PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says a small number in the private sector worked in collusion with government in the last 10 years to damage the country’s economy.

And President Hichilema says he is sick and tired of hearing that Zambia has potential, arguing that it is time to realise it.

Meanwhile, President Hichilema says while critics were saying government was ignoring China, it was simply working behind the scenes.

Speaking during the launch of the Public-Private Dialogue Forum, Wednesday, President Hichilema said he did not expect the private sector to use the platform to damage the economy.

“We expect equal commitment and transparency from the private sector and other partners. I am not shy to say this, when I met the manufacturers at the Pamodzi Hotel, I said that part of the damage that was done in the last 10 years was the private sector, some, not many, who worked in collusion with government and ministries such as Finance, Justice to actually damage the economy. We don’t expect the Private sector to use this platform to do things that will damage the economy but to do things that will build the economy. I am talking about corruption. What we are dealing with now is a situation where citizens had no chance to survive because the government and the Private sector, a small number, were colluding to damage the economy,” President Hichilema said.

“We don’t expect that going forward. We will work together to build, not to damage. To legalise economic damaging transactions by putting a stamp that this is an agreement, it’s law, but you know that this agreement damages the economy and it creates temporary benefits. That is not acceptable going forward.”

President Hichilema said it was not possible for government to deliver development on its own.

“The social economic development of our country cannot be left to the government alone, it’s not possible for the government to deliver development on its own because it hasn’t got all it takes to reconstruct our economy. It is the responsibility of every one of us in public sector, in the private sectors, in the partner group that we have been working with and growing the list going forward. We need to drive economic development for the good of our country. If for anything, for the private sector, economic development will expand your market, it will expand those that demand your goods and services. So, if for that reason it is a good reason to be able to participate in the development, driving the development of this country so that when customers order your goods they can pay for the goods at the border,” he said.

“We recognise the private sector as an engine for innovation, job creation. This platform is for jobs because when we get the jobs created, other things will fall into place. So, we are very keen to ensure that the private sector creates jobs.”

And President Hichilema said he was tired of hearing that Zambia had potential when it could be actualised.

“In order to ensure meaningful private sector participation in the economy, the Public Private Dialogue Forum has been established as I said not by chance, but as a deliberate move to be able to actualise the potential that we have been sitting on as a country for decades and we will not sit on this potential anymore. We will realise it together. I have said to many colleagues off official channels, I am sick and tired of hearing the story of Zambia’s potential, I am tired. You should be tired. We want to realise this potential. God blessed us in a country which is special in terms of location,” he said.

“We used to complain about being a landlocked country, I am tired of hearing that. You should be tired of hearing that. We are a land-linked country, we must be the center of production, processing, packaging, distribution, domestic markets supply, regional and international markets. That is what will realise this potential we have been talking about for years. Equally, the Dialogue Forum will focus on leveraging partnerships and synergies to accelerate our socio-economic development agenda.”

President Hichilema said the new dawn administration was resolved to deliver economic transformation.

“Even in my early years in business, my aggression, it used to take me so long to put to bed a project, a very straightforward project. It took us so many years, four years to put together a large tourism project in Livingstone because of unnecessary arguments, sometimes based on lack of understanding, sometimes based on cheap selfishness driven by other issues. We want to bring this to an end. This is why this tool, today we are launching, is extremely important to help us. In order to accelerate economic turnaround, we need well-thought-out evidence-based responsive and implementable solutions. The new dawn administration is resolved to deliver economic transformation together with yourselves in the private sector,” he said.

“We can never do it alone. We know the limitations of the private sector, we know the limitations of the government but these limitations can be offloaded if we work together and we should. The Public Private Dialogue Forum for development that we are launching today will provide a strengthened partnership which is long overdue between the public and the private sector. It will promote a mechanism for structured interactions between government and the private sector on various matters affecting our economy, to be basic affecting our communities, the way we live, the opportunities that are available to us and the abject poverty that I am embarrassed to acknowledge exists in our country. A country so endowed by God in terms of resources.”

President Hichilema said the public private dialogue forum would foster trust between the government and the private sector.

“I am embarrassed, you should be embarrassed especially you Zambians. There is no reason that your neighbour should live a life less than yours. You are responsible for your neighbours’ state of affairs. We are responsible, we can make a difference. The public private dialogue forum will foster trust between government [and the private sector]. You heard what my previous speaker just said, in the past the lack of a structured way of working together, start and stop processes, on and off processes, agreed measures not implemented eroded the confidence and trust between the public and the private sector, we should deal with this, rebuilding of confidence in this platform, in this instrument we have chosen for ourselves and we are determined to do that. Going forward, we would like to make this instrument as the normal way of working,” he said.

The Head of State said he was embarrassed by how the country’s economy was allowed to degenerate in the recent past.

“I must admit I am so embarrassed how we allowed our country’s economy to degenerate. Only ten years ago we were growing by around seven percent and we allowed this to be wiped out and we just sat there and watched. We should not do such things going forward. This Dialogue platform will allow us to avoid being observers when the economy is being destroyed. Now the debt has come back with a huge quantum, where were we? Why didn’t we take some action? This platform will allow us not to do such things again together,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Hichilema thanked China for coming on board in the restructuring programme.

“Maybe we were scared of each other, public, private. We were scared of retribution, I understand but that environment is no longer there. There is now a better environment for us to work together to ensure that never again do we return to working on problems we had solved already such as debt. We had solved that problem. I am delighted to let this August House know that we are now on our way to a full debt restructuring programme based on the common framework. China has come on board. I want to thank China. Our critics were saying we have ignored China, no we choose to work behind the scenes and not make noise before you have done anything. But I also want to thank other creditors that have been on board much longer,” said President Hichilema.

“Any government that doesn’t work to improve the lives of the people really has missed the reason it was elected into office. Despite the challenges that we face today; oil prices, fertilizer prices, we understand our duty is to drive solutions from different angles. Bilaterals, we are working on oil and fuel and fertilizer but this one is another attack point for us to be able to deal with the cost of living, to be able to grow the economy. So it is a multifaceted approach. I love this approach because if we do it properly, it sustains, it is resilient.”

The Head of State announced that President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Felix Tshisekedi would jet into the country this Friday.