MICHAEL Kaingu says Africa lacks presidents like Hakainde Hichilema whose commitment towards leaving governance institutions to operate freely is more-louder.
In an interview, Dr Kaingu said he was happy with President Hichilema’s approach to governance so far adding that he was willing to offer himself to render his expertise in the tourism sector.
“This is what Africa should have been looking for. We need leaders who should leave governance institutions to operate freely than interfering with them. So far for me I’m very happy that President HH is going to look at qualified people and appoint them to positions to deliver for Zambia and we are available,” he said.
Dr Kaingu said so far President Hichilema’s statements were very encouraging for any well-meaning Zambian who was ready to work with him in developing the country.
“For example, in tourism I’m available to help the President in anyway even if he wants some positive criticisms I can give them to him. If he wants me to contribute by offering my expertise I’m prepared to help. I’m willing to contribute to the development of the country because it is the only country I have,” he said. “Yes, I supported my daughter in the just ended election, unfortunately she didn’t do very well. She lost. So I’m back into business and I’m willing to work hard and contribute to the nation because this is the country I have.”
Dr Kaingu said the UPND government won elections on a very strong foundation of promises that were well articulated.
“For example, they said they were going to reduce unemployment, they were going to improve agriculture. Ourselves as Southern Province in general our livelihood is agriculture. The new agriculture minister Mtolo Phiri is a person I have known for a long time when I was in parliament. I think he is able to deliver in that ministry,” he said.
Dr Kaingu expressed optimism that under the guidance of President Hichilema who was an economist and businessman, a lot of ministers in key ministries such as commerce would deliver.
“We are expectant and want to see things changing as citizens. We have seen the kwacha appreciating now. The only unfortunate part is when the dollar depreciates a lot of money is lost. I don’t know if people are aware,” he said. “If you changed your kwacha at 22 against the dollar and now the dollar is at 15, it means you have lost K7 without being in business. So if it is K1,000, it means you have lost K70. It’s quite big money if you look at it in big figures like one million dollars.”
Dr Kaingu disclosed that as much as the nation appreciated the appreciation of the kwacha against the dollar to a certain extent it had made a lot of people lose money.
And Dr Kaingu said he expected the new government to look into issues of value addition on agriculture produce.
“We have people in Choma who had started daily yoghurt. So we would want them to be encouraged. Value addition is fundamental for us who are in businesses and agricultural area. For example, we make sausages at Kozo, we make beacon. So in that area there is a new Ministry of Small and Medium Scale now which is a very positive gain instead of having Ministry of [National Guidance and] Religious [Affairs] or chiefs’ affairs because chiefs are catered for in local government,” he observed.
Dr Kaingu said the SMS ministry was a positive one.
“The biggest problem in Zambia is not really about governance but money to invest. The money is very expensive if the government is not going to come up with ways and means to finding cheap money where we can borrow maybe at two per cent or five per cent like it is done in Europe,” he said. “In Europe you will never find money that is lent to you at 22 per cent, 34 per cent. That is criminal because what sort of business can you do that can give you a markup that is beyond 34 per cent? So we appeal to government to find us money that we can borrow at very reasonable rate and pay back, not free money.”
Dr Kaingu said he expected the government to give grace period of recovery to those wishing to get loans for business.
“When you start a business you must be given a period of five years where you don’t pay any taxes. The council rates on properties are very high meanwhile they don’t provide the services,” he noted. “But even if they were to provide the services, the rates are very high. We heard some of the pronouncements during campaigns that he is going to reduce taxes.”
Dr Kaingu observed that what was killing African countries was the belief that governments must make money from a lot of taxes thereby killing the industries.
“It’s not necessary that government must make money from taxes but it can make money from contributions and that’s the reason why we have unemployment. If Kozo Lodge is subjected to pay so many taxes, where do I get the money for salaries? If Choma Maanu Radio Station is heavily taxed, then how do we pay good salaries to our workers? So it’s not that nonsense of minimum wage,” he said. “I hope the President will look at this as a businessman because he knows very well that each industry has ways of paying its workers well. Each sector has a way of maintaining its workers. The taxes in Zambia are too many to an extent that now we are taxing people for sinking boreholes. So you cannot look for money that way.”
Dr Kaingu urged the government to ensure its campaign promise of lowering taxes was realised to enable the private sector start employing more workers.
He said the government alone cannot employ everyone hence the need to create a conducive environment for businesses to flourish for job creation to be actualised.