Press Conference on the State of the Nation and the future of NAREP.
NATIONAL RESTORATION PARTY (NAREP)
PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE STATE OF THE NATION AND THE FUTURE OF NAREP
Wednesday 13 May 2015
President Edgar Lungu has a hard task ahead of him. Unsurprisingly, after 100 days in office, unemployment remains unacceptably high, poverty levels have not changed, money is tight, projects that were started at the beginning of the PF’s term in office have remained stalled – and all this in an economy that is fighting punch drunk as it reels from nearly 4 years of uncontrolled expenditure, poor planning, and a weakening kwacha. To crown it all, as of midnight last night, fuel prices went up, making an already difficult situation even worse for many Zambians. Some will try and argue that the strength of the dollar and low copper prices are to blame for all our problems. Such reasoning should be jettisoned straight into the rubbish bin.
Our most serious problems have been brought on largely by five things: (i) poor planning; (ii) policy inconsistencies; (iii) undisciplined expenditure; and (iv) poor accountability; and (v) the lack of an appropriately educated and skilled workforce. The extent to which the kwacha has performed poorly can be tied largely to early missteps in handling the mining sector which brings in the highest percentage of dollar income for the country and sends signals to the investing community in general. The unemployment and poverty levels have been stagnant because there has been no determined vision and political will to address these major social challenges. Taxes are high because there has been no commitment to broadening the tax base through fundamental reform of the sector.
Over the last 100 days, President Lungu has had to figure out the best way to complete the term of an administration that was not started by him and seems short of options and ideas about how to stimulate rapid and penetrating growth that can lift many out of poverty. To do this, he must surround himself with enough capable and creative minds that can develop real and tangible solutions to get our country out of the mess have created for ourselves. As one person famously put it: “it is never too late to do the right thing”.
So what is the right thing to do, now that the milestone of 100 days in office has been attained? The prescription may seems easy (plan better, commit to a pro-private sector policy framework, educate and train our people to the highest standards, do not spend recklessly and stem corruption), it is always the implementation that is hard. In order to get to a place we have never been to before, we have to do something we have never done before. Maybe we also need to work with people we have never worked with before.
We urge President Lungu to deliberately and regularly dialogue with the political opposition. Don’t wait for them to come to you, call them and engage with them in an open and transparent manner. Talk to the private sector through their sector leaders, to women and youth groups as well as the poor and vulnerable. Solving the nation’s problems will require input from everyone. Governance is not just about getting to State House, because then politics becomes just about the pursuit of power for power’s sake, rather than for the great good it can do to lift millions out of poverty and to give our citizens and future generations a real sense of hope.
Politicians come and go and we will each be judged according to the contribution we made even in the most difficult and challenging of circumstances. I have always stated that our greatest problems have nothing to do with poverty of inadequate infrastructure, bad roads or the lack of adequate healthcare facilities. Our greatest challenge as a nation lies in our lack of desire to collectively promote quality leadership at every level of society – leadership that is selfless, visionary and dedicated to truly empowering people.
As a Party, we are currently concluding our first phase of reorganisation. We have set up several sub-committees that will work as support structures to the National Executive Committee and we invite members of the public with different skills to come and join us as we reshape not only our Party, but how politics is conducted in Africa.
NAREP will focus on 3 priorities as we prepare for the 2016 general election:
Priority number one: Pushing our plan to deliver jobs and opportunity for all Zambians
There are hundreds and thousands of people that are living hand-to-mouth as street vendors, marketeers, callboys, drivers, clerks, petty traders or moving as adult dependants from house to house. Our NAREP Empowerment and Enterprise Plan would put hundreds of thousands of people to work through sustainable businesses that would be established and trained as suppliers to the government as the biggest consumer and also to organisations and businesses that supply government institutions. We are prepared to sit down with the government to share how this plan can work and to give some dignity back to our people in urban and rural communities.
Priority number two: Pushing our vision to see every child have access to world-class education
Appropriate, applicable and affordable technology developed in Zambia is available today to enable every primary school child even in the remotest rural location to have access to world class learning that will improve early grade reading and maths scores as well as problem solving skills of pupils while at the same time addressing the challenges of delivering education related to large class sizes, lack of books and resources and understaffing.
Priority number three: Pushing for fundamental tax reform that will see lower taxes for all
Very few people pay tax in Zambia. In fact, the highest single contributor to government revenue is PAYE, which is contributed to by only about 600,000 people. PAYE is higher than the amount collected from mineral royalty tax, customs and excise as well as all corporate taxes. Those Zambians that are not fortunate enough to have a job that is taxed are punished through VAT and high user fees. It is, however, possible to reduce taxes and at the same time, increase government revenue. NAREP has a plan for this and in keeping with our commitment to offering quality leadership even while in Opposition, we are prepared to share this plan with those in government for the benefit of Zambia.
We shall be writing to every member of parliament to explain how they can help in getting these priorities firmly established as part of our nation’s governance obligations. I will be engaging directly with the President and his Ministers to make the case for these reforms for we must all stand up and be counted. We cannot all think that politics is about the number of attempts at becoming president you make or how many bad things you can point at in your opponents character. Politics has to be about much more than that.
Let the next 100 days and President Lungu’s remaining time in office reflect a commitment to providing a clear direction of where the country must go. Let the President set out only three things that he will prioritise. Let him rally the country round to a clear vision and select a smart, focussed and hard working team to help him realise it. Let there be no blame game. Politics must be used as a tool to develop the nation for the benefit of all. The president should not only tour foreign capitals but also constituents across the whole country and see, hear and feel the poverty, the unemployment, the sense of hopelessness that fills the homes of the poor and marginalised men, women and youth in rural and peri-urban communities. The suffering of too many is far too acute to ignore when you meet it face-to-face. It should be a constant reminder of why we who are in politics seek public office. Let this 100-day milestone be a reminder of the work still to be done for the sake of the many millions that struggle to feed their families each day.
I urge all caring and concerned Zambians to join us as we work to getting our nation to the place that God always intended for it to be.
I thank you and may God’s grace be with you all.
National Restoration Party