In this audio, Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela says road construction projects in Zambia are more expensive compared to other sub-Saharan countries because the country has to import most of the raw materials required.
And Chitotela says the PF has significantly reduced debt in the road sector from K7 billion to K4 billion in the past 12 months.
On Friday, President Edgar Lungu commissioned works on the Lusaka-Ndola Dual carriageway but various stakeholders questioned the staggering $1.2 billion expenditure on 321km road.
Responding to a question from a journalist who wanted to know why road works in Zambia were more expensive than other countries in sub Saharan Africa at a media briefing in Lusaka today, Chitotela said most materials like bitumen were imported.
“How much is the cost of cement in South Africa? And how much is the cost of cement in Zambia? Because these are the raw materials which are used heavily in the road construction. That is why this government wants to invest in the manufacturing industry because His Excellency President Lungu went to commission the construction of a new cement plant in Ndola under ZCCM because once there is enough production of cement in Zambia, the law of demand and supply will come into play, the cost will reduce,” Chitotela said.
“Where do we manufacture bitumen in Zambia? We import it from South Africa, the cost of cement in South Africa is five or six times lower than the cost of cement in Zambia. We import bitumen from South Africa to come and do a road in Zambia. How many kilometers does the contractor transport bitumen from South Africa to Zambia? Over a thousand kilometers, so you add all those costs. I will give you an example that we are doing township roads in Lusaka, ask me how much the contractor was charged just to move a Zesco service cable K11 million ($1.1 million dollars) to move a service cable less than a kilometer. So those are costs that add up.”
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And Chitotela boasted that the PF had significantly reduced debt in the road sector from K7 billion to K4 billion in the past 12 months.
“I want to assure that Zambian people that this government under the leadership of President Lungu is determined, when we were re-elected in the second term, we found in the road sector alone, over K7 billion debt which we have reduced significantly, as I am talking to you, it is around K4 billion in the past 12 months that we have been in office,” he said.
He also said government was not afraid to borrow for infrastructure development because that was the only way to grow the GDP.
“They say that for you to borrow in Africa, you must not borrow beyond 40 per cent of your GDP…the question is, how can we grow the economy if we can’t invest in infrastructure development? How do you improve your GDP? Because your GDP can only improve when you grow the economy. And by growing the economy, you need to invest in infrastructure development…the first thing investors will look at is will I be able to transport my goods once I set up a manufacturing plant in Shang’ombo, do I have access to the market? Will I have insurance?…that is the only way you grow the economy. If today our capacity, the 40 per cent of $29 billion is K16 billion for arguments sake, if we grow our GDP to $40 billion, of course the 40 per cent, the debt ratio will increase instead of K16 billion, we may go to K19 or K20 billion so we must not be scared to invest in projects that are going to assist us to grow our economy so that the word sustainable becomes a reality,” Chitotela said.
Chitotela further said government had raised K300 million from road tolls from January to June 2017.
“Government has been able to raise K300 million from the road tolls from the month of January up to June 2017. Coming to this road project, 20 percent of contracts will be given to the Zambian contractors. And 5 000 jobs will be created during the same project,” said Chitotela.