By Brightwell Chabusha
Former finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda has said COVID-19 has disfigured the global socio-economic scenarios and Zambia has not been spared.
Mr. Chikwanda said COVID-19 has merely compounded and exacerbated matters.
The former minister added that the human race faces multi-dimensional challenges and that it is gross folly for any country to think that it can avoid the “dire” need for global solidarity which the coronavirus compels to foster with enhanced resolve.
He said economies in less developed countries like Zambia were already under severe stress because of low commodity prices resulting partly from American-induced trade wars.
Meanwhile, Mr. Chikwanda noted the mismatch between Zambia’s population explosion and the country’s overall development endeavours in the almost six decades of the independent nationhood.
Mr. Chikwanda said Zambia’s population leaped from 3 million at independence to about 18 million now.
He said even as government pushed a transformative development agenda, overwhelming challenges still remain to be tackled.
Mr. Chikwanda who was minister from October 2011 to September 2016 said poverty is the greatest hindrance to meaningful sustainable growth.
“And now the challenges. Zambia’s population has leaped from 3 million at independence to about 18 million now. This is a six-fold increase in 56 years and there is a total mismatch between the population explosion and our overall development endeavours in the almost six decades of our independent nationhood. Thus, poverty levels have been accentuated instead of reducing. Currently, adversities in the global economy which in turn have occasioned acute paucity of available foreign currency reserves have induced apparently inexorable downward spiralling in the kwacha parity. With high volumes of imports, this process has unsatisfactory inflationary consequences which compound hardships especially for segments of our population who have no leeway for belt tightening as the belts have long snapped,” he said.
“Even as the patriotic front (PF) has vigorously pushed a transformative development agenda to far-flung areas of our country which have not seen any form of development from time immemorial, daunting challenges still remain to be tackled – poverty which is entrenched by extremely low wages below the minimum it takes for even the most modest of living, is itself the greatest hindrance or inhibition to meaningful sustainable growth. Poor people have no purchasing power and, in any economy, growth and development are only meaningful and sustainable when they are consumer driven.”
He however stressed the need for need greater resolve and structured intellectual tools from political leaders to address the issues of poverty.
He added that the country needed to pool resources, particularly intellectual ones, to get the country to move sustainably forward.
Chikwanda said “it is amazing” how focused and determined individuals can use the smallest of resources to uplift themselves.
“The biggest failure of the political systems on the continent of Africa and even more pertinently here at home in Zambia is the lack of recognition that people as individuals must be active participants to ensure progress in the development process. From the onset of our independence we have intensifies myth making and elaborate re-cycling of sloganism. We were very good at developing false hopes in the united national independence party (UNIP) and regrettably we passed on this adverse culture to subsequent ruling and opposition parties in the new dispensation of plural politics. From day one, we should have created a lasting perception in people that they are the determinants of progress and that there will never be a government which will have resources other than what citizens individually and collectively create or generate,” he said.