PRESIDENTIAL spokesperson Anthony Bwalya says President Hakainde Hichilema and everyone in his government fully understand and sympathise with the fact that Zambians are not where they want them to be.
Speaking when he featured on Radio Phoenix’s let the people talk programme, Friday, Bwalya said the Head of State wanted to make gradual, rapid improvements.
“The President and all of us fully understand and sympathise that our people are not where we want our people to be. Do we think the price of fuel is too high? Yes, we do, it’s too high. That is not where we want it to be. Do we think the kwacha/dollar exchange rate is too high? Yes, we do, that is not where we want it to be. Do we think inflation is too high? That is not where we want it to be. We want to make gradual, rapid improvements, we want a whole lot better for the Zambian people,” he said.
And Bwalya said the country could look forward to a mining environment that was focused on delivering for the people.
“As a result of the commitment that we have always held and are willing to propound, we can look forward to a mining environment and a mining industry that is fully focused on delivering for the Zambian people. The 3 million tonnes per annum by 2030 target that we are absolutely working towards, is for the Zambian people because once we hit that target and we absolutely must hit that target, that target is tied to jobs. Because that target will not produce itself, we would need man power to produce that target. That target will result most likely in the government collecting enhanced tax revenues which can then be channeled into critical sectors of the economy. Creating jobs across the board,” he said.
“Providing decent and quality health care for our people and social protection, education and so on. But in order for us to do that, it means that we need to clean up the mining business environment. It has to be fair, it has to be more predictable, we have to leverage the participation of our local people, not just the employees, but the contractors, the suppliers as well. This is a key component of what we think should and must happen to the mining industry, not just on the Copperbelt but all across the country.”
Bwalya said all businesses should pay their fair share of taxes whether individual-owned or corporate.
“But most principles around taxation is that taxation must be fair. It must be predictable. You must bear a fair share of tax on the revenues that you make. That is the tone we are setting not just in the mining sector, but all businesses should and must pay their fair share of taxes whether they are an individual-owned business, whether it is a corporate. In making sure that everybody pays their fair share of tax, we have to be careful in the way we design the tax mechanisms. At the moment, the government has made a decision that mineral royalties will be deductible for purposes of corporate taxation. This by the way is the standard and the norm all across the globe. So you are gradually seeing this country and the leadership of this country led by the President slowly but steadily gravitating this country towards international standards of how a critical operating environment should work and must work,” he said.
Bwalya said government was keen to depoliticise the mining business environment.
“But one of the key things that we need to emphasise is the positive steps that we are taking, we were quite keen to depoliticize the mining business environment. When toxicity around political interference begins to creep into any business environment, it becomes crippling. You can’t create jobs, you can’t prop up productivity, it just becomes bad for business for all of us. And that is why this government and this President is saying we need to absolutely, [we] needed to de-politicize like yesterday how the mining environment does function. And this is why we are working on the model that is going to ensure we enhance transparency and accountability in the way that for example, ZCCM-IH reports on its public investment. Because they do that for and on behalf of the people of Zambia. We think that is absolutely critical,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bwalya said the UPND administration was deeply committed to following through on its commitment to deliver on the promise of the access to Information bill.
“Let me just mention here that part of the greater commitment on the part of the President as we look to enhance the way that the media functions and in cleaning up and promoting the suitability of the media environment, is that this administration is deeply committed to following through on our commitment to deliver on the promise of that access to Information bill where I believe substantial process has been made. We are a government that was elected on the ticket of transparency and accountability and we believe that access to information is absolutely crucial. So, this administration is not going to get in the way of people having access to critical information within the boundaries of the law and be able to use that information to hold their President and their government accountable,” said Bwalya.
“So, we are deeply committed to that and we do hope and believe that that kind of progress will be made in the fullness of time. We have already made mention of what the intention of the President and his administration in so far as cyber security law is concerned. We had concerns then when we were in opposition, we still think that there is room for better and constructive conversation to be had in so far as the future of this law is concerned.”