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President focuses on economy

KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka
DESPITE 2016 being an election year when the temptation to spend is high, President Lungu will continue with his tough economic management approach to ensure that the economy rebounds.
Speaking on a special programme on the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) anchored by Brian Mwale, dubbed the President’s Diary 2015, aired on Friday night, President Lungu’s special assistant for press and public relations, Amos Chanda, said economic management will be the President’s biggest diary item for this year.
“The President will be pre-occupied with tough economic management approaches so that we get the Kwacha back, we want to see inflation brought down, the President wants to see stability in the mining sector. There are conversations going on about the mineral royalty tax system, the mining companies are talking to the relevant ministries. The President is confident the Minister of Mines and the Minister of Finance will guide the sector to a more acceptable tax regime,” Mr Chanda said.
The fall in commodity prices, including that of Zambia’s major export earner, copper, has led to job losses in the mining companies while power shortages have further strained the country’s economy as the Kwacha also depreciated considerably against major currencies.
To stem the downward economic slide, President Lungu responded in November with a range of spending cuts that include not starting any new construction projects, deferring construction contracts where possible, focusing  on completing projects already under way as well as delaying the establishment of a national airline.
On the Friday programme, which touched on a broad range of issues including Zambia’s bilateral relations with other countries, the President’s international visits, his religious faith, and his support to sport, Mr Chanda re-affirmed the President’s commitment to getting the economy back on track.
He said a lot of factors, both local and abroad, have caused damage to the performance of the Kwacha, including some irresponsible remarks. A number of measures available have had to be undertaken by the central bank to stabilise the Kwacha, but he says this does not amount to a return to statutory controls as President Lungu remains committed to a free market economy.
In the past one month, the Kwacha has rebounded from around 14 to the United States dollar to an average of 10.
“There has been a remarkable stability of the Kwacha over the past one month. Going forward, the President wants the currency to remain stable as it appreciates,” he said.
“… With the energy sector stabilising, with the rainy season looking quite okay, we should see the economy rebounding.”
This will be helped by interventions such as “to cut unnecessary expenditure, to cut unnecessary imports” that will save the necessary forex.
Mr Chanda also talked about how the President’s foreign visits benefited the country with, for instance, China providing a concession loan for the solar milling plants that are reducing the cost of mealie-meal; and agreements with Angola regarding an oil pipeline, rail and road links and food exports by Zambia.
He also disclosed that the President has received invitations to visit the Pope in Rome and to undertake a State visit to France next month and that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will be sending petroleum engineers to come and assist Zambia in oil exploration in the north of the country, where it is believed there could be reserves.
Mr Chanda said Zambia’s great international recognition is back as it has reclaimed its place in the international community of nations.
“It’s significant for me to highlight to you that President Lungu was the first Zambian President to address a special session of Parliament in Angola… this is the great honour given to Zambia,” he said.




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