2 July 2004

Zambia: Social Watch Report Questions Zambia's Economic Policies

Lusaka — INHUMAN policies inflicted on the population have sealed the fate of the majority of Zambians, the 2004 Social Watch report stated yesterday.

But finance minister Ngandu Magande wondered what poverty and policies the authors of the report were writing about and which statistics they were using.

According to the report, which is an international citizen's progress report on poverty eradication and gender equity which monitors government compliance with international commitments, hunger continues to stalk Zambians and human security is an expensive paradigm for most Zambians.

"Even though the country has not formally been at war since independence in 1964, prevailing conditions affecting human existence are equivalent to those in a country at war," the report states.

Social Watch published under the theme; "Fear and Want, obstacles to human security," stated that inhumane policies inflicted on Zambian society by western institutions and states had, combined with ill-fated local policies, escalated poverty levels and HIV/AIDS to make it virtually impossible for ordinary citizens to live in dignity.

"Most Zambians' lives are marked by insecurity. A series of misguided policies have combined with other factors to make it impossible for people to enjoy a sense of security," states the report.

According to the report, the free market policies had failed to ensure competitiveness of Zambian products on international markets while corruption and misgovernance on the part of political leadership in the present administration had continued.

The report stated that the greatest insecurity was derived from a series of failed economic and social policies.

"The influx of the new poor and urban workers who have been made redundant on the streets already overcrowded with the unemployed is a direct result of the government's blind faith in unbridled capitalist policies," states the report.

According to Social Watch, attempts to try and reverse the economic decline by adopting policies friendly to foreign capital had only added to the difficulties facing the economy.

According to the report, 72.9 per cent of Zambia's population was below the national poverty line by 1998, 45 per cent were under nourished between 1990 and 1992 with the figure rising to 50 per cent of the population in 2000.

However, Zambia was making progress in terms of population with access to sanitation and improved water sources.

But reacting to the report, Magande said the problem was that people still wanted to talk about the poverty of the past and old statistics.

"I don't know what statistics they are using," he said.

He said in 2001, Zambia had a problem of food and currently there wasn't any problem of food.

Magande said food was now even cheaper in Zambia.

"We have so much food, where were they getting their assessment?" he asked.

Magande said the stone crushers in Kalingalinga had bank accounts from money they made.

"Somebody who is not informed, says these are the poor people I need to talk about," he said.

Magande said he bought his cement from a person in Kalingalinga and every time that person always has good business.

"I don't understand. I don't know why people don't want to admit when things have changed," he said.

Magande said some of the people some organisations were calling poor, were raking in millions despite being seen wearing shoes that were bad.

"They are not poor. We don't even include ourselves, I mean how?" he asked.

Magande wondered what insecurity the report was referring to when he could go peacefully to Soweto market and buy produce.

He said NGOs should not base their reports on past issues.

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