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REDEFINING OUR FUTURE – PART I: “LESSONS FROM MWANAWASA’S ERA”

kaela Mulenga

kaela Mulenga

The Zambian Kwacha is hitting the roof exerting a lot of inflationary pressures, which in turn exacerbates the suffering of ordinary people. This of course is linked to the rock bottom commodity prices. Copper, our main stay is only fetching US$2.30 a pound from US$3.06 a pound (or $5,353 a tone against a production cost of $5,500 a tone). This is worrisome.

Our failure to diversify away from minerals extraction is now going to haunt us. Is this the time when we Zambians can finally be convinced that – now our savior is agriculture and other renewable resources?

Let’s wait and see! Unfortunately, this coincides with the time when we have a president who is learning on the job. President Edgar Chagwa Lungu (ECL) lacks the capacity to harvest advice from the many different sources. Hence, to some it gives an impression as if he is gambling with peoples’ lives. They charge that he is visionless.

Are there any lessons to be learnt from anywhere?

An American philosopher – John Dewey, a known pragmatist once said that: “ideas are ‘instruments’ or plans of action for problem solving”. And a test of this being that – if the principle works, then it must be good. False or wrong if it fails this test.

In 2008 during Pres Levy Patrick Mwanawasa’s (LPM) administration, I wrote a piece which was published by The Zambian – see it here [www.thezambian.com] commenting on the role of a Presidential Advisory Council. At the time I got a huge response to it.

Considering that the article was acknowledged by Mwanawasa people, I take it that they indeed took note of and incorporated some of the points I was making in their policy framework.

If you recall, late President Mwanawasa’s government faced major economic problems some of which are comparable to those facing the current government of Lungu (ECL). Notably load-shedding, massive job lay offs caused by problems within the mining industry, corruption, and of course general governance – are headaches which are causing sleepless nights for Mr. Lungu.

Since today it is a general knowledge to Zambians, that Pres Mwanawasa’s government succeeded in solving some of these problems and that he is credited with the best economic program in modern times (about K3:00/US dollar) it wouldn’t be a bad idea to revisit his approach. Perhaps ECL’s people should then review some of his strategies.

I believe that some of the points I raised in the article referred to above are more relevant now than before. I for instance, talked a lot about ways of attracting investments.

Pres Lungu is faced with the most challenging times our country has faced since independence. Yet he seems to have no where else to turn to for reliable advice. Most of his Ministers are just drawing salaries without contributing much. One even wonders why they are still sticking around.

It is not only the slowing down of the Chinese economy, which is of concern: today unity amongst our people is at its weakest point – primarily because the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” has grown exponentially. While reliance on ‘the market’ has promoted allocative efficiency, access to resources or distribution of opportunities remains pathetic. Many people are still struggling.

Unless these problems will be addressed through policy redesigns or some other corrective action, an implosion waits us.
It is in this regard that I think we should review all kinds of advices available including those from the opposition – as long as they’re delivered in good faith and for the good of the country. It is not necessary to be always ‘inventing the wheel’. Half a century in command of our own affairs, we should be familiar with problems we have solved before.

After all, what good would be in self-destruction or undermining ourselves by not doing what is good for us? We all should have vested interest in a successful and prosperous Zambia. So anybody who has a good idea should flush it out for scrutiny rather than being preoccupied with meaningless criticisms.

Against this background, I hope that Zambians will find it worth while to assist spreading ideas which can help our country to solve its problems. And since problems are well known, let us share solutions if we have them. Chinese will not ask Americans to sort out their mess, nor will they fold their hands waiting for some “future” Wizard Kid. Let us tackle vexatious issues in a consensus manner. Thank you!

Toronto, September 23, 2015

Kaela B Mulenga
zbia@hotmail.com

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Category : Columnists, Dr. Kaela Mulenga.
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Comment:

One response to “REDEFINING OUR FUTURE – PART I: “LESSONS FROM MWANAWASA’S ERA””

  1. Reasonata says:

    Dr Mulenga .For close to 20 years from 1991 the kwacha currency never experienced wild functuations ..why ? Because like the rest of the world we had normal policies..
    Copper supplies 70% of our forex..And the price has gone down but with it production unexpectedly dropped too..Had production increased as planned the drop in copper prices would have been mitigated. .
    The drop in copper production is the root cause of our problem ..And the smoking gun is Royalty tax ..Over a decade 19,900% increase! Madness..
    Dr you’re either a dumb person or a callous supporter of PF. .

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