[By Prof Henry Kyambalesa]
Zambia’s Socioeconomic Prospects:
We need to consider whether the Patriotic Front and the ruling political party’s officials can adequately provide for inducements, services, facilities, guarantees, and measures that can enable both business and non-business entities in our country to operate more efficiently, deliver economic and social outputs to society at reasonable costs and prices, and ultimately contribute meaningfully to our country’s quest to reduce unemployment, poverty, corruption, and other socioeconomic ills over the next 5 years.
Considering their failure to address the overwhelming socioeconomic ills and crises facing our country and its people over the last 10 years, the answer cannot be in the affirmative—it is clearly “NO” because giving them another mandate will just prolong the common people’s suffering!
Hakainde Hichilema and the UPND Alliance are clearly the alternative, since they have shown the potential to unseat the Patriotic Front next month. We, therefore, need to support them, as well as entrust them with the responsibility of correcting the catalogue of socioeconomic ills and crises, which the Patriotic Front has failed to address over the last 10 years. Besides, and perhaps more importantly, the UPND Alliance is much more likely to reverse the current socioeconomic decay and backwardness and improve the socioeconomic vistas of our people over the next 5 years because its administration will draw from the knowledge, expertise and experience of leaders from members of the Alliance who, by and large, hail from the country’s 10 provinces. This is actually one of the most important strengths of the UPND Alliance. This is essentially good news for all Zambians!
Members of all political parties in Zambia—including Patriotic Front members—need to seriously consider whether it will be wise for them and their families to continue to languish unnecessarily under the Patriotic Front administration over the next 5 years or vote for new political players who will improve their socioeconomic circumstances and bid farewell to the last 10 years of consistently dwindling socioeconomic prospects.
In this connection, one would be reminded of the ensuing good advice offered to developing countries like Zambia by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (2001): “[Developing]… countries cannot wait for gradual progression of catching-up with the industrialised countries of the North, but rather must search for leap-flogging solutions.”
If we “search for leap-flogging solutions” to our country’s socioeconomic malaise, the heart-throbbing African tunes—churned out by the likes of Koffi Olomidé, Orchestra Super Mazembe, Miriam Makeba, the Mulemena Boys, the Masasu Band, Stella Chiweshe, King Sunny Ade, Emeneya, Cesaria Evora, Orchestre Les Mangelepa, Mampi, P. K. Chishala, Paul Ngozi, Rikki Ililonga, Nashil Pichen Kazembe, M’bilia Bel, Oliver Mtukudzi, Lucky Dube, Angela Nyirenda, and numerous other Zambian and African maestros—will be available to spice and liven up the celebration of our accomplishments, and the enjoyment of the fruits of our labour.
The Need for a Social Welfare State:
In its quest to uplift the livelihoods of the majority of its people, our country does not need socialism and its utopian ideals or crude capitalism and its zealous quest for profit maximisation. Rather, the country needs to strive to create what is referred to as the “social welfare state”—that is, a country that provides for a dynamic free-market economy which essentially has a human face.
More precisely, a “social welfare state” is a country whose government simultaneously creates a highly competitive business system—which can be realised through various kinds of guarantees, inducements and essential public services and facilities designed to lavishly incentivise both local and foreign private investors—and an effective mechanism for re-distributing wealth to the needy.
In other words, a “social welfare state” is any country whose government is dedicated to diligently and simultaneously pursue pro-business, pro-labour and pro-poor policies. Countries which have succeeded in meeting the basic needs and aspirations of the majority of their people—such as Finland, Australia, the United States of America, Japan, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands (Holland), and Germany—are essentially “social welfare states”!
When German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels released “The Communist Manifesto” (originally referred to as the “Manifesto of the Communist Party”) in February 1848, the economies of Western Europe were predominantly administered through crude capitalism.
Perhaps this explains why some portions of The Communist Manifesto, as Samuel Moore (2019) has noted, feature “their ideas on how capitalist societies of the time would eventually be replaced by socialism.”
Incidentally, Germany today has a market-based economy in spite of the fact that it is the birthplace of Marxism. And Karl Marx was banished from Germany and had to seek lifelong refuge in London, where he died in 1883 despite having been denied British citizenship, perhaps due to his outlandish views.
In fact, one may even wonder whether the socioeconomic conditions that existed in Western Europe at the time when Marx and Engels were propounding, expounding and articulating their “theories” actually exist in countries like Zambia, and whether or not our beloved country can actually be categorised as being a “capitalist society” per se given its socialist-like economy that is captained by State-owned and operated institutions like the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).
Ultimately, the revolutionary transition of capitalism to socialism and, finally, to communism that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels envisioned will apparently never come to fruition due to the emergence of the social welfare state and welfare capitalism in capitalist countries worldwide.
