Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya says there are a number of economic and developmental milestones that the Patriotic Front has achieved that continue to guarantee its popularity.
And Siliya has also assured that government is willing to negotiate with mining companies over the new fiscal regime, but insisted that government would not allow a situation where Zambians are not benefiting anything from the mines.
Speaking on Diamond TV’s Costa show, Sunday evening, Siliya said Zambians were very pleased with infrastructure development that had taken place in the country, and that they could relate to the PF’s ambition to ensure that the nation’s wealth trickles-down to the general citizenry.
“Since PF came into office, we’ve seen a lot of economic milestones, especially in the last few years. People have been very pleased, especially with the infrastructure development and they can relate to PF’s ambition to truly try and transfer some of the national wealth to the people of Zambia. For those in the construction industry, we have seen that a lot of Zambians have been able to create wealth from the construction industry. Also in the mining sector, the PF administration has really gone out of its way to try and ensure that there is wealth transfer to a lot of citizens. This has been the call for Zambians on the Copperbelt for many years, that we have seen these mines existing, but we can’t see transfer of wealth. What has resulted into the wealth of the Copperbelt is because of the force of the PF administration that business must go to Zambians, and that we must see this wealth created. So, we must not underestimate the strength of the PF. If you go around Zambia, there are remote areas, but you will still find good roads, good schools, good hospitals,” Siliya said.
“The ambition to begin to create new districts so that we accelerate development, people are taking pride in that, too. Just last year, we had seven districts declared. People take pride because they start to see massive construction of houses, administration blocks, district hospitals and new schools. People take pride to say: ‘we are now a part of Zambia and we belong to this country as well.’ So, there are a lot of milestones that the PF has achieved to continue to guarantee its popularity. We are not saying that there are no other things that we could have improved upon. We know that we continue to have challenges with agriculture and the President has said to the Minister of Agriculture: ‘I want these issues sorted out.’ We must truly transform agriculture from just being maize-centred to truly the business of agriculture, where people become wealthy, and it’s not just a way of life; it’s the same thing with the mines, that we cannot continue to talk about the mines as a cash cow. We want to see it truly contribute to the coffers of this country so that that revenue is leveraged for us to continue investing in other sectors.”
Siliya also said the PF’s foreign policy under President Lungu’s administration had resulted into a number of visits by some of the world’s prominent people.
“In terms of foreign policy; look how the country was positioned this year by the PF administration, we ended up with massive visits to this country by very notable people, including the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry. We had the President of Turkey, President of Congo, President of South Africa and many others. They came here because they value our friendship. Our President has made a lot of international visits and number one is economic diplomacy, resulting in Turkish Airlines coming to Zambia, resulting in support to the University of Zambia from Japan. But also, the President in 2018 committed to going to visit the people of Zambia. He has made so many trips within the country because he wanted to hear from them first-hand. He does not sit in State House isolated. He wants to know what’s going on in the country and when he comes back, he’s always saying: ‘Minister, this is what I found.’ It’s amazing when you are in Cabinet with the President, he always says: ‘this is what I found when I travelled to this place; this town’ and so on, because he wants to be on the ground and share with the people their successes and frustrations,” Siliya explained.
And Siliya said government would not allow Zambians to continue not benefiting anything from the mining sector.
“When the Minister of Finance presented her (national) budget, one issue that was truly commended by the citizens and many economists was the fact that she was going to do something new in the mining sector and that, on its own, is an indication that the people have confidence in the budget provisions, which were accepted by Parliament, and even some opposition members of parliament in their debate truly welcomed this. What is clear is that the status quo can’t continue and the Ministry of Finance was saying: ‘we might not have all wisdom as government, but we are willing to discuss, but what we are not willing is to maintain the status quo.’ If there are other better solutions away from what she has suggested, then she’s willing to meet the mines and discuss with them, but the status quo won’t stay; we know that the mines are indeed a cash cow for this country, but we also want to know that the revenue government gets from there is commensurate with the kind of investment we are seeing there. We want to see more employment in the mines, not the levels that are there. Zambians own the mines and they have begun a dialogue about what is really the best way for us to manage these mines,” said Siliya.