19 September 2012

Zambia: Explaining Govt's Economic Policies in Detail Cardinal

IN four days' time, precisely on September 23, 2012, the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) will have been in power for exactly one year.

In the last 12 months, a lot has gone on and economic successes have been scored on various fronts but there is one thing which has remained constant - the need for more articulation of the new Government's economic policies.

Investors, large and small, local and foreign, depend so much on pronouncements from the Government, especially the line ministers and permanent secretaries.

It is, therefore, important that our leaders candidly articulate economic policies at whatever platform they are accorded.

Ministers and permanent secretaries should seize every opportunity that presents itself to them to sell the new policies.

As much as continuity is desirable, it will be amiss for anyone including investors to think that all economic policies will remain the same as the MMD's.

This, therefore, brings me to the point that it is actually normal for the new administration to implement changes. The current Government leaders should not even shy away from telling the people the changes in the policy measures, no matter how painful they could be.

For instance, the people were almost ready to have a situation where the Government's participation in the maize cultivation and marketing is drastically reduced to give further support to other crops, as a way of balancing the acts.

The new Government, therefore, should have taken advantage of the situation, starting this year to fully correct the imbalance in terms of support for maize and other crops.

Usually, it feels convenient not to change because most people are afraid of change, but governance is not about convenience. It is about what is progressive.

The continued questions by some investors about Zambia's future economic policies means that there is still an opportunity for our leaders to further expound the PF manifesto via-à-vis the economic policies.

About a week ago, I received international calls from two people who identified themselves as representatives of some potential investors wanting to know more about Zambia's economic policy issues ranging from the tax system to investment safety.

For as long as it remains profitable to invest in Zambia, investors will continue flocking to this country but they need to do so from informed positions.

In that vein, it is cardinal that our leaders provide information to them. In this era of increased information and communication technology, it has become imperative that information seekers receive it from the right sources.

That has been made even more imperative by the prevalence of politically-inclined people peddling lies and half-truths about the economic governance.

While the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) could be doing its part in promoting investments, the responsibility to sell the current policies could be beyond them, hence the need for the leaders at policy level and above to get involved in this noble chore.

I was spellbound by the promotion efforts of the Zambian Embassy in Stockholm Sweden when I had a peek on its official website.

Under the "why invest in Zambia" sub-headline the embassy states that Zambia is an attractive investment destination offering various lucrative investment opportunities in tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, energy and mining.

It states that the investment climate is characterised by a stable macro-economic environment, stable political system, investment guarantees and security, duty free access to regional, wider Africa and USA markets and unrestricted repatriation of after-tax profits.

According to the site, Zambia has signed double taxation agreements with a number of European, North America, African and Asian countries.

Hence investors from such countries are not liable to tax in more than one country or territory. The government offers a well-balanced package of fiscal incentives in priority areas as well as additional negotiated benefits to strategic investments.

"Zambia has predictable laws and policies with a Government that is committed to investment. Government is pursuing a zero-tolerance policy against corruption.

"Local and foreign investors are treated equally. The people are highly peaceful and friendly. The Zambian economy is a well advancing free market economy without price, exchange and interest controls.

"There is reduced or free import duty on certain raw materials and imports of capital machinery/equipment," it further states.

Yes that is good but it should be fully supported by the constant pronouncements of our leaders back home here in Zambia and whenever they have an opportunity to interact with the international community outside country.

Why is it that despite having such elaborate data on investment climate in Zambia, the potential investors still want to hear it from the locally-based leaders?

This is because the technocrats like the diplomats may not articulate the policy as frankly and effectively as the policy makers, who are also our vision carriers.

Therefore, as we embark on another 12-month expedition aimed at taking this country to greater economic levels, we expect our leaders to dwell more on the stipulation and implementation of the new policies.

One can further hope that having identified the mistakes of the past, in the last 12 months, through tools like the commissions of inquiries and others, the Government will now dwell more on actions.

By the time you will be reading this I will be visiting some countryside prying into the issue of briefcase maize buyers to ascertain if they play any positive role in the maize marketing process and if it is possible to incorporate them into the maize marketing policy.

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