Editor's Comment

Withdrawal of 25 buses good


THE withdrawal of 25 buses from the Public and Private Drivers Association of Zambia (PPDAZ) which were meant for youth empowerment may appear as a project in futility.
Far from it. The project is good. In fact, an excellent one. It is, however, evident that something has gone wrong and corrective measures have to be taken to keep the project afloat.
Government’s decision to repossess the 25 buses is, therefore, a good move. The decision serves as an example that misuse of initiatives meant to benefit the vulnerable masses at the expense of a few individuals will not be tolerated.
The popular adage that “it’s better late than never” holds true in this case and the State must be hailed for stepping in to take corrective measures.
Government meant well when it procured the buses from Higer as a loan which should have been repaid with proceeds from the 25 buses.
But as Minister of Youth and Sport Moses Mawere observed, the buses were not used for the intended purposes.
Meanwhile, the interest on the buses continued to rise.
This inevitably compelled Government to retrieve the buses from PPDAZ.
The withdrawal is a huge setback not just to the PPDAZ, which was running the buses in trust, but the majority of the youths who were the ultimate beneficiaries.
Given the country’s economic development, people are on the move every day and therefore bus transport business should not struggle.
But it is unclear why PPDAZ found the terrain difficult to manage brand new buses, which ordinarily should have been on demand from travellers.
PPDAZ was designed as a pilot for other youth projects.
The failure of PPDAZ is a serious setback in Government’s quest to empower youths to become economically viable.
Year in, year out, we hear the Auditor-General’s office highlighting failure by citizens, especially youths, to liquidate loans obtained from the youth empowerment as well as the Citizens Economic Empowerment (CEC) fund.
This reflects badly on the repayment culture of our citizens.
The money obtained from the Ministry of Youth and Sport as well as the CEC is supposed to be a revolving fund.
Those who get the loans should pay back the money so that others also access the same funds. However, failure to repay has led to the revolving fund’s coffers drying up.
Government has no bottomless pit of cash. It has a lot of competing needs such as building roads, schools, hospitals and paying public service workers, among its several obligations.
So, when a revolving fund is set up, people accessing the same should have other needy people in mind because defaulting means that other citizens will have nothing to get.
A word of caution for future initiatives is however inevitable. The State must ensure that it undertakes due diligence exercises that will ensure that the right beneficiaries are the ones that benefit from these initiatives.
Furthermore, trainings on how to run a business successfully should accompany these initiatives so that the beneficiaries don’t just run down the productive resources in their possession.
To avoid abuse or mismanagement of such resources, all those that got loans must be blacklisted and made accountable.
For future projects, feasibility studies should be done while those earmarked to benefit should be submitting bankable business plans.
The recipients must also be closely monitored, because it is one thing to have a bankable business plan, and totally another to be able to make it work.

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