Friday, 16 January 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu


“The economic problems facing the country are not from Zambia but from outside the country and it’s not parliament that controls the economy, but the government through the Ministry of Finance, so for him to think like that, it shows that his thinking is limited to politicking,” science and technology deputy minister, Jonas Shakafuswa is quoted to have said in a recent issue of the Post in reference PF president Michael Sata.

Sata had blamed the economic meltdown in the country to the MPs who had voted huge salaries and allowances for themselves.

I hope I have not misunderstood Shakafuswa, but from his statement, it appears that parliament is detached from the control of the Zambian economy, leaving such matters to the technocrats and bureaucrats at the Finance Ministry.

This explains why Zambia procures bilateral and multilateral debts which our parliamentarians have no idea about and the country ends up paying some of the debts perpetually because nobody, least of all parliament, knows or understands and to whom they are paid.

The simple reason is that parliament has no say in the economic direction the country takes. It equally explains why the Auditor General’s reports, when they are taken before the Parliamentary Public accounts Committee, are merely grossed over.

It probably explains the Anti-Corruption Commission’s disclosure recently that between 60 and 70 percent of the reports it receives involve civil servants. Maybe civil servants engage in corruption because they know that parliament has failed to provide the necessary legislative guidelines the economy is supposed to take.

Neither controlling officer nor junior civil servant exposed by the Auditor General’s office has been jailed for appropriating public funds. The simple reason is that parliament has no control over what goes on in the civil service in general and the ministry of finance in particular.

From my limited understanding of parliament, this wing of government is supposed to provide the general direction of a country’s economy through the laws it enacts, particularly the budget.

But if it does not do so, then I am afraid that there is no reason for its existence if all its going to do is make laws such as the Public Order Act that curtail people’s freedom of assembly.

The International Monetary Fund recently noted about Zambia: "While the fiscal policy stance has generally been prudent in recent years, budget execution has exhibited weaknesses. In particular, the pattern of spending has deviated significantly from what has been budgeted, notably in regard to capital spending… 

 "The tight resource constraints and challenging environment that Zambia faces in the near term further underscore the urgency of structural reforms that would allow the most effective use of available resources and enhance the competitiveness of the Zambian economy.”

This is definitely one area where parliament’s monitoring role needs to come in. We have, time and time again, heard how money meant for roads, bridges, and other capital projects, has been diverted towards recurrent expenditure such as talk time for permanent secretaries and other senior government officers.

We can only speculate where most, of the money ends up if not in the construction of private mansions in Chalala, Mass Media complex area and Lusaka West.

And as Sata feared, most of our members of parliament do not bat an eyelid when voting for themselves huge salaries and allowances when the rest of the citizens cannot even afford K45,000 for a bag of roller meal. These are the people’s representatives who have no problem being paid huge allowances for sitting on the National Constitution Conference on top of their equally big parliamentary and ministerial salaries and allowances.
Compare and contrast Zambia’s economic situation with that of America. In the last few weeks the world has seen how both outgoing Republican George Bush and incoming Democrat president Barack Obama have been trying to lobby congress to authorize a massive injection of money to kick-start the flagging economy. There is no arbitrariness by anybody in the American government as to how best to resolve the economic meltdown which has affected almost every nation on the planet.


Zambia is slowly but surely proving to be a grave yard for airlines. The latest victim to join the long list of airlines that have met their demise in the country in the last 15 years is the Zambian Airways which has suspended operations pending re-organisation (well, they all say that).

Apart from Zambia Airways which was dishonourably liquidated in a nocturnal announcement by the then Vice President General Godfrey Miyanda in 1994, others such as Aero Zambia and Zambian Express Airways graced the skies but for a short time.

Zambia Airways, the national flag carrier, had faithfully served the nation since 1967 when it was set up by the Kaunda regime, I suppose for patriotic as well as prestigious reasons. After all, every independent African nation was establishing its own national airline.

It is not quite clear why Aero Zambia folded up but for Zambian Express Airways, it was said that it failed to pay lease charges for its aircraft and therefore the owners withdrew their equipment.

Whichever direction the problems facing Zambian Airways take it to, it probably makes the end of an era for the former Mine Air Services before it was privatized and its name changed to Zambian Airways among whose directors are Lusaka lawyers, the Mutembo brothers, Nchima and Nchito.

One would only hope that politics have not played a part in the problems that Zambian Airways has faced in the last few months relating to the former finance minister Ng’andu Magande who was said to favour bailing it out by deferring the debt it owes/owed the National Airport Corporation and the support for his candidature for president by some of its shareholders, notably the Post through its Chief Executive Fred M’membe.

The consolation though is that Zambian Airways just joins the long queue of airlines that have folded up on the international aviation scene in the last one year. High profile airlines to have gone bust in the last six months include Zoom Airlines and XL Leisure which were budget airlines in Europe.


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