IT’S JUDGMENT YEAR FOR UPND…end of 2024 people won’t expect stories from the bar, warns Andyford
By Fanny Kalonda
THIS year will be the most significant judgment year since the UPND formed government, says People’s Alliance for Change (PAC) president Andyford Banda.
He says the UPND government must be a genius to only rely on the mining sector to turnaround the economy.
Banda said if UPND government had ideas they spoke about when in opposition, they would have implemented them immediately after winning the elections.
“Let the government do what they have to do to revive the mining sector. But they should know that end of 2024 the people will not expect stories from the bar,” he said. “We are rooting for the government to turnaround things. But our bone of contention is based on the lack of inclusivity of diverse ideas which can turnaround the economy as already explained. For emphasis’ sake they are just lip-service. And for crying out loud if the UPND government had these ideas they would have implemented them immediately after winning the elections. Today it would have been reports of progress. We mean ideas that have nothing to do with mining, debt restructuring and IMF. While the UPND will be judged on 13th August 2026 when people go the polls, this year will be the most significant judgement year since they formed government. While some of us feel there must be aggressive chase in alternative sectors, it’s clear that the UPND’s high hopes lie on debt restructuring and mining sector. From our side that’s the only area we see a clear plan even if the projected results are not quantified. Understandably, if we are to go by what the finance minister said, the ramping up of production at Kansanshi and Lumwana, the over $1 billion investments in Luanshya’s Shaft 28, KCM and Mopani revival should definitely have some level of impact with all things being equal.”
Recently, Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane said low copper production in 2023 adversely affected the exchange rate.
“For those of you who buy dollars thinking that I will keep on buying dollars because one day it will reach K100, please be careful. Be careful the kwacha is about to make a counterattack,” said Dr Musokotwane.
And Banda recalled Dr Musokotwane reporting that: “low copper production in 2023 adversely affected the exchange rate. Mining proceeds constitute over 90 per cent of Zambia’s forex earnings. We are on course to exchange rate stabilisation. Kasanshi & Lumwana are preparing to ramp-up production. Further, US $1 billion will be pumped in Luanshya Shaft 28. On KCM, a court determined creditor scheme of arrangement to be negotiated after which the asset will be handed over to Vedanta for pumping-in investment. On Mopani, the plan is to hand over to new investor at end of February. Before then, the investor will make cash injections in tranches of US $80 million & US $50 million. After handover, a further investment of US $490 million will be made.”
But Banda said an economy cannot grow in isolation adding that the mining sector cannot be the only sector to rely on.
“President HH and finance minister are so bullish that the expected revival of the mining sector and the expected conclusion of the debt restructuring will turnaround the economy and arrest the kwacha depreciation. ‘2024 will be a home run’ said the President in his end of year address. Is it an issue of being mathematically accurate like one plus is equal to two? It will be interesting to see how this plays out to arrest the main challenges the country is facing – unemployment, weak currency, high cost of fuel, in turn high cost of living, SMEs etc,” he said. “The UPND government must be a genius to only rely on the mining sector to turnaround the economy which has been with us since before independence. While the points advanced by the Minister of Finance are valid, our skepticism for a complete turnaround is based on the fact that an economy cannot grow in isolation. The mining sector cannot be the only sector to rely on due to various factors which some can be seen or unseen. Lack of aggression, clear creative deliberate plan by government to look into other sectors such as manufacturing, energy, financial services, ICT, agriculture. This at most sounds like lip service.”
Banda said the question should be “how do we stimulate impactful growth especially one that touches the most vulnerable in society”.
“The country’s challenges such as unemployment, hunger, poor rainfall pattern, cost of living caused by US dollar and low food production are too numerous to rest all our hopes on mining. Many developed economies around the world while keeping traditional sectors such as steel production and agriculture have evolved and graduated to new sectors that have come along the way because of various developments such as technology. This as a country we are not doing. We are stuck with only copper 60 years after independence. In the agriculture sector we are just sorting out problems to do with FISP and trying to do better than PF. Nothing extraordinary. In the ICT and financial services sectors we are just doing day to day jobs, nothing creative. We have not taken advantage of low hanging fruits that are there in other sectors,” he said. “The question we should be asking ourselves is how do we stimulate impactful growth especially one that touches the most vulnerable in society? We are in the midst of a cholera crisis that has been there before the UPND, but as of today outside passive media statements, we do not seem to have a plan on how to organise, modernise and upgrade our cities. Let us also remember that programmes such as the recent additional $187 million approved IMF extended credit facility disbursement which brings the total to $561 million has had no impact on the exchange rate. This means we should worry and see why we seem to be in the ‘laggards of the economic development project’.”
Banda said the biggest challenge the country is facing is unemployment and the mining sector only absorbs 2.1 per cent of the work force.
“So, the question is what happens if the mines expected to do so much are faced with various challenges such as flooding in the mines, low output maybe due to low ore grades, operation challenges, extended routine maintenance due to unforeseen occurrences, slump in copper prices? We must also remember that one of the biggest challenges we are facing is unemployment. The mining sector only absorbs 2.1 per cent of the work force. Mechanisation of the industry and the use of modern technology is affecting recruitment in the mining sector. How much impact do we expect in terms of job creation? Definitely very insignificant,” said Banda.
“For all that is worth, let the government do what they have to do to revive the mining sector but they should know that end of 2024, the people will not expect ‘stories from the bar’. It’s definitely a judgement year for the new dawn administration. All things being equal, the mining sector will be revived, debt restructuring will be finalised but our sole reliance on these won’t resolve the numerous challenges. Just as a perspective while we compare ourselves with Chile and DRC in terms of copper production, it’s important to note that we are lagging at around 700,000 metric tonnes per year while Chile and Congo produce 5.6 million MT and 1.8 million MT respectively per year. By 2022, Zambia was the ninth ranked country in terms of copper production and there are other countries such as US, China, Canada, Australia which produce more copper than Zambia, but mining is not the main sector. We have a lot of work ahead. We must aggressively diversify!”