It is also important to remember the fact that social, political and market freedom in a country decreases, while government coercion increases, if the country decides to abandon a market-driven socioeconomic system and adopt a state-planned socioeconomic system. Besides, consumers’ demands on, and expectations of, business institutions are greater in market-driven economies than they are in centrally planned socioeconomic systems.
This should perhaps be expected considering the fact that consumers in centrally planned economies are mainly served by coercive governments and monopolistic, state-owned companies, which are generally insensitive to their basic and special needs and expectations.
Let us now turn to the words of the late Winston Churchill, former and the late Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who said the following in a speech in the House of Commons on October 22, 1945: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings [and the]…inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” And “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and … its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
In our country’s quest to improve the livelihoods of the majority of its people, therefore, it is perhaps important to keep in mind the following caveat provided by the late F. W. de Klerk of South Africa regarding the pursuit of socioeconomic development:
“The reality is that the economy does not grow from political slogans…[basic] requirements for economic growth [and development] are peace and stability, free enterprise, imaginative entrepreneurship, efficient and frugal government, innovative and caring management, a well-educated and motivated work force, and a lot of hard work.”
The Crucial Role of government:
But for our country to reap optimum benefits from the free-enterprise system, the government needs to create an enabling socioeconomic environment in which hard-working citizens can be able to unleash their full potential and get rewarded handsomely—whether they are shareholders, self-employed, or on someone else’s payroll.
In this regard, the government needs to provide adequately for various kinds of inducements, services, facilities, guarantees, and measures designed to incentivise both local and foreign private investors and non-governmental institutions, such as the following:
(a) A well-developed transportation infrastructure and adequate transportation services to industrial, commercial and residential areas to ease and facilitate the distribution of production inputs and finished products.
(b) Adequate public services (including police protection, fire protection, public utilities, and decent housing), as well as telecommunications, educational, vocational, health, and recreational facilities.
(c) Equitable income and other taxes, as well as tax concessions and inducements which are more attractive than those in alternative countries or regions which investors are likely to consider for investment.
(d) Renunciation of both price and exchange-rate controls.
(e) Less bureaucratic licensing, import, export, and other procedures, and adequate information about investment and marketing problems and opportunities in the various sectors of our country’s economy and in cross-border markets.
(f) Assistance and active involvement by the national government in nurturing entrepreneurial and managerial skills.
(g) A reversal of the current emphasis on stabilizing inflation at the expense of job creation and economic growth by placing greater emphasis on job creation and economic growth through low interest rates and progressive reductions in taxes in order to stimulate investment, savings and consumption.
(h) An ambitious program designed to lure private investments which can lead to the creation of new jobs, facilitate socioeconomic development and create a more competitive economic setting that can promote efficiency, as well as compel business entities to improve the quality of their products, as well as charge relatively lower prices.
(i) Political and civic leaders who are fair and honest in their dealings with private business institutions, and stable economic policies, including a formal assurance against nationalization and/or expropriation of privately owned business undertakings by the national government.
(j) Political and civic leaders who are genuine and resolute in their fight against the scourge of corruption in both government and private institutions.
(k) A system of justice that is fair, impartial and independent in both word and deed.
(l) A social safety net designed to adequately cater to the needs of economically disadvantaged members of society that is not subject to political meddling or manipulation.
(m) Measures designed to ensure that business and non-business operations do not lead to indiscriminate wasting of natural resources, and measures designed to reduce air, water and solid-waste pollution to levels that are less harmful to society and to habitats of land and aquatic wildlife. And
(n) An earnest effort designed to go through public expenditures line by line, program by program, agency by agency, department by department, and ministry by ministry in order to eliminate unnecessary application of public funds.
These inducements, services, facilities, guarantees, and measures, among a host of other things, can enable both business and non-business entities in our country to operate more efficiently, deliver economic and social outputs to society at reasonable costs and prices, and ultimately contribute meaningfully to our country’s quest to reduce unemployment, poverty, corruption, and other socioeconomic ills.
We also need to remember that heightened, sustained and sustainable socioeconomic development does not descend onto a country like manna from heaven; rather, it has to be adequately planned for and diligently pursued. Each and every day that passes, therefore, creates great opportunities for us to devise and relentlessly pursue viable strategies that will enable us to meet the needs, aspirations and expectations of our people.
Myths Regarding China’s Success:
Naïve socialists worldwide are likely to point to China as an excellent example of a socialist country whose economic outputs have continued to flood the entire world unlike any other country in modern history. In this regard, News China (2019:1) in an editorial has summed up the actual reason for the country’s economic success in the following words:
“China’s economic success in the past decades has been established on the premise of a liberalised and vital private sector.” And “Chinese President Xi Jinping affirmed in a meeting on November 1  that the [Chinese] government will support the private sector to become bigger and stronger.”
Private investors in the Chinese economy include indigenous capitalists and investors from a wide range of countries, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.