Stop the Privatization Talk, It Will Not Help the Zambian Economy
By Elias Munshya
When you are broke as a country, it matters where you are directing your energies and efforts. It makes no sense that at the time that one dollar is trading at K20, we should be wasting our brains and our common sense on a question that will not resolve the price of bread or the value of the Kwacha. It is not right to fix one Hakainde Hichilema, we should all lose our minds to try and bring the entire privatization exercise into disrepute. The President of those days and his cabinet had difficult decisions to make about selling all these loss-making enterprises. And deciding they did. They were decisive about it and had to get the job done. What we need now is to build on the strengths of a liberal economy to deliver an excellent economy to our people.
But instead of building on all these strengths, the Patriotic Front party has become a party of the digging into the past to fix a perceived enemy. We must fix our eyes on the future. First, we must come into grips with what is happening with our Copper. The President is expected to open parliament, and soon after that, the Minister of Finance will deliver the budget. One thing that is missing in much of our discussion is what the mukula is going on with Copper. Are these mines productive anymore? How much more time do we have at Konkola, and Mopani? Our population deserves to know the truth about the quality of our Copper, the quantity of our reserves and the fidelity of the machinery we are using to mine the Copper. Since independence, we were warned that the Copper we depended on was diminishing. We needed to begin diversifying. But we never listened to the sober voices among us. We continued treating Copper as if it will never finish. In any case, if this government ever wants to spend money on a useless commission of inquiry into privatization, they had better spend some cash into an honest analysis of where our Copperbelt stands.
After Copper, we must ask ourselves honest questions about our agriculture. The PF government talks a lot about agriculture but does tiny to help people in agriculture. In fact, it appears like the entire government has no idea what should be done to make this sector of our economy productive. Beyond buying inputs for farmers, we must ensure that we help our farmers get the top-notch machinery to help them with agriculture. We need to quickly recognize that with the changing of the rainfall patterns from the south of our country to the north, our efforts should be to encourage the north so that it becomes the future breadbasket, just like Southern Province was. But instead of taking tangible steps to invest in the earth, the PF government is busy moving up and down, giving the impression that they are working, when they are actually doing nothing much. Agriculture has a deficit of attention. I just hope that we will give it the attention it deserves going forward.
Zambia has some of the regions cheapest data rates. This is despite poor service. Cell phone towers have reached a good chunk of the interior. However, our education system in Zambia remains focussed on courses that cannot help drive an economy of the future. The government must lead the way by showing that it is willing to encourage investment in the technology sector. Technology is more than just installing state of the art cameras to arrest people peeing in the streets. We must ensure that we become a nation of IT, encoding, designs and much more. We need training that is focussed on making us work with technology. It is time to invest in technological education and other programs that support this sector.
Zambia has vast potential. But we must focus our efforts on things that help us. All this privatization talk will not help us at all. Those who think that it will help their narrow political interests are sadly mistaken.
The author, Elias Munshya, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.