Critical Analysis of President Edgar Lungu’s Parliament Speech

Filed under: Statements |

Chag manBy Sean Enock Tembo

RESPONSE BY THE INTERIM PRESIDENT OF PEP TO THE PRESIDENTIAL SPEECH MADE ON THE OCCASION OF THE OPENING OF THE FIRST SESSION OF THE 12TH NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

1. Our policy as the Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) is to provide a response to to any official speech made by the Republican President at specific important occasions. Such response has been and shall continue to be provided within 24 hours of our coming into possession of the said full speech. The purpose of our response to a Presidential speech shall be to outline the extent to which we agree or disagree with the sentiments of the Republican President as well as provide or reiterate our position on specific issues of national importance.

2. As regard the Presidential Speech delivered at the occasion of the opening of the first session of the 12th National Assembly, our position is that overall the speech was well written, articulate and coherent. Compared to the last Presidential Speech that was delivered to the National Assembly sometime late last year which was haphazard and incoherent, there is indeed a marked improvement in both content and grammar. The shortcomings that we noted in the Presidential Speech are in two categories. The first category is consistency and clarity of presentation and the second category is substance as outlined in greater detail below:

3. In paragraph 15 of the Speech, the President says

“THE APPROACH TO MY ADDRESS THIS MORNING, IS MOVING AWAY FROM THE USUAL THEMATIC LINES BASED ON STAND ALONE SECTORAL APPROACH, TO AN INTEGRATED MULTI-SECTORAL APPROACH, WHICH ENDEAVOURS TO BUILD SYNERGIES ACROSS SECTORS. THIS IS WITH A VIEW TO ENSURING THAT DEVELOPMENTAL OUTCOMES MUTUALLY REINFORCE EACH OTHER”.

This statement is incoherent because it starts by talking about the President’s approach to his “address” and yet the substance refers to the President’s approach not to his “address” but to the nation’s economic development. Therefore, the correct statement should’ve been

“MY APPROACH TO THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE NATION IS MOVING AWAY FROM THE USUAL THEMATIC LINES BASED ON STAND ALONE SECTORAL APPROACH, TO AN INTEGRATED MULTI-SECTORAL APPROACH, WHICH ENDEAVOURS TO BUILD SYNERGIES ACROSS SECTORS. THIS IS WITH A VIEW TO ENSURING THAT DEVELOPMENTAL OUTCOMES MUTUALLY REINFORCE EACH OTHER…”

4. In Chapter 16, the President seeks to explain his rationale for creating the Ministry of Development Planning that its main purpose is to supervise and coordinate other Ministries. However, from a practical point of view, we doubt that one Ministry can actually supervise other Ministries unless such a Ministry falls within the Presidency. At some point, President Chiluba had a Ministry of State President which was based at State House and which we believe was occupied by either Eric Silwamba or Derrick Chitala. That was a better attempt at trying to supervise other line Ministries than the current attempt of establishing a Ministry of Development Planning. Besides, development planning is better done by a standing committee of technocrats representing different line Ministries than by a designated line Ministry.

5. In paragraph 16 of his speech, the President says

“MY ADMINISTRATION WILL CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE WHERE SECTORS WILL SIMULTANEOUSLY WORK TOGETHER TO RESOLVE DEVELOPMENTAL CHALLENGES SUCH AS YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT AND HIGH LEVELS OF POVERTY, BY HARNESSING OUR YOUTHFUL POPULATION INTO A PRODUCTIVE ONE. THIS ENTAILS THAT THE YOUTHS MUST EMBRACE INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENUERSHIP, ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES AND ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE IN THE ECONOMY”.

Our position is that this statement is a fallacy. Firstly, when the President talks about “Sectors”, what sectors are these? Is he referring to sectors of the economy such as the Agricultural Sector, the banking sector, the mining sector etc? If so, how can sectors “work simultaneously” to resolve the country’s development challenges such as poverty? Is it the responsibility of a “sector” to reduce poverty? Isn’t the reduction of poverty in the nation the responsibility of the President? Why is the President abdicating his responsibilities to “sectors”? Isn’t the President aware that the sole objective of any sector of the economy is to maximize profit and that other peripheral objectives may only be pursued insofar as they compliment the key objective. Therefore, when a corporation makes a donation of second hand clothes to the needy in society, they’re doing so not because they’re naturally good hearted no. They’re doing so in order to increase their level of endearment from among the population so that they may sell more of their products and/or services. That is why corporations will spend twice the value of whatever they’re donating on media coverage so that the entire world may see that they have donated even if they donate second hand underwear. Therefore, for the President to abdicate his responsibility of reducing poverty among the citizenry to “sectors” is the highest level of irresponsibility on his part.

