It is unacceptable that rentals at Luburma market are being charged in dollars
The Minister of Commerce Mrs. Margaret Mwanakatwe made it very clear that all rentals and payments including prices of commodities should not be quoted in dollars.
It is therefore disgusting that a foreign company right here in Lusaka should choose to defy a minister, barely 10 days after the Minister visited the market precisely because of complaints from customers that they were being charged in dollars instead of Kwacha.
Mrs. Mwanakatwe accompanied by her counterpart at the Ministry of Local Government and Housing John Phiri, the Mayor of Lusaka George Nyendwa and his town clerk Alex Mwansa, Commerce Permanent Secretary Siazongo Siakelenge and Lusaka District Commissioner, Stardy Mwale, toured the market and gave very specific instructions that the rentals at this very controversial site should be paid in Kwacha.
It is only fair that the owners must obey instructions or attract attention to the contract under which the building was developed.
According to records the shops were constructed in 2002 under a 65-year lease agreement.
At face value this does not sound right and the quality of development does not fit into the PPP scheme much as the country wants investment, this must be in areas where the local people are unable to perform or indeed the expertise required is so complicated and beyond indigenous reach.
There is no evidence that these pre-requisites have been satisfied. If anything this type of investment which is not productive but purely consumptive should raise sufficient ire in government to call for a review.
One of the greatest dangers in Zambia is that most contracts for infrastructure development were being given to foreign companies, which invariably remit proceeds to their domiciles in United States dollars leaving nothing in the economy.
Little wonder there is very serious demand for the dollar. Our investors grow chickens and vegetables which they sell at the market then remit whatever money is earned. This cannot be allowed to continue especially that the US$5000 limit per transaction is breached through multiple transactions conducted through our fairly porous exchange bureau.
We are amongst the very few countries in the world without exchange controls. This is supposed to serve as an attraction to investors and rightly so too. But unfortunately this is being abused. It will be very interesting how the dollars earned at the Luburma Market are banked.
In fact we would wish to challenge the Ministry of commerce to look into this matter and tell the country how a company that is defying lawful instructions is actually spending proceeds from illegal transactions.
While we admit that government must not jeopardize investment opportunities by imposing draconian exchange controls we do not agree that a totally laissez faire arrangement must exist.
There must be a modicum of regulation to stop abuse while at the same time attracting investment that will help us in effective import substitution thereby conserving our limited foreign exchange for use in more pressing areas.
Zambia now more than ever before must seriously consider an effective diversification programme that will respond to the crash of copper as our single most important commodity for foreign exchange.