9 November 2012

Zambia: Govt to Step Up Agro Sector Investment

GOVERNMENT is transforming the agriculture sector to make it more responsive to the country's development agenda.

Finance Minister, Alexander Chikwanda said yesterday that Government was committed to transforming the agriculture sector by strengthening the policy framework and increasing investment.

He said the Government would strengthen research and extension services and also promote crop diversification, trade as well as export.

The Minister said this during a high level policy dialogue meeting between the Government and cooperating partners in Lusaka yesterday.

Mr Chikwanda, however, regretted that although Zambia's economic growth prospects looked reasonably promising and all the economic fundamentals were looking positive, poverty levels remained high.

The current statistics indicated that overall poverty had remained high at 60.5 per cent, while rural poverty was around 80 per cent.

"We need stupendous efforts to redress this sad plight because poverty is in itself the number one hindrance to accelerate development. In addressing this situation our policies will aim to address growth and implicit poverty reduction," Mr Chikwanda said.

He said the agriculture sector had the power to transform the economy by addressing food security, raising rural incomes and supporting the emancipation of women and children.

Mr Chikwanda said in the 2013 national Budget, it was premised on the momentum to prosper and ensure veritable advancement of social justice for all.

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa executive secretary, Carlos Lopez said though Zambia was doing relatively well in its economic indicators, the absence of key growth catalysts was a cause of concern.

Dr Lopez said it was worrying that Zambia had remained dependent on copper exports and had a high production cost, poor infrastructure, as well as costly and unreliable rail services.

He said Zambia had immense opportunities for sustainable development given the prevailing macroeconomic and political stability, favourable business environment, foreign investor goodwill and rich natural resources.

Dr Lopez suggested that economic diversification and fiscal reforms should enhance domestic resource mobilisation.

He said the Government should promote entrepreneurship, foster job creation, and accelerate the pace of infrastructure development.

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