ZAMBIA’s commitment to eradicate poverty sometimes truly reflects the will and determination of the country to walk the talk.
The causes of endemic poverty are many but they include lack of opportunity to work and earn a wage, unhealthy housing and living conditions, low levels of education and marginalization or inequality.
The World Bank was yesterday unveiling its 2004-2013 report evaluating its programmes in Zambia whose core objective has been poverty eradication. But the million-dollar question is: has poverty been eradicated or even reduced anywhere in Africa or indeed in Zambia?
World Bank group representative Ina Ruthenberg who hosted the seminar in Lusaka repeated the swan song that Zambia’s over-dependence on copper has made the country vulnerable each time the price of the metal fell on the world market.
She said these fluctuating fortunes between economic boom when copper prices are high and the misery that follows when the prices are down was essentially part of the reason the poor remained poor.
Her contention that copper should not hold the country to ransom and that rural development must be the weapon with which to attack poverty needs special attention.
There is need for African governments to apply efficient management of both the resources and revenue as well as pay particular attention to macroeconomics management, good governance, create jobs and diversify their economies through agriculture.
Although Zambia boasts of a fairly good record of democratic governance, rich natural resources and remarkable economic growth in times of copper price boom, we are failing as a people to translate this into real poverty reduction.
Successive governments since Independence have made rural development the centre piece of their development agenda, but poverty eradication has eluded them all. Fifty-one years later Zambia is still top on the list of Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
It boggles the mind to imagine how much budgetary allocations the country has been making and implementing since 1964. Where has all this money gone and why is poverty so stubborn to eradicate?
Maybe it is about time Zambia paid attention to human capital development which has the capacity to convert human resources into revenue, good health for citizens, create employment and spur development.
There is great need for Zambia not to embark on infrastructure development based on political considerations. Economic sense should be the deciding factor. There are many beautiful roads in Zambia today which have cost the country a fortune – but they lead nowhere.
Some expensive structures have turned out to be white elephants because they were put up to please vested political interests or were designed to ‘‘balance’’ national development. You see them but they have solved no urgent need.
The need for strict adherence to fiscal policy which translates into prudent management of external borrowing and keeping an eagle’s eye on public expenditure are key to unlocking the resources the country desperately needs to invest in poverty reduction.
A ruthless war on corruption which knows no sacred cows and a deliberate policy to plug all the loop holes of capital flight are some of the measures that can ensure economic success.
Unless Zambians can unite politically and otherwise to combat what has come to be known as the ‘‘psychology of poverty’’ in the midst of plenty, another 50 years from now our great grandchildren would still be talking about poverty eradication and economic diversification.
That is the price of poverty of the mind.