PF promises: when populism meets realism

PF promises: when populism meets realism

By George Lubasi

When the PF were campaigning, they made grand promises. Other than for reasons of populism and expediency, it is difficult to understand why a group of people, some of them with immense government experience, went on to make some of the promises they made. Encompassing all was their legendary promise of turning around Zambia in 90 days. One clear distinction about the PF is their penchant to oversimplify governance matters. Citizens that are not enlightened are easily taken in by this simplistic attitude, and this invariably acts to raise their hopes and expectations to too high a level. But let’s face it: no serious government policy can be formulated and implemented in 90 days. Yet the PF made that their flagship promise.

WINDFALL TAX
There is no Zambian who does not agree that mining companies should be paying more taxes. In 2008, the Mwanawasa Administration belatedly made attempts to have mining companies pay more taxes, with the introduction of the windfall tax. The mines grumbled but Mwanawasa and Magande pressed on.  But unfortunately, it was not long before the global economic crisis set in and the ambitions of collecting as much US$415 million from the mines that year were scattered.  The Rupiah Banda Administration came in and scrapped the tax on grounds that it was discouraging investment.
Throughout, the campaigns the PF promised a supersonic restoration of the windfall tax. The impression they created was that it would be as simple as 1, 2, 3 and the windfall tax would be reinstated. The indications so far point to the fact that it may well not be the case. The story in the first week after they won was that ‘we will engage the mining companies.’ But that was not their language during campaigns. ‘Engaging’ was not part of their vocabulary.  The presidential speech to Parliament made no reference to windfall tax or the mining sector in detail. This week Friday, 11 November 2011, Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda will be presenting the 2012 National Budget. We will see how that grand promise will be turned into policy. When populism meets realism!
THE CONSTITUTION
South Africa has a constitution that has widely been praised as the most liberal in Africa. It took them at least two years to put together. South Africa was starting from scratch as they were doing away with the scandalous apartheid constitution. In the case of Zambia, even with drafts from four previous constitution review commissions – Chona, Mvunga, Mwanakatwe and Mung’omba – it was extremely overambitious for the PF to promise to deliver in 90 days a document that is normally subject to protracted discussions. So populism met realism last Friday when Justice Minster Sebastian Zulu announced a constitution roadmap that would take more than 90 days.
CHINESE INVESTMENT
China is today the world’s second largest economy. There is so much money that is coming from China to support the world economy. Many economies are looking east.  Just last week when leaders of the G20 were meeting in France, Barack Obama, the leader of the world’s biggest economy, was looking to China to contribute money to boost the IMF pot. America itself is China’s biggest debtor. The Eurozone is troubled and America’s economy has it own problems. China is to the rescue.   
But in Zambia, we had the PF antagonising the Chinese. The PF has intellectuals who understand the politics and mechanics of the global economy; they know what China means to the global economy. The Chinese have their weaknesses which are well known. But that was no reason for a political party to promise to do away with Chinese investment when everyone in the world is looking to China. So populism met realism when President Sata recanted his earlier position and feted the Chinese at State House, with a promise to embrace Chinese investment.
BAROTSE AGREEMENT
While it is good to probe the shooting that took place on January 14 in Mongu, that was not what the PF promised. What the PF boldly promised was the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement. It is no wonder that the Roger Chongwe-led Commission of Inquiry is overwhelmed with demands for cessation (though the Agreement does not provide for that), than getting down to the shootings. It will not be long before the people of Western Province realise that they have been short-changed by the PF. 
The PF has lawyers who were in a position to advise on the implications of promising to restore the Barotse Agreement. But since it was all about populism, it did not matter. It was about promising; winning votes, and then fikaisova kuntanshi. Now the kuntanshi is here.Fyalaisova shani?
 

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