By Nawa Mutumweno – President Michael Sata on September 19, 2014 opened the Fourth Session of the 11th National Assembly laying the foundation for the policy direction of the country which is currently the continent’s second largest producer of copper (after being replaced by the Democratic Republic of Congo).
The President’s pronouncements will culminate in the delivery of the 2015 National Budget by the Minister of Finance, Alexander Chikwanda on October 10, 2014.
The Patriotic Front (PF) government has been in the driving seat of the country for three years now after wrestling the reins of power from the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) in September 2011. Only two years remain before the next elections in 2016.
‘’This session of Parliament comes at a time when our country will be celebrating 50 years of Independence on October 24, 2014. It is my hope that the Golden Jubilee celebrations provide an opportunity for the people of Zambia to reflect on where we are coming from and plan where we want Zambia to be in the next 50 years,’’ he said.
Despite continuing improvements in the capacity of the economy to create new jobs, the issue of employment stills erodes the development fabric of the country. In this vein, Government has adopted an industrialisation and job creation strategy that focuses on specific growth sectors such as agro-processing, manufacturing, tourism, construction, creative industries, information technology, metal fabrication, steel production, clothing and textiles.
‘’I am pleased to inform this House that, Government has created over 456 539 formal jobs in various sectors of the economy since 2011,’’ he enthused.’
Agriculture remains a key driver of economic growth and poverty reduction. Government’s strategic focus in the agriculture sector is to achieve food security, promote crop diversification, as well as increased productivity and value addition.
In the crop sub-sector, the country continues to register significant growth. This year, a record maize harvest of 3.4 million metric tonnes was achieved. This is attributed to enabling policies, the hard work of the farmers and favourable weather conditions.
Priority continues to be given to national food security by increasing and upgrading storage capacity throughout the country.
‘’In this regard, Government has invested a total of K108.5 million to upgrade 27 storage sheds with a total storage capacity of 117 000 metric tonnes. Eight of these sheds have been completed whilst 19 will be completed by the end of this year,’’ President Sata elaborated.
Government plans to bring 17 500 hectares under irrigation for small and medium-scale farmers. Out of this target 4 500 hectares was brought under irrigation last year while an additional 7 000 hectares have been covered this year, bringing the total to 11 500 hectares.
Mining continues to play a significant role in the economy as a source of employment, foreign exchange earnings and contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Copper production output in 2011 was 667 604 metric tonnes which rose to 697 900 metric tonnes in 2012. In 2013, it stood at 765 037 metric tonnes and is expected to reach one million metric tonnes annually by 2017.
Gemstones have become an important contributor to the growth of the mining sector and the economy as a whole. In 2011, total gemstone sales stood at $32.4 million, rising to $40.4 million in 2012. In 2013, the sales significantly increased to $100.5 million, on the backdrop of Government’s initiative to auction emeralds locally.
In recognition of the critical role of the mining industry to the prosperity of the country, the ministers of Finance and Mines have been directed to come up with consistent policies that will guarantee transparency and accountability in the declaration of minerals produced and exported, thus ensuring a win-win situation for the both the country and investors..
Construction and Transport
Government continues to emphasise the importance of road infrastructure development. Progress is steadily being made on all major road projects such as Link Zambia 8000, Pave Zambia 2000 and Lusaka 400. The Link Zambia 8000 is progressing well with 22 works contracts signed as of July 2014, covering 2 245 kilometres.
The major road projects include Leopards Hill road to Chirundu in Lusaka Province and the Kitwe-Chingola dual carriageway on the Copperbelt.
Other works include the Bottom road in Southern Province, Mongu-Kalabo in Western Province, Itezhi-Tezhi-Mumbwa in Central Province, Chipata-Chadiza-Katete in Eastern Province, Kawambwa-Mushota in Luapula Province, Chingola- Solwezi road and the Mbala-Nakonde road.
Completed roads include Kasama-Luwingu in Northern Province, Sesheke-Senanga in Western Province and Mutanda-Chavuma in North-Western Province.
Under the Pave Zambia 2000, distribution of equipment has been completed in all the 10 provinces. The Lusaka 400 project, involving construction, maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrading of roads around the capital city, is well underway.
In order to increase fiscal space for infrastructure development, Government has approved the transfer of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Unit to the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) to facilitate the merger of the two institutions.
