PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says difficult days are coming to an end and the best is yet to come from his government.

And President Lungu has pledged to reduce and sustain the inflation rate to single digit by 2023 if voted back in power.

Speaking during the launch of the PF manifesto for 2021 to 2026, President Lungu said the launch of the manifesto was the beginning of better things to come.

“In this manifesto, we recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the global, national, household and individual socio-economic well being. The Patriotic Front government’s focus in the medium term will be to contain the spread of the virus, mitigating the effects of the pandemic and restoring macroeconomic stability as well as growth. Priority will be to move towards attaining fiscal fitness and restoring debt sustainability, dismantling domestic arrears and safeguarding social protection spending,” President Lungu said.

“There is a saying that ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’. Those of you who were reading those classic novels in secondary school ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’, this is just the beginning of better things to come. We shall stabilise the exchange rate by expanding the export base and building up gross international reserves. We shall achieve economic diversification by focusing on the agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, mining, and energy sectors. And we shall provide social protection, to safeguard people from the adverse impacts of the global and local economic slowdown as well as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Natural disasters like the El Nino and the COVID-19 pandemic have not spared us but together, we have persevered and navigated our way to laying a foundation to develop our country. We have done very well in this respect. Other countries outside have noted and they are uploading and cheering us. Some of our local people are still living in their own world imagining that we have failed, because they want to see us fail. But compare where we are with other countries.””

President Lungu said it was not debatable that the economy was going through turbulent times but that the trend was global.

“The launch of this document obviously coincides with the forthcoming general elections. This is meant to renew our covenant with the Zambian people, apart from the fact that we as a party are in a competition with other political parties who desire to lead this great nation. So, you will be able to compare oranges to oranges, apples to apples. The difference rather with our opponents is that we in PF are a tested and experienced party whose mission is to continue developing our great nation,” President Lungu said.

“It is not debatable that economies around the world are going through turbulent times, it is not debatable. More so, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Zambia is no exception. We are going through hard times, we have experienced the weakening of the Kwacha and higher prices of commodities. But that this is not just happening to Zambia, it is worldwide. Added to this situation is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in key sectors of our economy, leading to reduced employment opportunities. Against this background is the work we have done during our close to 10 years in office as Patriotic Front government. We have invested heavily in infrastructure development which has seen the transformation of our country through roads, bridges, schools, universities, hospitals, among others. We have invested in building hydro-power stations which has seen the reduction in the deficit of electricity.”

He described sentiments made by some stakeholders that there was no infrastructure development as the country was heavily indebted through over borrowing, as coming from “demagogues” who wanted to sway Zambians by using illogical arguments.

“Somebody the other day argued that there is no infrastructure development to talk about because the country is heavily indebted through over borrowing. What this prophet of doom said is referred to as a fallacy of unacceptable premises. This sworn critic of ours, attempted to introduce an argument which was premised on a wrong conclusion. Yes, some of the money we used to build infrastructure was borrowed, but didn’t we build infrastructure? We did! Haven’t we transformed the country? We have transformed. Are we not going to pay this debt? We will pay, so where is the problem? This is exactly what demagogues do, for political purposes they sway ordinary people’s minds, using illogical arguments,” he said.

“When I said we have reduced the power deficit, another critic argued that it is rainfall that has resolved our problem. And I say yes, of course the rainfall has helped because hydro means water. But can water generate electricity on its own? You have to build a power station to generate electricity. And that is what we have done and that is what we are doing.”

President Lungu pledged to reduce and sustain the inflation rate to single digit by 2023.

“Over the last ten years, we have laid a foundation for ourselves which we must use to develop our country. The document I launch today carries ideas that will form policy within the next five years. And because of the situation we find ourselves in, this manifesto is centred on the economy and how we plan to revive it to turnaround the fortunes for our country. This document dove-tails with the economic recovery programme, 2020 to 2023 which I launched last year. In the economic recovery programme I launched last year, our target is to: attain real GDP growth rate of above three percent by 2022; reduce the fiscal deficit to no more than nine percent in 2021, no more than 6.1 percent in 2022 and no more than 4.9 percent GDP in 2023; increase domestic revenue to not less than an average of 18 percent of GDP over the period 2021 to 2023; reduce and sustain inflation within single digit by end 2023; significantly dismantle domestic arrears and curtail their accumulation; and reduce the pace of debt accumulation and genuine sustainability in the next 3 to 5 years,” President Lungu said.

“The manifesto I am launching today is all encompassing; covering 27 areas including democracy and good governance, the economy and the financial sector, youth empowerment, women empowerment and gender equality, climate change management; agriculture, land resource management, mines and mineral resources development and energy development. It also includes water resource management, commerce, trade and industry, forestry wildlife, tourism development, infrastructure and housing development, transport sector development, information communication technologies, sports and recreation, and creative arts development. It focuses on labour productivity and industrial relations, persons with disabilities, education development, science technology and research, the health sector, social security and senior citizen’s welfare, street children and street adults, national security, and international cooperation and foreign relations.”

President Lungu called on Zambians to give the PF another mandate as better days were coming.

“I would like to thank you for allowing the Patriotic Front to be in office for the last 10 years, and in particular, for electing me as President. We have worked hard and done the best that we could. We yet call upon you to give us a fresh mandate and I can tell you we shall not disappoint you. With the work we have done so far, I can state with confidence that the difficult days are coming to an end; better days are coming,” assured President Lungu.

“Let me conclude by directing the secretary general to ensure that all our candidates at local government, mayoral, and parliamentary levels obtain copies of the manifesto and campaign in their respective areas based on it. The manifesto must be taken and treated as a Patriotic Front ‘bible’ or ‘quran’ before, during and after the August 2021 national vote, because it is from which the patriotic front policies will be based. This manifesto will be summarised and popularised in mainstream and social media so that party members and the majority of our people know what we plan to do in the next five years.”