FORMER Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande says with the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, governments need thinkers who imagine beyond their lifetimes in order to keep economies thriving.
And Magande says government should focus on employment creation for the youths as opposed to issuing bonds which will only raise the country’s debt.
In an interview, Magande wondered why government can’t formulate a budget for the next one and half years as opposed to wasting time on a revised budget which will clash with the 2021 budget when Parliament resumes in September.
“We can see the problem now. They said they wanted to revise the 2020 budget and then because of covid, Parliament is closed they are opening in September. In September, the session is for 2021 budget so when will they even consider this revised budget?” Magande asked.
“I was asking somebody today, I said what are the ideas, they said ‘No, because we’ve already started doing the 2021 budget and also the revised budget’, I said ‘why are we wasting time on a revised budget, you mean someone in government can’t say let’s change the law now we produce the budget for the next one and half years’, why not? What would be the problem, what is so special about starting the budget in January? Why can’t they start the next budget cycle in September? Doing the same things the same way you think will give different results, it is the same results.”
He said governments needed to engage thinkers during this pandemic.
“There are a lot of things that any government now has to do because of Covid, you need thinkers, people who can think beyond even their lifetimes, someone must say, perhaps me I want to start growing chickens now, and I start with 10 now and this Covid we don’t know when it will finish. In 10 years’ time, I will be producing 10,000 chickens,” he said.
And Magande said government should begin to find ways of doing things differently as opposed to solving today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions when asked to comment on the issuance of the COVID-19 bond.
“How is that helping them? Already we are covered in debt and then again getting more debt? How do they pay all these loans? What they should do, they should realise now that thousands of young people are in the streets, let them come up with programs for these young people instead of continuing to build roads but borrowing money from the economy, you are again sucking money from the people who have it who are supposed to go and grow vegetables. Now you are saying, we as a government we can pay you a better interest, instead of you selling your tomatoes at Soweto market, so bring your money here so that we get it as a government. That is not the correct way of going now after this Covid. Covid is saying ‘don’t do things the way you were doing them last December or last September’, the world has changed now. We need things that create employment for all the young people and that is what they should do differently,” said Magande.
“They are not thinking differently, the bond that they are floating, is the same as treasury bills, it’s the same as a foreign bond, it’s nkongole (credit). So what is going to happen now, somebody will go to Zanaco, his friend is a manager and he says “mwana (my friend), can you give me K20,000 I want to go and rear chickens’ and then from there this chap will get the K20,000 he walks to the Bank of Zambia, he goes to pay for a bond, so the money is going to go in unproductive things. What is more important is not even money, it is people, the people must be occupied now. We are going to head for a crisis, instead of….thousands of young people will be roaming streets, they need to be occupied, doing something. Some of them should even be saying look, they have already partitioned this Forest 31 in Chongwe they want people to go there, the extension officers are already there to advise you on how to grow cabbage. Now you are again saying “no, government is looking for money so those who have money, come and buy the bond”, it’s nkongole (credit) again, it can’t work.”