Editor's Comment

Ascertain Zambia’s worth

WHAT is Zambia’s worth in assets? That is the burning question that begs a clear answer. Fortunately, the answer should be brought to the fore, hopefully sooner rather than later.
It is of absolute importance that this answer is sought and found, considering that generally a country’s worth is in its assets.
This is likely to be a long and strenuous exercise considering Zambia’s long history and the changing of hands of some of Government’s assets.
Government started owning property in 1964 when Zambia became a sovereign State.
All property inherited from the colonial power, Britain, became Government property from October 24, 1964.
The UNIP government did not sit on its laurels. It also invested in assets locally and abroad for the benefit of the citizens.
Locally, assets include land, industries, shares, vehicles and other investments.
In other words, all assets domiciled within the country of jurisdiction.
Abroad, all assets domiciled in foreign countries such as housing units and office accommodation.
Some of the assets were given to Government by sister governments or sympathisers as part of solidarity for either having helped in the liberation struggle or as a young nation still trying to find its feet.
For instance, UNIP, which formed the country’s first government, ensured that every province had a teachers training college, a referral hospital and an industry to showcase the endowment.
Government also acquired huge tracts of land on which it built or intended to build infrastructure.
Such land was on title to secure it from invasion.
Over the years, Government has been disposing of some assets while acquiring others.
Some of the Government assets such as houses were sold to sitting tenants during the MMD reign as a way of empowering citizens.
Some companies were also privatised as the MMD began to pursue a free market economy. This saw the liquidation of companies such as Zambia Airways and United Bus Company of Zambia, which were considered a liability.
Holding companies such as the Zambia Industrial and Mining Corporation as well as the Industrial Development Corporation were disbanded.
Contractual Government employees also received vehicles as part of their gratuity.
Some assets were recovered or lost during the investigations of the plunder of public resources by former President Frederick Chiluba’s government.
Under the PF government, a lot of houses, health facilities, lodges among others have been constructed as part of the robust infrastructure programme designed to enhance service delivery.
Given this situation, Government has to ascertain the true value of its assets in relation to its liabilities abroad, also to determine the net worth of the country, to some extent it can also determine the true size of its Gross Domestic Product once it establishes the country’s productive assets abroad.
This task is long overdue and should have started when the PF swept into power in 2011 to determine what assets and liabilities it had inherited.
Then the exercise should have been held regularly, say every five years. Better still, it could have been an on-going exercise. Nonetheless, it is better late than never. The task is about to begin, according to Minister of Works and Supply Mutotwe Kafwaya.
Mr Kafwaya says it is probable that the country owns property worth millions of dollars, even more than its national debt stock.
The task Government intends to undertake is a routine exercise in corporates and it is done for accounting purposes in order to support the balance sheet.
Some corporates do this to use their assets as collateral for borrowing.
Government, through the Ministry of Works and Supply, should also know its assets value to ascertain its muscle and ability to grow at the desired pace.
May the compilation of the property the country owns start. It is for the good of Zambia.

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