ZAMBIA has a lot of money. Contrary to popular belief, we are not a poor nation. We are materially rich, but our money is wasted by politicians and their appointees who work as conduits of corruption. Even when we make a lot of money as a country, it does not last long because it is wasted through shady transactions.
The money that we carelessly give to people who do business with government may appear negligible, but when we add up all the transactions in which government has been losing US $10 million, US $30 million, US $50 million, the cumulative total over time exceeds our national budget!
What is happening at NAPSA and IDC, among other parastatal bodies, makes very sad reading. The IDC is defending the US $44.8 million Marcopolo deal with all their might, but deep down their hearts, they know that it’s a waste of money; it’s a dirty deal. If this money belonged to any individual in the IDC management or board and they needed to spend it, they would not invest it in this Chinese tile-making company. But because it is public funds and the people are quiet, they are wasting money at will.
We have taken note that when announcing an investment, the IDC makes so much noise about the profitability of the company they are buying into, yet when we go back to look at how those companies are performing years later, it’s a sorry sight. They told us when buying Zampalm that soon, we would be benefiting from State-manufactured edible oils, among other products, from that investment, but there is no sign of that benefit anytime soon.
Look at Zambia Airways. Look at the amount of money they spent in that airline partnership. Look at the money they are paying the management and workers, including a foreign CEO, whom they are paying in dollars for managing an airline which became defunct before it even took off! Nobody in government today can explain the status of Zambia Airways. Our leaders didn’t want to listen when people warned them about this investment.
What about the Kapiri Dry Port? Two years ago, IDC signed a US $146.5 million agreement with a Tanzanian company called Africa Inland Container Depot (AFICD) for the establishment of a Dry Port in Kapiri Mposhi. When they were investing, they told us that they would be processing 10 million tonnes of goods per year, which means they would be making one billion dollars annually by charging only US $100 per tonne. Today, is 2021, when we go back to look at that investment, it’s a sorry sight.
In almost all the transactions that IDC makes, they are outsmarted by the people who own the companies they invest in. This is not because the board members of IDC are dull, it is because among them, there are people with a criminal mind who don’t care how much public money is wasted.
We have said it before, that our government should be investing money in sectors where there is a shortage of essential commodities that are key to economic growth. Fertilizer is a good example. The reason why they cannot invest in a fertilizer plant is because our government officials are stealing and eating from the supply chain business.
When we look at how much money we spend on importing fertilizer, we find it’s hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Meanwhile, Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia (NCZ) is rotting under the watch of IDC, and nobody cares. The US $500 million which we spend on fertilizer would go a long way in revamping Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia and IDC would not have to wait five years to get back its return on investment. But they cannot put money in that business because it would cut their source of illicit income. They want the fertilizer business to continue in the hands of middlemen.
No Zambian would complain if government announced that it was investing in the establishment of a pharmaceutical company to manufacture essential drugs. The country has lost so much money through dubious drug supply contracts and we have not even recovered from the latest scandal. Unfortunately, our leaders who are in charge of public funds would rather buy medicines from conmen who supply rotten drugs, as long as they are eating from it.
It baffles us that government can prioritise investments in an industry that is already well serviced by the private sector. We find it illogical for government to buy a milling company, for example, and start hiking prices for the commodity, competing with its own people who are running the industry in the private sector. It simply does not make sense.
How is manufacturing tiles in the best interest of the country? How does making more tiles fit in with the general economic recovery plan? How does it benefit the people if government is making tiles and not a private company that is based here in Zambia. Why is this so important? One would expect IDC to buy a majority stake in a cement manufacturing company with the aim of stabilising the commodity price because people are being ripped off by these companies that make cement. That would be a justifiable argument. It would make good economic sense.
IDC is wasting government money, taxpayers’ money and they must be taken to task for this. There must be a commission of inquiry to establish the motivating factors behind these decisions that the Corporation is making. As things stand, the IDC has caused more harm to the Treasury through wasteful expenditure.