PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has launched the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) 2020-2023, which will set the tone for the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), replacing the Economic Growth Stabilisation Programme, popularly known as Zambia Plus 2017-2019.

And President Lungu says government will no longer tolerate exploitation from mining investors, who seek to “prowl from Zambia’s natural resources.”

The ERP seeks to restore microeconomic stability, attain fiscal and debt sustainability, restore growth, dismantle domestic arrears and safeguard social sector spending.

It further seeks to re-launch the economy on a path of sustained economic growth, while stabilising the monetary, external, and fiscal environments.

The Recovery Programme contains policy measures to mitigate the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with specific targets including the attainment of real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of about three per cent by 2022, reduce the fiscal deficit to no more than nine per cent in 2021, no more than 6.1 per cent in 2022 and around 4.9 per cent of GDP in 2023.

Other targets include increasing domestic revenue to not less than an average of 18 percent of the GDP over the period and reduce and maintain inflation within single digits by end-2022, among several others.

Speaking during the launch at Mulungushi International Conference Centre (MICC) in Lusaka, Thursday, President Lungu urged Zambians to remain resilient and endure the short-term economic challenges to achieve the country’s developmental objectives.

“The launch of the programme signifies my government’s commitment to ensuring the economy is back onto a path that will lead to improving the livelihood of our people. This is an auspicious occasion that should bring hope to our people. This occasion signifies our commitment to reinvigorate the economy. I am convinced that using this programme as a blue-print, we will be able to overcome the economic headwinds and challenges that have been compounded by the COVID–19 pandemic. To this effect, my government, with support from all stakeholders such as all private sector players, our farmers, and the ordinary man and woman throughout Zambia, intends to effectively implement the programme to spur economic growth that will have a significant impact on poverty and the livelihoods of our people,” President Lungu said.

“The effective implementation of the programme will, in-turn, result in other key social and economic development outcomes, such as improved standard of living and increased employment levels. If well and fully implemented, the programme will bring about inclusive development, without leaving anyone behind, in line with the principles of the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP). To realise our development outcomes, there is need for dedication, innovation, endurance and resilience by our people. Further, there is need to reinforce collaboration among all stakeholders.”

He announced that government would cushion the impact of COVID-19 on the vulnerable citizens during the ERP period by expanding the flagship Social Cash Transfer (SCT) programme to cover close to one million vulnerable citizens from the current 630,000.

“The effect of COVID-19 pandemic on the economy has had an unequal impact on the most vulnerable groups in our society. In this regard, the protection of our poor and vulnerable groups in our society is paramount. As such, we will ramp up social protection programmes throughout the implementation period of this programme. The flagship Social Cash Transfer programme is currently supporting just over 630,000 beneficiary households across the country, but this will be expanded to cover close to one million households in the medium-term. In addition, government will implement the Cash-Plus approach that complements cash support with in-kind support,” he said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has not just left many families unstable, but has consequently rendered governments vulnerable. Millions of workers in both formal and informal sectors have been thrown out of jobs, many employers have closed shop, hunger in homesteads is untold, revenues to governments have rapidly shrunk, and large amounts of money have been spent on stimulus packages to save populations from deaths as a result of hunger. It is worse for developing nations, like ours, encumbered by huge debts and whose economies were already struggling before COVID-19 came. Millions of our people are barely surviving and our economy is at the moment battered and stretched. Despite our relentless resolve to turn things around, the needs for our people are overwhelming and our resource envelope is thinning by the day.”

And the Head of State said government would no longer tolerate exploitation from mining investors, who seek to “prowl from Zambia’s natural resources.”

“The mining sector would have contributed more to our economy and created jobs for our people, but we have been exploited for far too long by so-called mining investors, who at best have left shells where our mines stood. We shall no longer tolerate mining investors, who seek to prowl from our God-given natural resource, leaving us with empty hands. We shall no longer tolerate mining investors, who cry foul each time we try to earn something from our mines through new tax measures. And most of all, we shall no longer tolerate mining investors, who rush to courts even when they have completely ruined our mining resource! Time has come to decide our own destiny. We shall certainly work with investors that have exhibited goodwill and they are there. We shall continue looking at the mining tax regime with a view to making it equitable,” said President Lungu.

“I am convinced that the five strategic objectives of the programme will get us to the Zambia we want. A Zambia that is resilient and able to withstand external shocks through a diversified export base; a Zambia with a vast and vibrant manufacturing base for value addition (we need that noise in the industrial areas again); a Zambia that is able to grow enough for export; and a Zambia that provides for the most vulnerable in society, while providing opportunities for them to fend for themselves.”