By Henry Kyambalesa-I wish to comment on Vice-President George Kunda’s shameless call for a financial stimulus package financed by Western countries, which appeared in the Times of Zambia of September 15, 2009 under the title “Africa deserves financial stimulus package – Veep.” He made the call during a high-level meeting of Eastern and Southern Africa and Indian Ocean (ESA-IO) regions and the European Commission.
The call is an embarrassment to the people of Zambia. It shows that we have actually failed to govern ourselves almost 45 years after independence. Besides, the Honorable Vice-President should know that some leaders in developed economies are being accused by their people of misusing public resources by bailing out failing local companies. One can easily surmise what would happen to such leaders if they decided to bail out mismanaged African economies.
As I have often maintained, donor countries, like Zambia, do not have unlimited resources; they have to make do with scarce resources by going 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. We need to start doing the same in order to wean our beloved country from its current dependence on donor funding.
In January 2009, the Vice-president was quoted as having defended the bloated Zambian Cabinet as follows: “I believe that our government is of the right size, representative and effective. I know that there have been calls from many sections of society to reduce the size of our Cabinet, but I think it is the right size.”
There is a need for the government to perform existing and planned essential government functions with a smaller number of Cabinet Ministers by abolishing some of the government ministries which do not seem to add any value to the dispensation of public services, and merging some of the ministries which have similar functions.
Civil servants in ministries to be abolished or merged should be encouraged to seek early retirement with full benefits. Professional and skilled civil servants should be re-deployed in the new government ministries, as well as in government agencies.
There is also a need to abolish the positions of Deputy Minister, Provincial Minister, Provincial Permanent Secretary and District Commissioner, as well as reduce the number of Zambia’s foreign embassies by having clusters of countries to be served by single embassies.
To paraphrase Mr. Bill Clinton, there is a need for us to create a government that is smaller, that lives within its means, and that does more with less. Otherwise we will continue to embarrass ourselves by continuing to beg for assistance from wealthy nations.
And we will continue to be chastised by some officials in donor countries who rightly or wrongly believe that Africa lacks competent people to provide sound leadership in commerce, industry and government. The following words of an unnamed aid official quoted by Timberlake on page 199 of his book entitled Africa in Crisis: The Causes, the Cures of Environmental Bankruptcy (published by New Society Publishers in 1986) should, therefore, not be surprising: “In a sense, we’re talking about … sending smart white boys in to tell them how to run their countries.”
Clearly, we need leaders who are willing to develop new attitudes, skills and strategies in order to wrestle successfully with the complex and volatile socio-economic conditions of our time. And such leaders should be technocrats, and not clueless figureheads like a good number of those incompetents who are in President Rupiah Banda’s administration who seem to be preoccupied with promoting the interests of the ruling party and its members.
Zambians are fed up of government leaders whose functions seem to be that of whining and bickering day in, day out.