6. On the same paragraph 16, the President goes on to say

“…THIS ENTAILS THAT THE YOUTHS MUST EMBRACE INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENUERSHIP, ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES AND ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE IN THE ECONOMY …”

How can we the youths actively participate in the economy when public procurement by the government is reserved exclusively for PF cadres to the exclusion of everyone else, despite the fact that the money being spent is taxpayers money which is collected from everyone else? It is not fair for the President to pretend that he supports entrepreneurship when as a matter of fact he only supports cadrepreneurship. PF cadrepreneurship to be specific, which has recently given birth to several millionaires despite their evident lack of business acumen. The rest of the Zambians who faithfully toil are not able to reap a fair reward of their sweat because they’re crowded out by PF cadrepreneurs.

7. In paragraph 18 of his speech to the first session of the 12th National Assembly of Zambia, the President says

“… MY ADMINISTRATION REMAINS COMMITTED TO THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THE VISION 2030 OF ZAMBIA BECOMING A PROSPEROUS MIDDLE INCOME COUNTRY…”

Well, there is no way in heaven or hell that we are going to come anywhere close to becoming a middle income country if the economy is going to continue to be mismanaged by the President the way it has in the recent past. If in the middle of the largest fiscal deficit that the country has ever faced, the President sees it fit to charter a private jet to take him and other PF cadres to New York for the UNGA, when people like President Jacob Zuma who’s country is the second biggest economy in Africa flies commercial on SAA, then we are headed nowhere as a nation Mr. President. Perhaps vision 2030 must be revised to read:

MY ADMINISTRATION REMAINS COMMITTED TO THE ACHIEVEMENT OF ME BECOMING THE RICHEST MAN IN AFRICA BY 2030…”

because you’re the only one Mr. President, who seems to be doing well in the current economic climate as evidenced by your ability to double your wealth from last year to this year.

8. In paragraph 19 of the speech, the President says

“…I NOW WISH TO DEAL WITH SOME OF THE ISSUES AFFECTING OUR COUNTRY. IN DOING SO, I WILL OUTLINE KEY POLICY MEASURES AND PROGRAMMES THAT MY ADMINISTRATION WILL PURSUE NEXT YEAR AND BEYOND. THESE WILL BE OUTLINED IN GREATER DETAIL IN THE SEVENTH (7TH) NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN (2017-2021), WHICH I WILL SOON…”

It is well and good that you’re talking about NDP7 which will run from 2017 to 2021, but don’t you think that now would be the right time to talk about the extent to which NDP6 and RNDP6 were attained, or more specifically, not attained? The truth is that plans are not respected by the PF govt, everything is done in a haphazard manner with only political and not development considerations at play. We cannot even respect the annual budget and budgeted items end up not being funded and unbudgeted items end up getting all the funding. It is therefore recommended that NDP7 be thrown in the dust bin as soon as possible before we spend our treasured breath talking about it.

9. In paragraph 20 of his speech, the President says

“…MY GOVERNMENT WILL CONTINUE TO UNDERTAKE AUSTERITY MEASURES TO STABILISE THE MACRO ECONOMIC SITUATION AND BUILD GREATER INVESTOR CONFIDENCE. FURTHER, WE WILL ENSURE THAT OUR MACRO ECONOMIC POLICIES ARE CONSISTENT AND PREDICTABLE, TO ENABLE THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR PLAN EFFECTIVELY IN THE MEDIUM AND LONG-TERM…”

Well, it is encouraging to note that His Excellency has finally added the term “austerity measures” to his vocabulary. That’s a step in the right direction, albeit small. It is also encouraging to note that His Excellency is aware that his government’s policy direction is haphazard and confused and he intends to do something about it going forward.

10. In paragraph 21 of his speech, the President says

“…IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS, THE BROAD MACRO-ECONOMIC OBJECTIVES OF MY ADMINISTRATION WILL INCLUDE ACHIEVING DOUBLE-DIGIT GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT GROWTH, ATTAINING SINGLE-DIGIT INFLATION RATE AND INCREASING AND BROADENING DOMESTIC REVENUE COLLECTION…”

This reminds me of some of the job interviews that l would conduct. A candidate walks in and his CV says he has been unemployed for the past 6 years and you ask him what his goals in life are. He then confidently tells you that he wants to be the richest man in Zambia by next year! In the back of your mind you’re thinking, okay, isn’t that a little over ambitious?

We shall be dealing with 10 points per article until we finish providing feedback on the speech delivered by His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu on occasion of the opening of the first session of the 12th National Assembly of the Republic of Zambia.

The Author is the Interim President of an Organisation Called Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP)