Opposition UPND president Hakainde Hichilema laid out an agenda and policy that will ensure his government starts by embarking on a five-year plan that will place emphasis on empowering Zambian youths, women and people with disabilities.
Addressing youth entrepreneurs from various parts of the country over the weekend, Mr. Hichilema said as a businessman himself, he fully understands the difficulties youths, women and people with disabilities were currently facing in competing for businesses and tenders in Zambia owing to the harsh environment that mainly favours foreign entities.
Mr. Hichilema said other than creating quality jobs and offering relevant skills to the youths, the dream of UPND would be make sure that the Zambian Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) and Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) Acts were immediately amended in a manner that will favour Zambian companies, especially those owned by youths, women and people with disabilities.
“There is too much politicking in this country at the expense of development. If there was another route to help my country by influencing policy without politics, I would surely use that route. Unfortunately, I have to be a politician first and get elected for me to influence policy in this country,” he told the youths and women.
He said youths, women and capacity of people with disabilities have been underrated for a long time and added that he knew some people would disagree with him by saying that young people, women and people with disabilities cannot handle government tenders and projects.
Mr. Hichilema said the truth was that no one was born with capacity and later alone with liquidity.
“But for us in UPND, if you have a public tender from ZPPA, that is already financial capacity for that you can approach a financial institution or partners to offer you soft loans or joint ventures to implement projects,” Mr. Hichilema said.
Mr. Hichilema said while working on improving administration for women, youths and disabled groups, he would push for a legislation that would make it mandatory for allocation of one-third of government contracts to young people, women, and disabled groups as well as investment on the entertainment, sports and tourism industries.
“All we shall demand from you people is financial discipline and of course a monitoring mechanism will developed so that you do not spend money in unproductive social vices but teach you to expand your businesses. We shall provide near to zero interest loans in collaboration with banks that will work closer with you in executing public contracts and other economic activities so that we can further develop your capacity. I am sure within 5 years of being in office, we shall have responsible young millionaires in Zambia able to compete favourably in various economic activities,” he told the gathering.
The UPND leader said even as he was making such policy promises, he was fully aware that PF had damaged the image and reputation of politicians in the country because of the many unfulfilled promises and twists on many issues they promised the people.
“But please I beg you to understand that the people you voted for in 2011 are the same people you have been having since independence. The current finance minister (Alexander Chikwanda) was in that same office accruing Zambian debt when most of us were probably in lower grades. For them, they have no idea on wealth creation other than borrowing which is really the easiest thing to do. At least in their borrowing, they should have been injecting money in productive sectors and not consumption like they are doing now,” he said.
Mr. Hichilema told the youths and women that up to now, nothing tangible can be pointed that PF has done from the huge loans they have been contracting including the Euro-bond money, yet the country’s debt keeps raising plus interest.
“Don’t be cheated by some cooked-up employment figures you are being told. Youths and women unemployment in this country is just too high and has been ignored for far too long, yet most of you spend a lot of energy and time on alcohol and drug abuse out of frustration,” he said.
Mr. Hichilema said he is sometimes accused of merely critisizing the ruling government without offering solutions. But added that the PF were free to implement such workable solutions he was talking about.
“But I know it is always not possible to implement an idea which you do not believe in and lack understanding. For example, we shall also invest a lot of resources and initiatives by amending the ZPPA and Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) Act and make a legal obligation to give your companies a delibarate competitive advantage when supplying to the market.
“The legal provision will make it mandatory for government bodies and other private sector players to buy Zambian goods first as well as create procurement quotas for youths, women and people with disabilities,” he said.
And part of the compliance and monitoring mechanism, your companies will be registered with ZPPA and ZDA and all public entities will be expected to comply by filing quarterly reports with the ZPPA and ZDA.
“We shall go further by scrapping or reducing exorbitant fees for acquisition of tender documents and these will also be made available online for download. And on supply of goods and services, we shall ensure that youth and women entities be paid within a period not exceeding 30 days,” he said.
The UPND leader also said there will be massive adjustments on land policies so that most of it will benefit youths, women and people with disabilities and enable them to use the same land as equity when getting partnerships with foreigners and bank loans.
I can go on and on our vision for you young people, our women and people with disabilities, but make no mistake, you people under the UPND government, the future is bright hence our motto of Zambia Forward for those of you who will seize the opportunities come 2016 when we form government,” he said.