Lungu’s address to parliament was a ‘missed call’ – FDD

President Edgar Lungu’s speech to parliament was a missed call as it failed to adequately address the economic crisis we are in as a country. Instead of focusing on practical measures to mitigate the suffering of the masses and to put the nation back on an economic recovery, the President’s speech was full of nothing but empty rhetoric. Even the manner in which the President was reading his speech showed the lack of serious on his part. He was playing and joking throughout his address. It shows that he does not attach any importance to the issues he was addressing.

As FDD we are shocked that the president said nothing about the falling Kwacha, the loss of jobs in the mines and the impasse at UNZA. It’s unbelievable!

Energy is to the economy what blood is to the body.
Load shedding is killing businesses and grounding the economy to a halt. Instead of addressing the root causes of power cuts, the president created a new problem by increasing electricity tariffs. This will impact negatively on businesses as it will automatically raise the cost of doing business making more companies to lay off workers or completely close.
The power deficit we are experiencing today is of our own making. Zesco has been politicised. The PF have been firing and hiring boards and directors of Zesco without plausible cause. The PF has been using Zesco as a cash cow, a till where they get money for campaigns. Even the 120 million dollars from the Eurobond which was given to Zesco for increased generation capacity has been diverted and misappropriated. The dwindling water levels at the Kariba dam are a result of faulty equipment that was put there and not low rainfall. What are the immediate solutions? Importing 148MW is not the answer. We have a deficit of over 560MW. What alternative sources of energy are there? How access and affordable are the so called alternative sources of energy to the majority poor? As for the long term measures the president talked about, nothing is new. All those projects he talked about have been on the cards for a long time either on MoU or feasibility study level. The question therefore is what practical steps has the government taken to ensure that these projects are actually brought on stream. Nothing.

The President should direct his government to stop abusing Zesco: the management and administration of Zesco should be left to competent professionals. The Minister of Energy should not be allowed to unilaterally hire and fire boards and directors of Zesco. Zesco should be unbundled into three distinct components, Generation, Transmission and Distribution. Other players should be allowed to come on board to end Zesco’s monopoly and encourage competition. Zesco should with immediate effect start signing power-purchase agreements with private power utility firms to allow them handle transmission and distribution of power. This will encourage the private sector to invest in the energy sector. Political interference is frightening investors. We should take practical steps to actually execute the long term projects. We should use part of the Eurobond money to actually bring these projects on stream.

It is unbelievable that the president said nothing about the depreciating Kwacha. You can not develop a country when your currency is worthless. The Kwacha had been voted the worst performing currency in the whole world. If we can’t fix the Kwacha, we can’t fix the economy.

Drastic times require drastic measures. It is time the president took decisive decisions. Fire Chikwanda and replace him with a competent and ambitious person. In order to increase revenue collection and foreign exchange earnings there is need to increase local productivity. The agony is, no power no production. The government should stop load shedding the mines and other productive sectors of the economy. If we don’t end load shedding then we can not produce and if we cannot produce we cannot export and if we don’t export we can’t earn forex and if we can’t earn forex then the Kwacha will continue to plummet. There is need also to ensure consistency in fiscal policy. We also have to invest in the processing and manufacturing sector of the economy

it is alarming that the president can be rejoicing in our indebtedness. The president said that we are well within the accepted below 40% threshold of our GDP. No we are not. We are way above that. With the incurring of the 1.25 billion dollar Euro bond we have pushed this country beyond the limit. And with the ballooning budget deficit we will be forced to borrow more to cover up the deficit.

The Government has to invest the Euro bond money in high value projects such as power generation and not roads. The government has to put up stringent measures and mechanisms to ensure efficiency and accountability in the use of borrowed money. Parliament has to pass legislation to ensure that only parliament should give authority to the government to incur debt. This will ensure transparency and accountability. The PF should not borrow any further than what they have borrowed at least for now.

It was shocking to see the president say nothing about the 1600 miners that have been sent home at Baluba and the over 4000 that are at risk of losing there jobs at Mopani. This is a catastrophe. No serious president can ignore such a crisis.

Mines are laying off workers due to load shedding which has seen productivity go down by 40 to 60 percent. If the PF don’t fix the load shedding problem then mines will ground to a complete halt.

Instead of creating more ministries which will further put more strain on the budget the President should instead allocate this money to paying lecturers at UNZA.

The failure to fix the falling Kwacha and load shedding only spells gloom and doom for Zambia. We all have to brace ourselves for harder times. PF has no practical solutions to our challenges.

Issued by Antonio Mwanza, FDD spokesperson

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