Lusaka — Ministry of Transport and Communications permanent secretary Bob Samakai has disclosed that the government is spending about 2 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) on road accident-related costs.
And Samakai said Zambia Telecommunications Company (ZAMTEL) had secured a loan worth US$38 million from Standard Chartered Bank Zambia Plc and a Chinese bank to upgrade its operations.
Appearing before a parliamentary committee on transport, communications, works and supply chaired by Siavonga UPND member of parliament Douglas Syakalima on Wednesday, Samakai said the high number of road accidents had led to the government spending two percent of the GDP on comprehensive cover and other premiums on accidents.
Samakai was responding to concerns raised by committee members about the use of trucks in rural areas and the number of road accidents the country had been experiencing recently.
Samakai said there was no insurance company that had refused to compensate any public service vehicle (PSV) involved in road accidents.
But Syakalima said it was sad that the government was spending two percent of the GDP on accident costs which involved the loss of human life. "But GDP is GDP. There is human life and the economy that suffers in the process," Syakalima said.
And Samakai said 16,905 drivers had been issued with PSV licences since the start of the exercise last year.
Samakai said the target had been 10,000 drivers but it had overshot by 6,905.
He said the exercise had only taken place in four towns, namely Kitwe, Ndola, Solwezi and Lusaka, and would soon move to Livingstone.
Meanwhile, Samakai said the government had completed paying all arrears to the World Meteorological Organisation three weeks ago.
He said there had been an improvement in the funding of the meteorological department from K48 million in 2003 to K264 million in May 2004 and he hoped that this would be sustained.
"All the 36 weather stations will be equipped before the 2005/2006 rainy season," Samakai said. "We'll also open up new stations especially in districts that will be hosting farming blocks."
On the privatisation of ZAMTEL, Samakai said the company was still viable and that the government had been in a hurry to privatise it but discussions between the government and the company were underway on how to commercialise it.
And asked by Moomba UPND member of parliament Vitalis Mooya why the government had u-turned on the privatisation of the company, Samakai said past experiences over privatisations had forced the government to opt for commercialisation.