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HIGH-LEVEL DIALOGUE ON JOB CREATION & INCLUSIVE GROWTH – STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTER OF FINANCE & THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY

OPENING ADDRESS BY HONOURABLE ALEXANDER CHIKWANDA, MP – This conference has the notable significance of bringing together the Private Sector, Civil Society, Cooperating Partners and Government for purposes of brainstorming on the challenges of accelerated and sustainable development as a way of engendering prosperity and banishing poverty.

The conference is therefore as opportune as it is appropriate. I am persuaded beyond doubt that the conference will transcend beyond the banalities and litanies of high or reasonable growth rate and macro-economic stability; essential factors; which have not significantly and effectively reduced the misery of the majority of our people who face the anguish and agony of poverty.

The theme of the conference, “inclusive growth and job creation,” is indeed a very noble objective and aspiration. The aspiration of any society is enhancement of the welfare and social equity of the people. Therefore, inclusive development is a derivative of that ultimate goal; it is part of or an essential and compelling need to deliver development which benefits all people and circumvents exclusivity.

Poverty is itself the biggest impediment to higher and meaningful growth of any country. You cannot grow the economy with people who have no purchasing power.

At the inception of the Patriotic Front administration, we unhesitatingly took a decision to raise the tax free threshold and adjust, quite substantially, the emoluments of the lowest paid workers in the Public Service. This was done to raise the standard of living of people who were trapped at the bare margins of sustainable livelihoods.

It is our belief that higher disposable incomes spur the economy through increased purchasing power. In a way, this is also the underlying logic of the adjusted minimum wages which because of a fragile economy, still remain below the typical emoluments in a middle income country such as we are.

The fundamental challenge we have is deeper reflection on higher growth rates, desirably in double digits, which have a palpable impact on poverty reduction.

People in rural Zambia are involved in the production of various items but they still remain poor because they are not able to get a reasonable recompense for their labour no matter how high we push up the producer price. The reason is simple. In most parts of the country, the yields per acre are low due to inadequate agronomy or as a result of cultivating in inappropriate ecological zones.

There are no miracles for countries that have a huge success like Brazil, which is the biggest producer of coffee, cotton, sugar, orange juice etc. The resource outlay by Brazil on extension and research is very substantial. That is the route Zambia should take in order for us to ensure optimal benefits from agriculture which offer the best prospects for the development of our country. In relation to sectors like mining, the costs and gestations in agriculture are immensely much lower.

We have started to go in that direction by ensuring that our extension officers in the districts have improved mobility. We have done this by furnishing them with motor bikes. It is our belief that improved intensive extension services will deliver upgraded agronomy and higher yields which will improve the income prospects of small scale farmers.

We have witnessed regression in some agricultural subsectors, after experiencing astronomical leaps. The trajectory of cotton production from low yields was impressive. From a production of 3,000 tonnes in1977, cotton production leaped to 17,000 tonnes in 1978 and above 200,000 tonnes by 2011.

Cotton is a versatile crop because from it there are by-products like lint, cotton seed, oil and the highly nutritious cotton-cake. Unfortunately, production went down in 2013 due to the poor prices offered to small scale farmers in 2012 hence losing some income from cotton and its by-products.

As a country we have logically implausibly invested emotions and sentiments in some preferred crops. During the current harvest, we have had a bumper crop, but the producer price was jacked up resulting in our purchased maize being far above the world price. As things stand, every tone we export will enlist some subsidy of up to US$10 per tonne. This will impact adversely on our fiscal space.

Important as the other sectors including mining and tourism are, agriculture should remain the mainstay of our economy. The rewards and prospects are abundant in terms of economic growth and job creation. We have not paid attention in recent times to forestry and yet this sector can provide a lot more jobs than the other sectors we harp on.

It is my sincere hope and expectation that we can chart a new way of thinking instead of our addiction for worn out cliché’s that have not taken us to intended destinations.

Ideas are good but can remain dysfunctional if we do not have adequate delivery vehicles in the form sufficient institutional mechanisms to bring the wonderful ideas to fruition.

It is now my pleasant duty to declare the conference officially open and invite you to visit the display booths for tomorrow’s Jobs Marketplace.

I thank you!

24 NOVEMBER 2014

========================================

CLOSING REMARKS BY MR. FREDSON YAMBA, SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY

AS WE COME TO THE CLOSE OF OUR CONFERENCE ON THE THEME “ZAMBIA’S WAY FORWARD: JOB CREATION TO PROMOTE INCLUSIVE GROWTH”, ALLOW ME TO TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR VALUABLE CONTRIBUTIONS AND FOR FINDING TIME TO CONSULT WITH GOVERNMENT ON MATTERS PERTAINING TO JOB CREATION IN AN EFFORT TO GROW THE ZAMBIAN ECONOMY AND RAISE THE STANDARD OF LIVING OF THE PEOPLE. YOU WILL AGREE WITH ME THAT OUR DISCUSSIONS WERE VERY ACTIVE AND INTERACTIVE.

