2019 Year of Hardships, But Hope and Help is Coming

The leadership of the UPND would like to begin by thanking Zambians for their  patience, resilience and hardwork in the face of what has been an extremely challenging year for us as a country and a people.
The basic building blocks of our country, being families, have been the hardest hit; with households increasingly finding it difficult to put decent food on the family table, challenges in accessing decent and affordable healthcare and education, unavailability of employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for the youth, higher taxes – to mention but a few.
We have also witnessed the fabric of the micro economy – being Small and Medium Enterprises ( SMEs), come crushing down due to skyrocketing business costs arising from a loadshedding problem which could and should have been avoided, corruption, difficulties accessing start-up or business continuity capital due to high interest costs and excessive government borrowing which has crowded out private sector participation in economic activity. Businesses have also taken the brunt of high fuel and electricity prices, and a diminished market space owing to reduced consumer spending.
Suffice to say, the price to pay for political leadership that is not focused to acting in the collective national interest, has been huge for all of us; with the Patriotic Front under President EDGAR Lungu more interested in the self-preservation of party interests, the private interests of PF party officials, as well as the interests of their business associates.
As the UPND, we want to continue urging Zambians not to grow weary of demanding the very best out of public leadership, until we deliver for ourselves leadership that will serve the national interest with diligence, integrity and a genuine love for our country and it’s people.
As the country looks forward to the new year and as we race towards a monumental general election in 2021, the focus of the UPND and it’s leadership is and shall remain that of providing constructive guidance and leadership in reversing the adverse social and economic effects of what has been a failed leadership of the Patriotic Front.
The UPND’s agenda for constructive change and reform is firmly anchored on restoring the credibility of the United Nations 2030 global agenda of ending poverty and inequality by developing public policy responses that directly address the social and economic problems at the most basic level.
We must:
End corruption.
We must diversify our national energy mix and decentralize how power is generated and liberalize how power is distributed
We must create decent, pensionable jobs for our people
We must improve the management of our agricultural sector by leveraging sustainable agriculture
We must reduce the cost of doing business by decisively dealing with high fuel and electricity tariffs and these must be dealt with within the confines of our local context and without making wild, unworkable comparisons with other countries
We have to reduce household poverty and inequality by reforming the personal taxation model to ensure that this responds directly to people’s basic needs such as food, shelter, water and energy.
We have to give   incentives  local SMEs to be architects of providing  local business solutions
And we must protect our environment better

The ECONOMY.
The economy has buckled under the pressure of a mounting public debt, now standing at close to $20bn; with the country now spending over 50 Ngwee of every K1 raised in servicing high interest costs on debt. The result has been government’s inability to fund critical public services such as education, health and social welfare.
Corruption has also compounded our problem because the public is not getting real value of debt funded investments due to the fact that 63 Cents in every $1 borrowed is instead stolen by elected public officials and other private actors
The effects of these have also filtered through to our local councils, with workers across most of our local city, municipal and district jurisdictions not having received their salaries for the months of October, November and December; primarily due to government’s failure to disburse Local Government Equalisation Funds, in direct violation of the Local Government Act.
The ever spiking costs of fuel and electricity has eroded incomes, jobs and destroyed small businesses which  are finding it difficult to survive owing to dwindling demand for goods and services.
The UPND intends to pursue an active policy of debt renegotiation, restructuring and postponement of bullet payments in order to give ourselves time to reinvest in productive sectors of our economy, such as manufacturing and processing, health and technology crafts and skills education for our youth.
We intend to achieve this by leveraging bilateral and multilateral goodwill which will come with the change of government.
We have already lined up a $25bn investment package across areas of agriculture, mining, energy and other productive sectors of our economy following my recent visit to the USA.
Our active energy sector plan intends to deliver a minimum 25% reduction in the pump price of fuel by recalling and suspending some of the controllable cost components associated with the pump price of fuel such as levies and taxes . We also intend to pursue an active policy of overhauling the fuel supply chain to deliver efficiency and better value for consumers.
We further take the view that in it’s current operational and functional model, ZESCO cannot survive and neither can it deliver real value to the economy. We need to review and overhaul ZESCO’s management setup, workforce  bloated by PF cadres
as well as realigning it’s participation in delivering a competitive service to both consumers and the industry.
We remain focused on diversifying our national energy generation mix to achieve a 50/50 generation parity between renewable energy and hydroelectric power within 10 years of assuming national leadership. This is why from our package of $25 billion,  we are committing $5.3bn towards decentralized, renewable energy projects for the first 5 years of a UPND government.

CORRUPTION.
Under the leadership of the PF, the country has lost in excess of $1bn in undeclared Mukula revenue alone, with top government officials now known to have shared  close to $40m in bribes associated with the Mukula trade since 2012. Between 2015 and 2017, the country is believed to have lost close to $500m in Mukula revenue, primarily in revenue underdeclarations.
We have also continued to witness the abuse of public procurement systems by government officials to defraud the public of millions of dollars in procurement fraud. The Fire Tenders, the Ambulances and the procurement of expired drugs at over $4m dollars. The over exaggerating of the cost of infrastructure projects has also cost the country billions of dollars which have gone into the pockets of individuals – both in government and private sector.
The UPND intends to pursue a policy of zero tolerance to corruption by leveraging legislative reforms to make way for Unexplained Wealth Orders and lifestyle audits against those reasonably suspected by Law Enforcement Agencies to be in possession of proceeds of crime.
We are also looking at pursuing a Proceeds of Crime Amnesty for purposes of recovering stolen wealth without engaging in costly court processes.

GOVERNANCE.
We have noted with concern the ever deteriorating rule of law, with abuse of state institutions, personnel and resources to foster a purely partisan agenda by the PF and its leadership. We are also concerned with the constant abuse of the Public Order Act ( POA) in a blatant disregard of the Republican Constitution.
The UPND is promising a total and complete return to the rule of law, as well as expanding the civic and democratic space for the enhancement of public accountability. This is key in delivering sound and inclusive development that truly carries everyone along.

By Hakainde Hichilema,
UPND President.

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