IT IS clear that Zambia’s path to prosperity is not an easy one, but as President Lungu said yesterday, it is not an impossible one.
In fact, there is already evidence of an ever-increasing number of Zambians getting out of economic doldrums.
The concern though is that poverty levels – at 54.4 percent – are still too high and hence the need to accelerate economic activities that will help everyone, especially those in rural areas, get out of their low standards of living.
This is why President Lungu themed his address to the Second Session of the 12th National Assembly yesterday as: “Moving towards a prosperous smart Zambia in peace and tranquillity without leaving anyone behind”.
The multi-thronged plan for the next 12 months has a key focus on making Zambia a rich country not only statistically but in reality for all Zambians, rich or poor.
It is important that while Zambia points to the various indicators of the country improving economically, there must be a positive and direct impact on all citizens.
Thankfully, there is evidence of this happening through programmes such as the social cash transfer through which the most vulnerable members of Zambia’s society are improving their standards of living.
By giving examples of vulnerable Zambians who have benefited from such schemes and several others, President Lungu has put faces to the statistics. This is as it should be. This is the only way one can ascertain that indeed economic plans are bearing fruit.
Government plans to accelerate these pro-poor programmes in 2018 with the scaling-up of the social cash transfer net from 78 districts to all the 100-plus districts in the country. Beneficiaries will increase significantly from 590,000 households to 700,000. In essence, this means up to four million Zambians getting their due support.
But as more people get out of poverty, it is important that other ‘better off’ citizens also improve their standards of living. That is key to moving Zambia into a middle-income country.
The plan outlined yesterday takes into account this objective and presents several opportunities for virtually all Zambians to play their part. Government has set the right environment for everyone to prosper.
The challenge is on every Zambian to seize this opportunity and make the most of it – not only for their own good, but also for the good of the country.
In all this, however, it must be constantly kept in mind that nothing comes on a silver platter. There is need for focus and hard work. Spoon-feeding is being consigned to history, where it belongs, and, in its place, pragmatic and realistic decisions are being made.
These include hard decisions such as phasing out subsidies to free the money for other projects that will benefit more people and much more sustainably. Removal of subsidies is a bitter pill to swallow but its effects in the long run are good for the collective socio-economic health of the country.
For those desiring to venture into agriculture, the opportunities are immense. This is reinforced by Government’s bigger projects such as infrastructure development which include major road and rail ventures.
It is good that more Zambians are venturing into agriculture before they are tired and retire from formal employment. Indications are that many more would actually want to take up such income-generating ventures but are inhibited by financing and land.
It should never be difficult to get land. Enthusiasm for progress should not be killed by such roadblocks. It is good, therefore, that President Lungu has directed that there be a speedy conclusion in the land reforms assignment. Let those tasked with this responsibility heed this directive.
To succeed in all this, Zambians have to remain united. Where cracks of disunity emerge, all stakeholders should join efforts to mend such separations. Zambians should never tire from evoking the `’One Zambia, One Nation’ motto. It is the foundation of this country.
Political differences are inevitable but they should