I ASKED. YOU ANSWERED: SERIES 2 – EDUCATION
Sikaceya Brenda said “(sic) 1. Free and quality education please. We have seen its adverse effects as per status quo 2. Change the mindset from white colour jobs to entrepreneurship where 80% plus of the working population are engaged in.” Her point is buttressed by Daniel Success Sakala and he says “(sic) I would an education system that gives my children hope. You know these days there’s is hardly any motivation to work hard at school as the so called uneducated are taking up big positions in government, that musachite ( don’t do) Mr. President.” And then Mark William Ross “(sic) I will mention more than one – EDUCATION curricula should be revised to fit in this modern society……”
Yes, Mark William Ross, education must be FIT for purpose. As it is, our curriculum is designed for those learners who want to pursue academic excellence. Therefore, our efforts on education reform will be to develop a two-pronged education system, one that will make it possible for those that just want life skills such as carpentry, auto mechanics, and many other artisanal courses, to receive basic education and those that want to end with bachelor’s, masters and doctoral degrees will also take that route. Ultimately UPND policy is that education will accessible and free for that matter. Let me illustrate something for those that like arguing that free education is not possible.
Edgar Lungu’s trip to India a week or so ago cost the nation meal allowances for 1,700 plus, UNZA students. How? The nation was informed that his delegation had 37 people. Let’s do some maths, he was in India for 3 days, add two days of travel either direction, that is 5 days. The daily subsistence allowance (DSA) for the 37 alone, forget Lungu for a bit, was US$365/day x 5 days x 37 people, which works our to US$67,525 and air ticket to India, economy is about US$602 as of today; by 37 people that is US$22,200. The total on DSA and Airtickets is US$87,725 multiplied by 13 kwacha being the exchange rate this is ZMK1,166,425 (ZMK1.2 million). What can this money do for education? It can pay food allowances for 1,767 UNZA students for a month! This is how you run a modern Government, everything you do must have a cost-benefit analysis. What did we get out of India? MOUs that favour Indian companies.
When I say Zambia is not poor, what we have is a leadership that lacks a vision and priorities, I mean exactly what I have illustrated in the paragraph above. I can do many other permutations on the feasibility of free education, but I think the above is illustration enough to drive the point home.
Let’s continue talking.
I ASKED. YOU ANSWERED: SERIES 3 – ECONOMY
I was under the impression this would be the top most priority for us all, but I was wrong, it was number three. Almost all of you agree that we need functioning economy. This came through via jobs, creating of employment and business opportunities. Here is a summary on what we are going to do to jump start the economy. First we are not going to borrow in a careless manner the way the PF has done. We want to release resources for the common people to access financing at affordable rates. What do I mean? Here is an example, if there is 100 kwacha in the economy and there are 4 people that need to borrow, one of these people is Government. And that Government needs 60 kwacha of this money, it means the other three have to share 40 kwacha. What the lender will do, then is price the remaining 40 kwacha highly so that the three can compete for it. And if the three are satisfied to share the 40 kwacha while Government gets the 60, it means that the price of money (interest rates will remain high. But the moment Government reduces from 60 kwacha to say 20 kwacha there is extra 40 kwacha remaining for the three that is 80 kwacha. And if the three do not utilise the whole 80 kwacha at the same interest rates, the only way to attract them to borrow is to reduce the price of the 40 kwacha. This is called reduction in interest rates. I know this is a little complicated, but this is the simplest way I can put it. So Government will stop borrowing recklessly so that borrowing costs are reduced.
Secondly its policy consistency. Just this year, the PF spoke about General Sales Tax (GST), from Value Added Tax (VAT), but they have changed and said we shall not YET implement GST, we shall therefore keep VAT. The mining tax regime has changed over 6 times in 10 years. Now if I am an investor in Zambia, when I am doing my cash projections I take into account taxes and other obligations. But if the Government does not give me a clear indication of what the tax structures will look like, I have no option but to hold my investment until such a time that the direction they are going is clear. This will not happen in our Government, we shall offer proper guidance so as to attract quality investment and also promote local investors.
Third thing we want to do to unlock the economy and manage exchange rates, is to look within for solutions. We have mukula trees in this country, we have carpenters in the country, we have wood processors in this country, so why do we use imported furniture further putting pressure on the kwacha. I always give this example, why should we be importing brake pads for motor vehicles when the thing is just friction materials like asbstos (which we can produced); iron (which we can recycle) and glue to stick the friction material to the steel back! What those youth at chilenje market lack is simply access to equipment and reskilling that can enable them make high quality brake pads. And once we have low interest rates they will access capital financing while Government gives then skills as part of education reform I spoke about yesterday.
These above are just broad policy issues that can unlock this economy, and once this is done there will be mass job creation.
Let’s keep talking.
I ASKED. YOU ANSWERED: SERIES 4 – AGRICULTURE
Maybe the hottest topic right now is the price of mealie-meal. I explained a few weeks ago how a 25kg of mealie-meal could easily be sold for less than 50 kwacha. For those that did not read my submission, basically I was saying if we lower the costs of inputs like fertiliser, seed, diesel and then reskill the farmer to increase production, the productivity dividend will give us low prices of mealie-meal. It is this simple.
Agriculture is the most effective way we can restart our manufacturing industry. It has a varied number of spin offs which include food and stock feed whose processing depends on manufacturing industry. I have repeatedly spoken about value addition in agriculture. What do I mean? Instead of supplying raw soybeans to edible oil producers, we could encourage farmers to sell impurified oil to these industries. What this means is that a farmer would employ labour to produce the soybeans, and then employ some more workers to process the soybeans into impurified edible oil. The farmer would thus sell impurified oil at a higher price and retain the soycake to feed their livestock. Same with maize, farmers lose out on maize husks, or “Gaga” when they sell raw maize to millers. That “gaga” mixed with soy or sunflower cake is the base for livestock feed. One last example, we import potatoes we use for making chips. Yet having parboiled potatoes is just growing the right variety and cutting them into right sizes, boil them for a few minutes and have your parboiled potatoes which the women who sell potatoes in Serenje can do. Those potatoes will certainly fetch much more that the ones they sale unprocessed.
Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) has become very politicised. This is partly the reason we have not been able to reap the dividends of agriculture. Under our leadership FISP will change significantly to its original purpose, of supporting vulnerable but viable farmers while those that are not viable but vulnerable will be put on a social cash transfer. This way FISP will be sustainable and besides with all its inefficiencies, which farmer would want to wait for FISP if they can make profit from their business, they would simply reinvest their profits. However, once we have dealt with middle men and corruption in this sector, costs of production will reduce while productivity will go up.
When I say productivity what do I mean? Currently the average production of maize per hectare is 46 bags of 50kg. If we reskilled our farmers with production techniques via a robust extension services system, this can easily go to 100 bags (50kg) a hectare while production costs remain the same. Let us say for argument’s sake, production costs per hectare of maize is five thousand kwacha. It means currently, at 46 bags it works out to K108.69/50kg bag. While retraining the farmer using an agriculture extension system will mean each bag will cost 50 kwacha to produce once production goes up to 100 bags a hectare. This is even before we address the cost of inputs. Trust we can do this and it has been done by other countries with worse weather conditions than Zambia.
Let’s keep talking.