Saturday, 14 September 2013

Subsidies Savings Building Presidential Monuments?

When selecting those projects government was not supposed to target the kind that concerns its own image—the monuments associated with a leader who struggles with a disorder of greatness
President Sata: Is he constructing his own monuments to reflect man of action tag?
 By Nyalubinge Ngwende

There are many ways to subsidise different sectors in an economy and there are also many ways to ensure balanced tangible benefits accrue to the welfare of the population from savings as a result of rolling back subsidies.  

However, this can be prudently done if a country has a government and leadership that presses elaborate planning and budgeting for all its development decisions and targets. 

For example, if your target is to build 8,000 km of tarred rural roads, you do that calculation, find the cost and then get back to stakeholders (businesses) to discuss how you can collect that money. You do not need to do things as though it is in the jungle..."I am King Cobra and I will just strike"; business people tend to flinch on such moves that threaten their ventures to remain afloat and they will just say: "we will fix you". 
Unfortunately, the PF, government behaves exactly like in a jungle. It is doing things in a haphazard manner and has shown the arrogance of taking abrupt measures ignoring the fact that this economy to function properly needs planning. 

To one’s guess planning is done in a single morning meeting at State House and only for the purpose of President Sata to fulfill his wish list or vanity as a man of action.

What Sata has failed to appreciate is that the economy of this country cannot thrive on unidirectional decisions from State House and only meant for building his name.

Decisions taken by elected leaders, especially things to do with bread and butter of the masses, also affect the private sector in many ways. 

As such when these decisions are coming abruptly and without consultation they tend to create shocks in operations of businesses and create distrust among consumers. 

If the Patriotic Front were a sort of government that consults, it would have not gone full lengthy to pull back subsidies. 

It must have known that when the tax regime or price of inputs is suffocating business, government can waive a certain percentage on inputs to allow breathing space as long as the benefits are for the good of all citizens. 

Government intervenes with an incentive in order to leave breathing space for the producer and consumer, considering at the back of the mind that consumer and producer are important two actors to the functioning of an economy. 

If subsidies take away more money, reducing public infrastructure development, government can still make adjustments to ensure that there is balance in the manner the economic arrangements of the nation are functioning—releasing money from subsidies to build infrastructure.

But this must come after a thorough analysis and explanation to the public how much the government intends to save from these measures. Further they needed to be clear about how much will be spent on every major project they feel is priority from the savings. 

And when selecting those projects government was not supposed to target the kind that concerns its own image—the monuments associated with a leader who struggles with a disorder of greatness; self worship of being man of action.

Instead the projects government was to undertake are those that are supposed to empower the people so that they can think of how they can uplift their own livelihoods and not mere vanity-glory of their leader. 

But this not being the case, it will remain difficult for people to appreciate government decision on subsidies removal and more election bashing should be expected from now on. 

It even becomes more difficult to do so when government is undertaking non-essential projects. Lusaka has UNZA-Great East Road Campus University and it has also benefited from a lot of the private ones. 

Since there are already two universities under construction, Lewanika in Mongu and Mulakupikwa in Chinsali, President Sata needed not to launch two other university in Chongwe. 

University institutions are not community schools that can mushroom anyhow, they need to be planned for in terms of purpose and how they are going to be run.

At least Mulakwipikwa was one of the universities planned in the education policy and was to train teachers in science. But I do not know if the Chongwe one will manage to educate leaders over the wrongs of having illegitimate relationships in the church and politics. Its purpose is yet to be defined.

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