From the very start we have taken issue with the development strategy that the Patriotic Government has taken.
We certainly do not agree with the classical, trickledown theory, which suggests that expenditure on mega infrastructure will result in trickle down benefits including more jobs and more money.
Thus far this policy has failed to produce quality long lasting jobs and has certainly not provided more money in people’s pockets apart from the lucky few that have won contracts.
The trickledown theory was advocated in the early 50s when it was thought that the developing world did not have the ware withal to go beyond primary production.
In our view this theory was and still remains unacceptably naïve and therefore prejudiced and jaundiced.
Investment in such infrastructure as roads may present political mileage but does not affect the immediate economic and social problem of poverty that the majority of the Zambian people confront. Apart from the long gestation period such investment, when developed through expensive loans stands as a charge against future earnings.
None other than Pope Francis has recently spoken out against the theory- albeit in a very different context.
He has recently written about the free market, “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
The assumption that those who hold economic power will invest for the greater good has been long discounted. This is an indictment of central planning determined by bureaucrats who are distanced and far divorced from the realities and exigencies of business.
Alternative economic philosophers and writers including Joseph Schumpeter have advocated instead that innovation and entrepreneurship were fundamental generators of growth and wealth.
In essence wealth creation and development can only come about if the people are empowered, if the enabling environment is created in which the people- human capital is facilitated to achieve the highest level of performance possible.
The whole concept of creating an enabling environment for the people to engage in business and other entrepreneur activities was aimed at creating a middle class that would have a keener stake in national affairs and development.
The main drawback with “Mega infrastructure” development driven by politicians and bureaucrats is that it becomes a conduit for graft through discriminatory and often corrupt tenders.
Zambians are looking for development which means a better life for everybody. This cannot achieve without looking at the current inequalities and seeking to address them in a manner that gives capacity to the poor and dispossessed to rise to their economic potential.
We have many members of society who do not even have the very basic needs of life. They do not have food, adequate housing, decent health services and indeed meaningful economic activity.
Development should not be more money for a few who have access to politicians who hold the purse string, it should mean the more equitable distribution of resources according to need.
Instead of more mega structure, there should be a deliberate investment in the people. This is the only guarantee for development.