THE National Economic Advisory Council ( N E A C ) i s a n independent economic think tank under the Ministry of National Development Planning which provides expert advice to Government and its institutions on economic matters.
Its day-to-day functions are performed by a secretariat based at Government Complex in Lusaka.
It is organising a high-level business leaders-Government conference meant to bring the decision-makers in the private sector and the decision-makers in Government.
The aim is to ensure that government programmes have buy-in from the private sector, which is supposed to be the executer and provider of the jobs that Government wants to create in line with the Seventh National Development Plan.
The conference takes place tomorrow at Pamodzi Hotel, Lusaka.
Having participated in a number of government processes of putting
together the national budget, NEAC came to learn that the private sector would ask for various incentives to be provided to run their businesses profitably.
But the timing is such that usually, those requests will not have the sufficient attention from the State because at that time it wants to raise revenues for running of Government.
Therefore, the requests that would come for incentives would be looked at as loss of revenue by Government.
NEAC thought that it would be appropriate to have a different forum where Government and the private sector could candidly discuss such requests from the business sector and come up with a way forward.
The private sector want their businesses to be more profitable and therefore create more jobs and pay more taxes in terms of revenue to Government.
This is why this conference is being organised at such high level of decision-makers.
NEAC is looking at ministers and their permanent secretaries as decision-makers on the policy side, and in the private sector it is looking at the chairpersons of the boards and their chief executives because those are the ones who should make decisions.
At that level it is expected that decisions can easily be reached in terms of requests from the private sector and what the State can do to help.
NEAC looks at the outcomes of such discussions and deliberations as a basis on which to generate appropriate advice to Government and help with monitoring of how those outcomes of the conference could be executed on the side of Government.
The conference will be bi-annual in the sense that NEAC wants to have follow-through conferences to monitor the implementation of the various agreements or, indeed, the concessions that will have been reached.
It is hoped that with the first conference having achieved its goals it will be easier to keep the momentum going forward so that that there is a basis on which there is always formal interaction between the two key players, which are the private sector and Government.
When one looks at the way the private sector is set up it has its own ideals or motive of making profits for shareholders.
On the part of Government it has got the responsibility of taking care of the private sector itself as well as the citizenry at large.
NEAC is looking at job creation for instance, which the government has been talking about, and clearly these jobs are not going to be generated by Government per se but through the private sector.
Essentially, it is Government policies and progmmes that have been highlighted in the 7NDP, two of which are diversification and job creation.
And, of course, the key player in all this is the private sector, which is supposed to be on the execution side with regard to creating the necessary industries that would create jobs.
NEAC hopes this high-level conference will bring together the overall objectives of Government as well as that of the private sector.
Job creation is one way of dealing with the poverty levels that the nation has been experiencing.
The message to the companies and organisations invited from the private sector is that they should take this opportunity to clearly spell out to Government the challenges they are facing with regard to ensuring that they do well in their business endeavours.
It is an opportunity for the private sector to also state what it is that they are looking for in terms of overcoming those challenges so that Government could study their requests and provide an enabling environment for them to do well in their businesses.
In the process they will create the jobs that Zambians are looking for.
The author is executive director of the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC).