CHARLES CHISALA, Lusaka
A KNOT of children cheers as a young operator nudges a yellow grader along the edge of a road under construction near Kanyama Hospital in Lusaka’s Kanyama Constituency.
At the end of the road, the young man makes a U-turn, drops the ripper connected to the rear of the earth-moving machine and heads back as the grader rips up the ground amid more cheers.
The machine belongs to Avic International Engineering Corporation which has been contracted by the government to upgrade roads in the capital city under phase II of the Lusaka 400 project.
It is part of the robust infrastructure development the government has been implementing since 2013, which has been the vanguard of its national development agenda.
In the last four years, Zambia has witnessed the construction and upgrade of roads, construction of hospitals, clinics, health posts, universities, colleges, trades schools, primary and secondary schools countrywide.
There is also the on-going construction of administrative edifices, civic centres, police stations, post offices and staff houses in over 30 new districts.
As expected, such capital projects require huge amounts of money, and it is little wonder that the government has prodded the Road Development Agency (RDA) to explore strategies for sustainable financing development in the roads sector.
The government in the year 2017 shifted the focus to public private partnerships (PPPs) as the new strategy for sustainable financing of infrastructure development projects.
Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development Ronald Chitotela told the new RDA board of directors to help the government meet financial obligations to contractors and consultants engaged to help the government implement the infrastructure development programme.
“As a matter of urgency , do not spare any chance to work with the ministry, other road sector agencies and the Ministry of Finance to develop strategies that will ensure sustainable financing of the road sector,” Mr Chitotela challenged the RDA board during the induction workshop in Lusaka last month.
In the Seventh National Development Plan, Government envisages to cast the net wider for sources of finance for the roads sector.
On page 62, section 7.2.a. the plan identifies inadequate infrastructure as a major obstacle to achieving national development objectives.
It says the government will continue implementing its key programmes in the roads sector, which include Link Zambia 8000, Pave Zambia, Feeder Road Rehabilitation and C400, among others.
“The government will also continue developing tolls and collecting user charges to finance its programmes in the road sub-sector as well as pursuing public private partnerships (PPPs) as a financing mechanism for road construction.” (7.9.3, Strategy 3 of the 7NDP)
Mr Chitotela was therefore indirectly advising the RDA to seriously consider PPPs as an effective strategy for sustainable funding of roads sector development projects.
The PPPs are increasingly proving to be the safest and most sustainable financing model for national development countrywide.
This is because the national treasury has far too many competing government-funded programmes and recurrent expenditure needs to meet.
Although the Ministry of Finance, through the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA), has embarked on vigorous reforms aimed at increasing government revenue, infrastructure projects are too expensive for the national purse to finance alone.
In the 2018 national budget, Government has allocated K8,660,314,680 to roads infrastructure.
International airports are expected to account for K940,500,000, while K740,060,456 is for school infrastructure.
Then there is the health sector, in which the government is building new hospitals and health posts, upgrading old ones and establishing medicine distribution hubs.
Delivering the budget in Parliament last October Minister of Finance Felix Mutati assured the nation that despite the funding challenges Zambia will not flinch on its journey to prosperity and called for the participation of all stakeholders in making the collective dream come true.
“Mr Speaker, with the launch of Seventh National Development Plan, our country has renewed its commitment to the attainment of the Vision 2030 to be a prosperous middle income country,” Mr Mutati said.
“We must strive to foster unity of purpose in advancing our nation’s interests and the well-being of our people.”
President Lungu split the Ministry of Works and Supply after his September 2016 inauguration, after winning the August 11, 2016 presidential election.
He created the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure Development and appointed Pambashe Member of Parliament and former deputy minister of Youth, Sport and Child Development Ronald Chitotela to head it and former RDA boss Charles Mushota as his permanent secretary and right-hand-man.
From January to date the government launched and continued implementing a number of capital projects such as the Chingola-Solwezi road, which had delayed as a result of financial challenges.
President Lungu responded to the cries of the people of Southern Province by sanctioning the upgrade of the arterial Kalomo-Dundumwezi-Namwala-Itezhi-tezhi road.
He also launched the construction of the K1.2 billion Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway under a PPP arrangement under which Mr Chitotela says government will raise at least K1.3 billion as net profit from the project 17 years after it becomes operational.
Other noteworthy infrastructure projects are the Greenfield Ndola International Airport and C400 township road construction and upgrading.
In the first half of this year President Lungu also launched the US$1.4 million ZAF Twin-Palm PPP construction project that will have social amenities and commercial facilities.
He also jointly launched the extension and expansion of Levy Mwanawasa Teaching Hospital in Lusaka with the government of the People’s Republic of China.
There was also the commissioning of the construction of the Kafue Lower Hydro power station construction project in Chikankata district, Southern Province and the construction of staff houses for the Zambia Correctional Service, Zambia Police Service and Zambia National Service.
One can safely say 2017 was indeed a year of delivery.