By Professor Mwiine Lubemba-
Last week Miles Sampa, the Deputy Minister of Finance announced the following strategic national economic development policies among many others:-
- Government is in a hurry to develop, so it’ll borrow because current debt is only 30% GDP which leaves much room for additional borrowing up to say 45%GDP.
- Interest in Zambia’s bond issue from foreign investors is still very high and Government wants to cash in on that.
- The nation should not be scared to borrow because countries such as the USA and Japan also borrow, so we will also borrow for infrastructure development such as roads, rail and energy.
- The entire US$750million Eurobond has been dispersed to Zambia Railways, ZESCO, DBZ, UTH.
- The government is a caring one, it’ll not increase local taxes, instead it will borrow from the international bond fund markets.
Here, I call upon the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln’s long time thoughts: “A man watches his pear tree day after day, impatient for the ripening of the fruit. Let him attempt to force the process, and he may spoil both fruit and tree. But let him patiently wait, and the ripe fruit at length falls into his lap. ” —Abraham Lincoln.
I also want to rely on three of Sir. Winston Churchill’s words of wisdom: Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it a sturdy horse pulling the wagon— Winston Churchill
It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time—Winston Churchill
A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind, and won’t change the subject—Winston Churchill
Finally I’ll rely on the Holy Bible in the book of St. Mark 5:13; And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand); and were choked in the sea.” King James Version.
Before we get lost in the complicated Christian Holy Scriptures jargon, theologian Douglas Wilson in his paperback book Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life explains Jesus and the Gadarene Swine Rule above as; “Just because a group is in formation, doesn’t mean they know where they are going”.
Miles Sampa says he is in a hurry to develop and wants to drive the Zambian economy and development at lightning speed and we know, without good breaks, the nation will crush like thunder…and he will not be there to defend his drunken driving speeding. Miles says he has to borrow to satisfy his development drinking needs. And we all know what happens when you lead a careless life of drinking beyond your budget. Your family goes hungry, kids don’t go to school the wife has no clothes and files for divorce because you spent all the family wages on pleasure. And just because you walk into a pub and see every one getting high on mbanje, cocaine or Mosi lager and you also follow. You don’t even ask the other guys how and where they get the cash for the drugs and Mosi every day until one day you learn they are spending stolen money from the entire world banks to the tune of US$16.5 trillion and another, who bought you a beer, robbed his own citizens pension funds and savers by giving negative interest rates on their accounts.
When Kenneth Kaunda nicked US$7 billion between 1970-mid 1980’s, from future generations who have now turned 22 years to pay for his financial malaise, for example, Kaunda and UNIP were on hand to offer their defense of this theft. “We are building roads, railways, oil refineries, pipelines and bridges to create the infrastructure for the years ahead; we can use this period to get rid of hunger, poverty and its offshoots of ignorance and dieses and build both the technological base and human capital to equip us for the opportunities ahead”. They said.
When payback arrived, Kaunda found he was penniless. Stone broke. We know the suffering the future generation he gave as an alibi for his theft in the 70’s went through to pay back the debt he created and the embarrassment of pleading guilty and for mercy by accepting to be called a Country of Highly Indebted Poor People (CHIPP) before the debt collectors left us in frustration.
Politicians like President Sata advocate, in other words, a repeat of Kenneth Kaunda’s economic policies era of stealing from the future in order to pay for the road to get there. The problem is, just as it was not Mr. Kaunda’s money, neither is it Mr. Sata’s money to spend. This money must be borrowed, as Sampa says. Rarely during these “periods of rushed economic development” does the concept of paying for one’s own road, new province and several districts even enter the public discourse? And why would it? The victims of this crime are not even born yet to defend their property. It’s like robbing from a corpse. All the victims of Kenneth Kaunda’s economic malaise were the majority angry voters who raced to their own cliff by voting for change in the 2011 elections. Sadly, the young voter is not aware he is a victim of demonic economic malaise created 27 years before he was even born instead he’s now just, but one pig in the mad rush off the cliff and into the sea.
