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$6bn rail links on cards to make Zambia regional hub

THE rehabilitated section of the inter-mine railway line at KCM’s Cop Two open pit mine.

JACK ZIMBA, Parliament Buildings
PRESIDENT Lungu has announced that Government plans to invest about US$6 billion to construct railway lines that will link Zambia to eastern and western ports of Africa.
The President shared the ambitious plan to construct Greenfield railway lines in his address during the official opening of the fifth session of the 11th National Assembly yesterday, in which he also revealed his far-sighted focus on development, touching on 2064.
He called on Zambians at home and in the diaspora “…to focus and align our energies with a sense of common purpose, urgency and resilience to fulfil our national aspiration to be a developed country by 2064.”
The President said the plan to construct new railway lines was in line with the objective to transform Zambia into a regional hub.
“The implementation and completion of these projects will not only contribute to increased revenue generation for Zambia, but will also contribute to job creation,” he said.
He said Government had already identified six commercially viable roads to be constructed under PPP financing modality, with an estimated length of 2,200km.
Meanwhile, KABANDA CHULU reports that President Lungu has directed the Minister of Finance to put in place measures that will allow for long-term financing at affordable rates.
President Lungu has also directed the Minister of Tourism and the Industrial Development Corporation to set up a special purpose vehicle through which all public tourism investment assets will be owned.
President Lungu also said Government has made significant progress in establishing a national airline which is scheduled to start operating in 2016.
He said that access to capital is a challenge for most Zambian entrepreneurs and innovators who wish to establish or grow their businesses.
“The cost of capital needs to be made affordable. I also call upon the private sector to establish venture capital funds that will facilitate the establishment of Greenfield investments. The private sector should also partner with Government to promote business incubation to enable young innovators commercialise their ideas,” he said.
He said Zambia must industrialise rapidly.
“About 80 per cent of export earnings still come from copper, making the country highly vulnerable to fluctuations in the global economy.
“We need to draw lessons from countries that have succeeded in diversifying their economies,” he said.
He said concerns that Zambia is sliding back into debt trap were not correct.
“For an economy that has grown from US$3 million GDP in 2005 to US$ 28 billion today, we are well within the acceptable international threshold of 40 percent of GDP.
“Government has borrowed mainly to finance roads, energy and infrastructure as a long term investment that will spur accelerated economic development across sectors. We also have a sinking fund special account in place to ensure that Eurobond obligations are met as they fall due,” President Lungu said.
The President has directed that an independent body be created to deal with public-private partnership (PPP) matters.
“We need to find alternative ways of financing our development, hence the need to have strong partnership between government and private sector.
“This body will be under cabinet office. It is not right that well-meaning policies of PPP can be on our statute books for years without any tangible project seeing the light of day,” he said.
And KALONDE NYATI reports that the creation of an autonomous body that will oversee the acceleration of Public Private Partners (PPPs) has been supported by various stakeholders who see it as key in the economic transformation of the country.
Commenting on the pronouncement by President Lungu that Government intends to create a professional body that will accelerate PPPs, economist Noel Nkoma also hailed the decison saying the economic transformation of the country is dependent on concerted efforts by various stakeholders.
“The President has set the tone and what is remaining is for all of us to support the development so that the economy can be transformed through collaboration by both Government and the private sector,” Mr Nkoma said.
Lunte member of Parliament Felix Mutati said the decision is timely as PPPs are critical instruments of development that are being used in many economies to spur growth, but called on Government to consider giving this responsibility to the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).
And JIMMY CHIBUYE reports that the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) says President Lungu’s pronouncements during the opening of the fifth session of the eleventh National Assembly need to be actualised to bear intended fruits.
ZCTU secretary general Cosmas Mukuka said in an interview that President Lungu’s pronouncements need a practical approach for them to materialise and help the country achieve meaningful development.
He said the speech has been delivered at a right time when employers and employees are starting the collective bargain process.
Mr Mukuka said ZCTU is looking forward to seeing how Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda will translate President Lungu’s speech into a practical budget which will make more citizens participate in tax contribution and income earning.

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