Zambia: 'Economic Growth On Track'

Lusaka — ZAMBIA'S economic growth is still on the right track after a successful year of the Patriotic Front (PF) being in government and will record further growth in the coming financial year, President Michael Sata has said.

In his address during the official opening of the second session of the 11th National Assembly in Lusaka yesterday, he also thanked the people of Zambia for their patience and continued support to his administration as it remained steadfast in addressing the many and varied needs.

"The Zambian economy is on course to attain a growth rate higher than the seven percent that was projected for this year. Our optimism is based on evolving prospects characterised by single digit inflation and decreasing interest rates," he said.

Other indicators in the macro-economic area included well managed government borrowing, stable exchange rate and increased private sector credit and investment.

He said the Government would strive to improve on the macro-economic parameters and that the budget execution had continued to improve with 75 percent of the budget being released by the end of June.

The Government was in the process of establishing a government wide monitoring and evaluation system which would enhance resource allocation and evaluation of projects including a performance tracking policy.

He however, said despite the favourable macro-economic conditions of the Zambian economy in the past one year, the nation was still faced with a number of challenges such as high poverty levels especially in rural and peri-urban areas.

There was also high unemployment especially among the youth while the shortage of electricity had continued to have a negative impact on economic performance.

The Government recognised the need to intensify efforts in closing the development gap between rural and urban areas and at the same time create opportunities to achieve sustainable development through economic growth and diversification.

"Let me assure this august House that my administration is ready to address the challenges that the Zambian economy is faced with. In this regard the government will continue to maintain fiscal prudence to ensure that resources are used wisely," he said.

He said government would curtail non-priority expenditures to ensure that key programmes aimed at poverty reduction and employment creation were given due priority.

In the coming year, he said the government was determined to foster inclusive social and economic development by enhancing the expansion and diversification of the economy, promote Foreign Direct and local investment.

The overall growth strategy would be to increase economic growth to an average of eight percent per year while the Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP) and Vision 2030 would remain the country's frameworks in the medium and long term respectively.

Mr Sata said the 2013 budget would be the first under his administration and would ensure economic growth was inclusive and pro-poor by focusing in strategic areas such as education, health, agriculture, local government and housing.

On education he said government would set up universities in all provincial centres and come up with a new curriculum that would integrate both academic and vocational training while in the health sector the budgetary allocation had been increased to 47 percent.

In the next five years government would irrigate 17,000 hectares of land while K40 billion had been allocated for the creation of farming blocks.

He said the mining sector had continued to perform well because of the favourable investment climate and that the government would review laws so that small-scale mines could be owned by Zambians.

He said government was currently constructing fuel storage tanks in Lusaka, Solwezi, Mongu and Mpika and that there were plans to extend the Chipata-Mchinji line to link it to the Tanzania-Zambia Railway line at either Mpika or Serenje.

On the civil service Mr Sata said he wanted Parliament to assist government in ensuring that public service workers were accountable to the people and not to themselves.

He tasked Agriculture Minister Emmanuel Chenda to ensure that the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) bought all the food stocks and ensure no stocks went to waste.

Before the official opening address Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba took his oath of allegiance before taking his seat in the House.

Earlier, there was jubilation as the President arrived at the National Assembly grounds when he inspected a guard of honour as the Zambia Air Force (ZAF) conducted a fly-past.

As Speaker Patrick Matibini led the President to the House various traditional dance groups and PF cadres performed various dances as scores of people watched on the sides.

The entire Parliament ground was decorated with national colours while all flags flew at half mast in honour of former First Lady Betty Kaunda who died on Wednesday.

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