President Rupiah Banda’s 7-point plan launched recently as his platform in his bid to seek another term of office is a joke at best. In this regard, Mr. Banda and the MMD intend to deliver development for all Zambians through a 7-point plan aimed at:
(a) Increasing agricultural production and food security for all Zambians;
(b) Building better schools for our children;
(a) Creating a better health service for our people;
(b) More jobs for all our people;
(c) Building quality infrastructure throughout the country;
(d) Reinforcing equal opportunities for all by providing access to productive resources such as loans, land and training; and
(e) Sustaining and strengthening democratic governance.
I am afraid the 7-point plan does not provide any hope for the majority of Zambians who are currently wallowing in abject poverty. The plan is nothing more than a wish list of open-ended projects and programs without any specific time frames when citizens should expect to see concrete and tangible results. We have had such wish lists from the time we attained political independence in 1964.
Besides, the plan does not address any of the issues which are at the core of our beloved country’s socio-economic decay and backwardness, such as poverty, hunger, ignorance, illiteracy, disease, unemployment, disadvantaged children, crime, corruption, moral decay, public news outlets which deliberately glorify the MMD and its leaders while demonizing and stigmatizing opposition political parties and their leaders, the continued existence of the party and its government phenomenon, a failed constitution-making process, a political system that is characterized by electoral violence, and so forth.
More than ever before, Zambia needs sound long-term planning that is balanced with the needs of our generation because in the long run, to paraphrase the famous economist John Maynard Keynes, we are all going to be dead! For this reason, there is a need to have a schedule for implementing part of a political party’s set of short-term and medium-term projects and programs designed to strike a balance between our needs and expectations, and the needs and expectations of future generations. Such a schedule should, of course, not include recurrent projects and programs like investments in transportation infrastructure.
The following is a good example of a schedule for implementing some of our beloved country’s projects, programs and policies:
Soon after Inauguration:
Appointment of a smaller number of Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers; abolition of the position of District Commissioner; abolition of examination fees in formal education; abolition of TV licensing and related levies; incorporation of the functions of the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) that is currently vested in the Office of the Vice-President into the functions of the Zambia National Service (ZNS); detachment of the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) from the Ministry of Agriculture and conversion of the Agency into an autonomous body in order for it to perform its duties without any political meddling or manipulation, and which should incorporate the functions of the Public Welfare Assistance Scheme currently administered through the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, including the Social Cash Transfer Scheme; and removal of public assistance to chiefs from the office of the Republican president and placed under the auspices of the Ministry of Local Government.
Privatization of the Zambia Daily Mail; turning of the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) into a public broadcaster not controlled by the government; start the process of operationalizing the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) in order for the broadcasting media to be regulated by an independent body, and of enacting the Freedom of Information (FoI) Bill in order to make it possible for journalists to access information that is vital to members of the general public; and reduction of Zambian foreign missions whereby 1 foreign mission would serve a cluster of countries, appointment of diplomats, and re-assignment of countries and regions to be covered by each mission; and creation of a fund for assisting orphanages.
Start improving infrastructure in schools, colleges, universities, ZNS camps, and vacated refugee camps; and creation of a fund for assisting local organizations which cater to the needs of handicapped citizens.
Start providing free seeds and fertilizer for 2 consecutive years; start upward revisions of compensation packages for employees on government payroll; and mass enrolment (on a voluntary basis) of street kids and other pan-handlers into skills training programs at ZNS and vacated refugee camps.
Reductions in PAYE, value-added tax (VAT) and interest rates designed to stimulate economic growth and job creation; payment of all due retirement benefits owed by the government; free healthcare without inhibiting the operations of private healthcare providers; free formal education (up to Grade 12); abolition of Grades 7 and 9 elimination examinations for all school children; provision of scholarships to Grade 12 students who would obtain a Division 1 in order for them to pursue studies at locally based institutions of higher learning registered in Zambia; and provision for low-interest government loans for Grade 12 students who would not obtain a Division 1 to make it possible for them to pursue studies at locally based institutions of higher learning registered in Zambia.
Appointment of an ad hoc task force consisting of at most 30 citizens who do not currently hold leadership positions in non-governmental organizations (NGOs), political parties, religious institutions, the labor movement, the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, the civil service, and the House of Chiefs. The terms of reference for the task force should be to identify and examine contentious issues, errors and inconsistencies in: (a) the 1996 Republican constitution; and (b) the draft constitutions of the Chona Constitution Commission, the Mvunga Constitution Review Commission, the Mwanakatwe Constitution Review Commission, the Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission, and the National Constitutional Conference.
Moreover, the task force could be required to prepare a draft constitution based on its findings. It could be given 1 year to complete its work, and its output could thereafter be tabled for comments by the citizenry.
Start the implementation of home ownership schemes for the police and all civil servants, provision of low-cost rental housing units for low-income families nationwide, management of a home-ownership scheme for low-income families to be financed through low interest mortgages, and rehabilitation of shanty townships; and start improving infrastructure in resettlement schemes nationwide.
Carry out a comprehensive assessment of progress made in the implementation of projects, programs and policies cited above, and take corrective measures where necessary over a period of 2 years.
Revert to the provision of a seed and fertilizer subsidy at 50%.