Subsequently, the ministers responsible for Finance and Commerce, Trade and Industry have been instructed to fully realise the merger in order to optimally use PPPs to attract investment in infrastructure projects, thus promote economic development.
In the electricity sub-sector, Government has continued to implement projects in generation, transmission and distribution. The total generation capacity was 1 669 megawatts in 2011 and this has risen to 2 310 megawatts as of 2014.
The increase is attributed to, inter alia, completed projects such as the 360 megawatts Kariba North Bank hydro power extension project and the 50 megawatts Ndola heavy fuel oil plant.
Progress is also being made to complete the Itezhi-Tezhi hydropower and Maamba thermal power projects, while work is ongoing on the Kafue Gorge Lower and Lusiwasi hydro power projects.
Government is keen to raise the rate of investment in the economy. In the last three years, Government attracted a total of $5.2 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI), a clear indication that the country is an attractive investment destination. To this end, Government shall endeavour to improve the business environment with a view to attract more investment into the country.
The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has finally been established to oversee and manage state-owned enterprises (SOEs), in addition to complementing private sector investment in strategic areas.
In order to mint success on this platform, Government has been recapitalising a number of SOEs for them to run on a commercial basis and contribute effectively to the Treasury.
The SOEs recapitalised so far encompass National Savings and Credit Bank (NSCB); ZCCM- Investments Holdings; Zambia National Building Society (ZNBS), Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL) and Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia (NCZ).
Cabinet Office should ensure that the IDC is operationalised as soon as possible and ensure that the SOEs list on the stock market to improve their operations and capital base.
Substantial strides have been made in export diversification. Non-traditional exports (NTEs) now account for 33 percent of total export earnings from 20.9 percent in 2011. In this regard, the President has directed the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry to work on improving the country’s export performance
Government is committed to ensuring that all citizens have quality and affordable housing. Thus, it is working to resolve the housing deficit through a number of measures. Firstly, the Zambia National Building Society (ZNBS) has been recapitalised with an equity contribution of K165 million. This will enable more people to access affordable housing credit. Secondly, Government is working with the private sector in closing the housing deficit through public private partnerships (PPPs).
Since coming to power, the Government has created 32 districts in all parts of the country in a bid to accelerate service delivery, thus improving the lives of the citizens. All these districts have since been operationalised.
Construction of infrastructure has started in five of these districts, including the upgrading of infrastructure in Choma and Chinsali as new provincial headquarters of Southern and Muchinga provinces. Construction of district offices and other infrastructure in the remaining 27 districts will kick of f before the end of the year.
Government has continued implementing the rural electrification programme which is now mainly focusing on new districts. In this regard, Sioma and Nkeyema inWestern Province have already been electrified while works to connect Nalolo, Luampa and Sikongo are in progress.
Plans are also afoot to connect other areas to the national grid, including Shangombo, Luangwa, Rufunsa, Chama, and Lundazi districts, which are currently supplied by diesel generated power.
Education and skills development are key to the Government’s overall goal of achieving accelerated national development. Government has scored a number of successes in this sector since assuming office.
To improve access to and quality of education, Government has completed construction of 41 of the 84 targeted secondary schools, representing 49 percent completion rate within a short space of time, while the remaining 43 schools are at various stages of construction.
Works are underway to establish at least one university in each of the 10 provinces. Currently, Zambia has three public universities and a number of private ones.
Access to quality health services by all the people of Zambia remains the cornerstone of the government’s health policy.
‘’In line with this policy, Government has continued to increase availability of health frontline staff, health infrastructure, drugs and other medical supplies and equipment,’’ he elaborated.
To mitigate the shortage of skilled health personnel, Government has been rehabilitating and constructing training institutions. The construction of 650 health posts has also started and is expected to be completed by 2016..
Government is in a hurry to modernise and upgrade facilities aimed at improving the quality of services and reduce the incidence of referrals abroad.
Government will continue to promote gender and child development in all its programmes. To ensure gender equity, the PF government has appointed and maintained high number of women in leadership and decision-making positions.
It is evident that an unprecedented record of infrastructure development in health, education, roads, communication, energy and agriculture, among others, is ongoing in all parts of the country
Going forward, the focus of Government for now and beyond will be achieving the necessary rates of economic growth and development by addressing issues of higher levels of investment, job creation, economic restructuring and improved efficiency and productivity, and greater social equity so as to realise the goal of a better Zambia for all.