GOVERNMENT should not relent in diversifying the economy even in the wake of rising copper prices, says Finnish ambassador to Zambia Timo Olkkonen.
Ambassador Olkkonen said the rise in copper prices did not mean Zambia should slow down in her efforts to diversify the economy especially the development of agriculture and tourism.
“The rise in copper prices is good news because that means good revenue coming from copper for the country. It will give relief to the current economic challenges facing the nation.
“I just hope that the small glimmer of hope that we have now with the increase of the copper price will mean that the pressure of developing other sectors of the economy is going to be less at the same time,” he said.
Mr Olkkonen said Zambia still needed to diversify her economy to avoid long-term economic problems during difficult times such as the current one.
“The reliance on copper still remains one of the biggest problems Zambia.
“This should trigger the diversification programme which is a long-term exercise because you cannot diversify the economy overnight, it has been talked about in Zambia for decades,” he said.
He said the Zambian economic challenges were still difficult to overcome because of the dependence on copper for its foreign exchange earnings.
“There are important commitments that Zambia has to face in the near future. One of which is the repayment of the Eurobonds and you have to prepare yourself for that. My understanding is that there is much pressure on the public expenditure in general and there are problems on the revenue side,” he said.
Mr Olkkonen however said it would take time for revenue to start coming even though copper prices were showing some positive signs.
“There is also the issue of prudent public expenditure because of revenue constraints and it will take time for revenue start coming in,” he said. Mr Olkkonen said Zambia’s challenge was not only about copper but in general long-term planning and how to prepare for hard times like the one being currently experienced.