Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Chipoka Mulenga says days of handouts are long gone as these only accelerate poverty, hence the need to focus on skills empowerment.

And Mulenga says Zambia used to be a laughing stock but the narrative has changed due to the confidence which President Hakainde Hichilema has given to the outside world.

Speaking on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Mulenga said the days of handouts were long gone as this only accelerated poverty.

“How this decentralisation will be done is that the CDF funds will go to the people and so deliberately, the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises will set up cooperatives and benefits will not be in form of financial handouts. This thing of giving abantu indalama tulyemo K2, K5 [this thing of giving people K2s and K5s] is long gone as it only accelerates poverty and continues it but we need to give people skills. And that is why we have deliberately set up the Ministry of Science and Technology. We need to revamp the skills centres, we need to bring in hands-on people like artisans and plumbers,” he said.

He also said that the removal of fuel subsidies was not meant to punish the Zambian people.

“We need the Zambian people to march with us in this quest of subsidy removal. We need the Zambia people to understand where the economy is now. The removal is not meant to punish the Zambian people or for us to shift from our campaign promises. It is actually very much in line with us to stick to what we have advocated for where Zambians have to work for what is rightfully theirs,” Mulenga said.

“We had to reflect, there is a huge unemployment rate in Zambia, teachers cannot get jobs – doctors for the first time I was shocked and it is the very first country were we don’t employ doctors after they graduate and they roam the streets while people are dying in homes because they have no access to health personnel. Where was this money going? It was put into subsidy. The subsidy put on fuel by the previous regime was a deliberate ploy to cheat the Zambian people that fuel is cheap therefore they have access to buying things was lower. We are a government that is not self-centered to fill our pot bellies with the amount we have removed from subsidies. The removal has been well explained by the Minister of Finance and on an annual basis, he will be informing the people on where money from subsidies is going. Now there is a question that the price of fuel has gone up after the removal and this will translate into increased cost of commodities but the more people [are] working, they will have access to these commodities, they may be cheap but only a handful will have access and so we want the majority working and having access to commodities.”

And Mulenga said President Hichilema had restored the international community’s confidence in Zambia.

“The world wants to see who Hakainde Hichilema is. Right now with the statement that he has given, the hope that he has given the world and confidence he has brought so much for the country. We used to be a laughing stock but I have gone out of the country recently and there is so much hope for people to come and invest in this country. They shunned, including the International Monetary Fund. This IMF loan was not initiated by the new dawn government but the PF. The IMF was refusing to engage the PF because they showed lack of prudence in the financial management. But here we are, they even gave us a 1.7 billion which the President mentioned and we are even using it for the Zambian people,” said Mulenga.