Minister of National Planning Alexander Chiteme says government’s pending decision to relocate the Natural Resources Development College (NDRC) is inevitable because the institution is no longer conducive for learning.

And Chiteme says those saying government’s failure to secure an IMF bailout package will affect the 2018 budget are ignorant.

Speaking when he featured on Hot FM’s Hot Seat programme yesterday, Chiteme, who is also Nkana PF member of parliament, said government was still considering a proposal to relocate NRDC.

“Look at UNZA, the institution has a lot of capacity to be expanded because it has a lot of land within the premises of the school where more hostels and lecture rooms can be built. Now you have an agricultural college that is sitting in the middle of houses and its land has been encroached by residents. So you are talking about land that no longer feels to be an area that is conducive for learning. So we are saying, can move our people to an area that is more conducive. However, as things are, we haven’t decided anything and even if we did, the same appraisal process will have to be followed so that we can see the cost benefits of that decision,” Chiteme said.

“There has been no sale that has been agreed for NRDC, the thing is that NDRC is getting an enrollment that is beyond its capacity, people are even living outside NRDC to access the educational facilities at the institution. But you know when you are restructuring something to accommodate everyone, there are certain things that have to move and as government we want to look at options to see how we can help NRDC grow. The proposal is that NRDC is moved to a place where the facility can operate in full capacity through agriculture and other educational activities and that is an agricultural college but it’s sitting on 330 hectorage only, so we are saying can we take it to somewhere where it can fit on 1500 hectors so that even as we teach our children, we are practical in the way we are teaching.”

He insisted that AVIC International had not yet bought NRDC.

“We are not saying that we should demolish NRDC but all we are saying is that let’s improve on the structures. Let me put this very categoric and let me state that there has been no agreement between government and AVIC on the sale of NDRC but maybe there are discussions surrounding that. We are simply looking for ways in which we can find solutions for our people and in finding solutions, we need to make some harsh decisions and this decision I promise you would increase capacity for NRDC if it were to be effected. We are talking about building capacity so then why should building capacity be an issue for our people?” Chiteme wondered.

But, a caller only identified as Moono, who said he was a former NRDC student, disagreed with Chiteme’s claim that there was no space at the institution.

“Personally, I was trained at NRDC and NRDC has a lot of land for expansion and for your own information, the University of Zambia has got a lot of land long great east road but they don’t even use it and this is because students don’t have to be on the farm always, they only need to go there for a few hours for there practicals. So there is no need to relocate NRDC because you are just going to waste a lot of money. So NRDC has got a lot of land and part of it which was sold and given to cadres is along the road going to fishing farm and the one you are talking about which is Mumbwa is for NRDC where students can be going to do their practicals and we only need a few months to do our practicals, we don’t do practicals all the time. So why take the whole institution that side?” asked Moono.

In response, Chiteme said: “You see, this is the problem when you have a single line of thought. His concern is just practicals but the concern of government is the whole state of NRDC which speaks to student accommodation, practicals and expansion of the school. The capacity of NRDC has been identified and it is an important institution in the diversification of the country’s economy because it’s an agricultural college.”

Meanwhile, Chiteme said it is not true that the 2018 national budget would fail if the IMF did not bailout the country.

“I would really not want to use harsh words or say things that are palatable but I want you to know that when people say things that they have very little understanding about, things come out that perceive this government to be wrong. First of all, the IMF does not speak to the budget but it speaks to balance of payment. Mostly money that comes from our supporting partners only comes to support our balance of payments. So largely, even the external financing that is supported into the budget is only 4.7 so if we are talking about external financing which is inclusive of the IMF and it’s only 4.7 per cent of the budget, how would that substantially shock our budget? IMF can’t shock our economy, no because most of our budget is financed by our local resources,” said Chiteme.

“You can see how ZRA is doing right now, in the 2017 budget we had projected that ZRA is going to give us so much but they exceeded their target and that’s because this government has put in policies that we are going to collect money from the informal and formal sectors in a structured way and ZRA today has done so much and that is what is financing our budget, not IMF. While we appreciate that we still have to go the IMF way, that shouldn’t mean that we are going to fail in our budget process because IMF hasn’t responded to us yet. [moreover], we are still under discussions with the IMF and I am very positive that we are going to have an understanding. So for someone to ignorantly come and say that the budget is going to fail because IMF hasn’t come on board, well that is really retrogressive and the thinking is just below the belt.”