ALLOW ME ALSO TO PAY PARTICULAR TRIBUTE TO HER EXCELLENCY MS. KUNDHAVI KADIRESAN, COUNTRY DIRECTOR WORLD BANK AND CHAIRPERSON FOR THE CPG TROIKA FOR THE EXCELLENT AND PROFESSIONAL LEADERSHIP SHE HAS PROVIDED OVER THE PROCESS AND PREPARATIONS LEADING UP TO THIS MEETING. FURTHERMORE, I WILL BE FAILING IN DUTIES IF I DO NOT RECOGNIZE THE EFFORTS OF THE JOINT SECRETARIAT FOR THE COMMENDABLE JOB DONE IN ORGANIZING THE CONFERENCE.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

UNDENIABLY, ZAMBIA HAS BEEN GRAPPLING WITH THE CHALLENGES OF HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT FOR A LONG TIME NOW. OUR YOUTHS LEAVING COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES ARE INCREASINGLY FINDING IT DIFFICULT TO GET JOBS. POVERTY LEVELS HAVE EQUALLY REMAINED SIGNIFICANTLY HIGH WITH AN ESTIMATED 60 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION LIVING BELOW THE POVERTY-DATUM-LINE, WHILE ESSENTIAL SERVICES SUCH AS WATER AND SANITATION, HEALTH AND EDUCATION HAS REMAINED POOR AND A PRESERVE OF A FEW ZAMBIANS. THIS IS DESPITE THE POSITIVE MACROECONOMIC INDICATORS THE COUNTRY HAS RECORDED OVER THE RECENT YEARS.

HOWEVER, IN ITS QUEST TO BETTER THE LIVING CONDITIONS OF ITS CITIZENRY, THE GOVERNMENT HAS TAKEN VARIOUS STEPS TO ADDRESS THE CHALLENGES OF HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT AND POVERTY LEVELS PARTICULARLY IN THE RURAL AREAS OF THE COUNTRY.

AS NOTED FROM THE REVISED SIXTH NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN, GOVERNMENT HAS PRIORITISED EMPLOYMENT CREATION AS KEY TO REDUCING POVERTY. EMPLOYMENT CREATION HAS A DIRECT BEARING ON POVERTY LEVELS AS IT PROVIDES INCOME TO THE PEOPLE AND ENABLE THEM ACCESS THE BASIC NEEDS OF LIFE. TO THIS EFFECT, EFFORTS HAVE BEEN MADE TO PROMOTE PRO-POOR GROWTH WITH FOCUS ON JOB CREATION, SKILLS TRAINING, SELF-EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES CREATION AND IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF JOBS. IN ADDITION, A NUMBER OF POLICIES AND STRATEGIES HAVE BEEN PUT IN PLACE AIMED AT ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES OF HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT ACROSS THE VARIOUS SECTORS.

AMONG THE POLICIES THAT ADDRESS UNEMPLOYMENT CONCERNS ARE:

  • THE EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR MARKET POLICY;
  • THE MICRO, SMALL & MEDIUM ENTERPRISE DEV. POLICY;
  • THE NATIONAL YOUTH POLICY;
  • THE TEVET POLICY;
  • THE GENDER POLICY;
  • AGRICULTURAL POLICIES; AND
  • THE DECENTRALIZATION POLICY.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

WHILE WE HAVE PUT IN PLACE THESE POLICIES, THE CHALLENGE OF JOB CREATION HAS SUBSISTED. IT IS THEREFORE IMPORTANT THAT MEASURES ARE PUT IN PLACE TO TRANSFORM THESE POLICIES INTO ACTIONS THAT WILL TRANSLATE IN A CHANGE OF LIVELIHOODS FOR CITIZENS ON THE GROUND. AS PART OF THIS EFFORT AND DESIRE, GOVERNMENT IN COLLABOARTION WITH STAEKEHOLDERS THAT INCLUDE COOPERATING PARTNERS, PRIVATE SECTOR, CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS, ACADEMIA, LABOUR MOVEMENT AND YOUTH ORGANISATIONS ORGANISED THIS WORKSHOP TO DISCUSS AND FIND SOLUTIONS TO THE HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT LEVELS AMONG OUR POPULATION.

WE HAVE AS A RESULT OF THIS COLLABORATION, A SET OF ACTIONS, IDEAS AND LESSONS THAT I EARLIER RECEIVED ON BEHALF OF THE GOVERNMENT. THESE ARE A RESULT OF OUR COLLABORATION AND ARE AIMED AT PROPELLING THIS COUNTRY FURTHER BY ENSURING THAT WE BEGIN TO TACKLE THIS BROADBASED PROBLEM IN A COLLABORATIVE WAY.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

I WISH TO ASSURE THIS CONFERENCE THAT THESE RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTION POINTS WILL BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY UNDER THE COORDINATION AND LEADERSHIP OF THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE.

IN ORDER TO ENSURE THAT WE DO NOT LOSE TRACK OF THE IMPORTANT ISSUES THAT HAVE BEEN RAISED IN THE LAST TWO DAYS, GOVERNMENT WORKING TOGETHER WITH OUR PARTNERS WILL DEVELOP A MONITORING FRAMEWORK TO ENSURE THAT THE ISSUES RAISED ARE ADDRESSED BY THE CONCERNED INSTITUTIONS IN FULL AND IN A TIMELY MANNER.

THE GOVERNMENT WILL IN THE NEXT TWO DAYS BE ISSUING A JOINT COMMUNIQUE WITH COOPERATING PARTNERS, WHICH SHALL HIGHLIGHT THE OUTCOMES OF THIS MEETING AS THE DETAILED ACTION POINTS ARE BEING DEVELOPED.

I NOW DELCARE THIS WORKSHOP CLOSED AND THANK ALL OF YOU FOR YOUR ACTIVE PARTICPATION.

I THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS YOU ALL.

25 NOVEMBER, 2014