Analysis: BONIFACE SUSA
THE vision of our great country is simple and straight-forward: “To be a middle-income nation by 2030”.
This vision is a long-term plan that expresses the aspirations of the Zambian people to live in a strong and dynamic, middle-income industrial nation that provides opportunities for improving the well-being of all the citizens.
A middle-income country is a nation which is neither very rich nor extremely poor with monthly incomes of its people between US$1,000 and US$12,000. The minimum income of US$1,000 approximately converts into K10,000 with the current exchange rate. I do not seem to think an average worker both in the formal and informal sectors earns that kind of money per month. According to the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR), a Catholic Church organisation that undertakes research in the cost of living in the country, the basic monthly food basket for an average Zambian family of 5-8 stood at K5,229 at the beginning of the year. The food basket does not include other expenditure such as house rentals, clothes, school fees, loans, airtime just to mention a few. Currently, ordinary workers are struggling to feed their families and send their children to universities and colleges because their salaries do not match the high cost of living. We are a low income country because since independence the economy has been entirely dependent on the mining industry. Our economy is still susceptible to external shocks such as the falling copper prices and rising fuel prices on international markets that adversely impact on the country’s economic advancement and living standards of the people. Both UNIP and MMD governments failed to diversify the economy. Under UNIP government, people experienced chronic food shortages that led to violent riots in mid-1980’s. Despite the MMD liberalising the fragile economy, many people lost jobs due to privatisation of several companies.
The Patriotic Front government should be commended for the timely formulation of the 7th National Development Plan (7NDP) that will create a diversified and resilient economy driven among others by agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and mining under the theme “Accelerating development efforts towards Vision 2030 without leaving anyone behind”. The key outcomes of this ambitious plan include economic diversification and job creation, reduction of poverty and vulnerability, reduced developmental inequalities, enhanced human development and the creation of a conducive governance environment. The 7NDP is a building block crafted to meet the goals in the Vision 2030. The vision has the following salient feature and I quote: “ It embodies the values of socio-economic justice underpinned by the principles of gender-responsive, sustainable development, respect for human rights, good traditional and family values; positive attitude towards work, peaceful co-existence and Public- Private Partnerships”. I regard having positive attitude towards work to be immensely critical in achieving the vision 2030. The change in our attitudes should begin at an individual level. To be successful, a person should have a positive outlook about life. Some people fail to cope with unpleasant situations because they lack the will to stay positive. They easily give up and miss opportunities. If all these years you have been unemployed do not get discouraged because with a positive mind and self-confidence you could start your own business and become an employer. In rural areas, there are times when mono pumps that are provided by Government break down causing disruption in the supply of safe drinking water to the residents. You would find that people will drink contaminated water from shallow wells while waiting for Government to repair the water pumps. And yet they could have the capacity to carry out maintenance works using their own resources. Being positive entails doing certain things with little or no reliance on other people. Rapid development usually takes place in the areas where people embark on self–sustaining projects with the assistance from government or donors coming later.
At work places, some employees are unwittingly engaged in day light robbery by spending more time on social media like Facebook and WhatsApp than contribute to their organisations overall productivity. They rob companies of valuable time to produce more goods and services but such workers are usually the first to complain when their salaries are delayed. Other dishonest employees cheat that they are sick when they just want to stay away from work on that day. Unless the majority of the workers change their negative attitude towards work, it may not be possible for this country to fully attain the vision 2030. When President Edgar Lungu launched the 7NDP in June last year, he made a clarion call that we should all work hard to develop the country. Yes we can if we adopt positive attitudes.
In the 7NDP, Government places much emphasis on developing human capital and investing in quality education and skills development. Education in all its form is expected to be relevant to the needs of various sectors of the economy to raise labour productivity, attract foreign direct investment, reduce poverty and build resilience in the economy. The youths will form the bulk of the skilled workforce to support the transition of the country to economic prosperity by 2030. But look at the behaviour of university students when they are not paid their meal allowances on time. They leap headlong into malicious destruction of public property during their illegal protests. Recently, Evelyn Hone College students ran amok destroying the college wall fence over disputed examinations results. Students are among the respected people in the society who should use their brains and not brawns to express their grievances. They should always exhibit positive behaviour because they are leaders of tomorrow.
It is interesting to note that the 7NDP contains strategies and programmes to support the growth of the manufacturing sector in order to improve the competitiveness of Zambian products. Local industries should change the general perception that their products are inferior as compared to foreign goods by doing things differently but in a smart way.
Smart work is the model of work that uses new technologies and the development of existing technologies and practices to improve the quality of the products or services and the performance of the workforce. If small and medium scale enterprises SME’s were also to embrace the concept of smart work, we would be on the right path towards becoming a middle income industrial nation.
The Vision 2030 and 7NDP are premised on national unity with people having equal opportunities regardless of their tribal, political, religious affiliations and status in the society. Unfortunately, there is this growing trend among some people to criticise and oppose any progressive ideas that government wishes to implement to transform the country. As if this is not damaging enough, certain individuals often speak ill of the country when they travel abroad only to serve either their political or selfish interests. The country needs patriotic citizens who are positive in their thoughts and actions because lack of patriotism could hinder socio-economic development and realisation of Vision 2030.
The author is station manager at Mkushi Community Radio.
Analysis: BONIFACE SUSA