The excuse is that the PF promised more jobs in 90 days and more money. They think, unemployment would rise, unless the government promptly dispenses millions of as-yet-unearned dollars to build roads for the unborn Zambians and the current unemployed youth Walking Dead. And so, in an environment fraught with fear, the Link Zambia 8000, S.I 33, Minimum wage, the Bank of Zambia Amendment Bill 2013 bill have all been passed and US$3.1 million so far borrowed. Soon, after another 20 years of our national economic cycle, beginning 2015-2030, Zambians will come to realize that, just like under Kenneth Kaunda, unemployment has gone up. May be Winston Churchill was also referring to the PF government when he said: – A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind, and won’t change the subject—Winston Churchill
Where then does the PF government’s intervention fit in all of this? Did stealing a few billion dollars from Zambia’s future generations under Kenneth Kaunda help to avert catastrophe today, or merely help ensure it? How about Kaunda’s exchange and import controls? What about the introduction of FEMAC that followed dollar auctions? Indeed Kaunda built himself an inland Oil refinery in 1973, and 40 years on, has this eased Petroleum imports and the final pump prices?
Some may ask, where then should government intervention fit into the economy, we offer the same answer where does the creation of Muchinga province, shifting the Southern Province capital to Choma, creating 39 new districts or indeed tarring the road to Chalimbana fit into the economy?
In other words, the Zambian economy works just fine without these shanganyas.
But if indeed the PF want to develop like lightening and avoid the dangerous turns and crush then they have to take the economy back on the straight road of sane growth. With good breaks on their economic racing car, they’ll definitely arrive at their destination in good time safe and sound.
The Zambian economy needs to slow down and apply Abraham Lincoln’s thought “A man watches his pear tree day after day, impatient for the ripening of the fruit. Let him attempt to force the process, and he may spoil both fruit and tree. But let him patiently wait, and the ripe fruit at length falls into his lap. ” and Sir. Winston Churchill said: It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time—. Zambia needs to apply some breaks and redesign how the economy will grow sustainably. Not by being in a hurry. We are major consumers of world scientific and technological inventions. The little foreign exchange earned from copper exports is all but spent on these little gadgets. Many MPs, and without shame, boast of buying the latest Range Rover, Hummer, Lexus, Plasma HD-TV etc using the parliamentary car purchase scheme and loans. Zambians are fascinated by gadgets, the latest iPhone, iPad, used Autorec car, by the speed of these gadgets for accomplishing their daily labors. Hardly do you hear any policy maker stop to marvel and try to understand the science behind these tools. So, why are we so keen on the latest gadgets but rarely keen in improving our science and engineering schools? Why do we appreciate other nations innovations and do very little to support our own innovators and R&D centers? Why didn’t we see the bulk of the Eurobond go towards science and technology laboratories in Zambian primary and secondary schools, technical colleges and universities? Why didn’t Miles Sampa allocate funds to the National Council for Scientific Research? Was this not the best way to equip future generations of Zambians with scientific and technological skills to come pay back the debts we are acquiring on their behalf today? Was it shearing ignorance on the part of Miles Sampa, for the role science & technology plays in national development?
Science and technology determinism among Zambians is an accepted norm, certainly among many of our policy makers. Their tendency is to treat technology from the west or Asia as free from heaven. As a result policy makers are indoctrinated to think a Chinese road contractor is better than a local contractor or a simple 4 walls health clinic, house is better built by a Chinese. They think technology does not have a social context. Many policy makers also think that the effects of technology are determined by the technology itself (at least Bob Sichinga’s obsession with Industrial Clusters and Multi-facility Economic Processing Zones that will use foreign technological breakthroughs is a case in point). Yet Zambian development and impacts of any of its technology are supposed to be shaped by the nation’s social and economic forces embedded in its well-crafted national science and technology policies. No matter how fast Miles Sampa builds his roads, bridges, railways, oil refineries, shopping malls without developing the local Science and Technology base to support future locally based research and development in road construction, bridges, rail, iPhones, cloud computing etc, this fast track development will crash at the slightest downturn in Zambian economic fortunes from copper and Eurobonds.
So, how will this end?
Unfortunately for Mr. Sata, his economic interventions are ill-timed. The likely slump in copper prices and a diminution of export earnings especially with average above US$109 per barrel crude oil going to 2016 means Zambia may have balance of payments crisis yet again and the country will again rapidly fall into another debt trap and all the past growth numbers will be to naught. Mr. Sata should prepare himself well to face the IMF and other creditors. Indeed he must be ready to prune his government numbers and wages. He must be ready to remove subsidies on fertilizer, mealie meal and fuels. Zambians have been given false hopes of a high standard of living which, with all his good intentions, he will not be able to afford. And there will be violent a herd of carders armed with rotten cabbages and tomatoes roaming the streets of Lusaka.
I suspect that the PF mad rush will end up in tears…
Just a thought…