet before it goes public saying let Zesco get stakeholder feedback on those proposed tariffs. So this thing of increasing electricity tariffs, the moment Zesco whispered that to ERB and ERB whispered to the Ministry of Energy and Ministry of Energy whispered that to President Lungu, the President should have said ‘this is a non-starter, the economy is not in shape where we can increase tariffs at the moment so forget about it’; then investors would have not gotten any wind of it but President Lungu approved the public discussion of this matter so that he can gain cheap political mileage. What we are saying is that’s a very shameful way to govern a nation,” said Tembo.