Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya says she believes 2019 will be described by many families as a year where they have experienced a lot of turbulence.
And Siliya says there will be an opportunity in 2021 to test whether the current economic status has not affected the popularity of the ruling party.
Meanwhile, the minister says government did the best it could in 2019 under very difficult circumstances.
Speaking on Prime Television’s Special Interview program hosted by Alexander Musokotwane, Wednesday, Siliya said the turbulence was in terms of the economy, weather and social turbulence.
“I believe that 2019 will be described by many families as a year where we have experienced quite a lot of turbulence. Turbulence in terms of the economy, the weather, (and) social turbulence. The President did refer to alcohol abuse by a lot of young people, lack of jobs by a lot of young people. We have seen such a growth in the education sector from one University to over 40 private universities. And these universities are churning out young people whose hopes and aspirations might not be met at this point in time and so they could be feeling a bit frustrated. That is the turbulence that we have experienced in 2019,” she said.
Siliya however, added that in spite of the turbulence, she believed that the aggregate and structure of the economy was still quite solid.
“However, I believe that the fundamentals of our nation are still quite solid. In terms of family values, I believe that we are still quite a solid nation. Early this year, in April, an international organisation voted that out of over 150 countries, Zambia was voted as 35, as one of the most charitable countries. So by nature, we’re good people, we are a peace loving nation, we are a Christian nation, we love family. So that is one of the fundamentals that is strong,” she said.
“In spite of the turbulence, I want to believe that the aggregate of the economy, the structure of the economy is still quite solid. And I think that we are seeing the worst and we should be getting out of this now, and really seen what is light at the end of the tunnel. There are also issues of turbulence that are internal, one of them clearly is that the population is growing more than the jobs being created for young people, our agriculture has been fluctuating, also in the size of our own exports, sometimes they are high, sometimes they are low.”
And Siliya said the problem was not the country’s borrowing but that while it borrowed, not all the money remained in Zambia as a lot of foreign companies were contracted for infrastructure development.
“While US$3 billion is the euro bond, I think one of the things we should have been very clear about was to ensure that a lot of that money stayed in the country. Because when you borrow, it’s an investment in yourself. If US$3 billion had all stayed within this economy, we would not have the liquidity problem we have today. So the problem is not the borrowing. The problem is while we borrowed, not all the money remained here. Because when we did the infrastructure, a lot of foreign companies were contracted. If you pay a foreign company, they are taking their money out of Zambia. It’s why we in government find it very sad that we Zambians say ‘Zambian companies are bad’. So we have not as a country linked that every time we have an import in this country, we are loosing jobs, every time we give a job to a foreigner in this country, we are not creating a job for a Zambian. Because if we had borrowed (US$)3 billion, it should all be within here, it should be in circulation but it’s not here,” she said.
Asked if government was regretting the way it borrowed, Siliya responded in the negative but said there was need to accelerate reforms in procurement to contract Zambians for infrastructure development so that the money remained in the country.
“Not regretting, no. But that we must accelerate reforms in procurement and say look, if there is a job to do a road for US$200 million, lets not think that only foreign companies can do it, let’s say Mr Alex can get a US$200 million job and that it is normal. Because you Alex will do a job in Zambia and keep the money here. But in Zambia now, we want you to get a job for K200,000. If we give you a US$200 million, somebody is going to say ‘no, why, Zambians can’t do a job, no they are corrupt, no they are lazy’. So we glorify giving jobs to foreigners and then we leave our country poor. This is the mentally of a nation. I think government could do more, the media should champion ‘local is good’. We need to change this, its not an issue for apportioning blame, ‘no its government’s fault’ its all of us. Until we do that, there will be no jobs created for young people,” Siliya said.
Asked whether former Special assistant to the President for political affairs Kaizer Zulu had been fired or redeployed, Siliya said the appointment of advisors to the President was a preserve of the Head of State.
“The appointment of advisors to the President are a preserve of President Lungu himself. But he is also a person who believes that in life when you work with people, there must be room for coaching, correcting, a second or third chance. The President also reserves the right to be able to change, disappoint and remove those he appoints as he wishes because those powers are given to him by the Constitution. What I know is that Mr Zulu has now been replaced by Mr (Chris) Zumani,” she said.
Asked whether her office had information about what would happen to Zulu regarding the pending cases before the police, Siliya said those were issues for the Police or courts.
“I’m not so sure how I can answer that question. Mr Zulu is just a citizen. He is not the first person to be disappointed by the President. He is just another Zambian. If there are court issues, that is for the courts, not for the office of the government,” she said.
And on the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) report, Siliya said it would be a worst of time for government to be preoccupied with a report where the owners did not even have the decency to do it right or even to get the right figures.
Further asked if the current economic status had not affected the popularity of the ruling party, the Chief Government Spokesperson said there would be an opportunity in 2021 to test that.
She added that government was quite confident in the sense that it would continue explaining to Zambians that it was doing the best that it could under very difficult challenges.
“Obviously we will all have an opportunity in 2021 to test that because now everybody can say what they want depending on what glasses they are wearing. But we in government I think, are quite confident in the sense that we will continue to explain to the people of Zambia that we are doing the best that we can under very difficult challenges. To me, I always say that this President one thing I know about him, he is very democratic at heart. When you are sitting with him in a meeting, he wants everybody to be heard,” Siliya said.
On the importation of power from South Africa, Siliya said she was aware that the first month of power had been imported and ended on December 20.
She however added that she was not exactly aware of what the actual status was currently.
“I was aware that the first month of power has been imported and I think it was ending on December 20. Clearly if there were plans for the second month to be imported, I think that we have also heard of challenges from our colleagues in South Africa. Again climate change is not a Zambian issue, its a world issue. Our friends can only give us the power they have. If they don’t have, how are they going to give us power? I think the discussions have continued, I’m not exactly aware of what the actual status is today but I do know that the first importation was done. We can only get what they can give us,” Siliya said.
Meanwhile, Siliya said Zambians should wait for the Engineering Institute of Zambia to produce an expert report on the controversial newly constructed flyover bridge on Alick Nkhata road in Lusaka’s Longacres area.
“What we should all do is wait for the Engineering Institute of Zambia (EIZ). Sydney Matamwandi, the President, said they became interested parties and they are going to do a report. I want to suggest that we all wait for an expert report from EIZ and then we can reconcile the position of the PS (Ed Chomba) and the minister [of Local Government Minister Charles Banda]. I have heard from other Zambians who have been on that bridge and raised concerns about how close the bridge and the roundabout are. I’m yet to go on that bridge myself. So to me, we all do well to actually wait for the experts report,” she said.
On the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway, Siliya said government had in the last one year, gone through a process of trying to re-evaluate projects in terms of costs and service delivery and that the dual carriage way was one of them.
“In the last one year, government has gone through a process of trying to re-evaluate projects in terms of costs and service delivery and the dual carriage way was one of them. That how are are going to move forward with austerity measures and how can it be re-evaluated, which should be priorities? The dual carriage way is a very important road, except against the background of austerity. Government since last year, when austerity measures were announced, the issue was how do we re-configure the price structure, the technical structure, the design structure of these roads so that they can fit within the budgets,” said Siliya.