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Grave economic situation is a threat to political stability – Nawakwi

Filed under: Business,Latest News |
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Edith Nawakwi

Edith Nawakwi

Members of the press, fellow citizens, I wish to welcome you all to this press briefing. I have been compelled to address the nation today due to the grave economic situation obtaining in our country which is actually a threat to our political stability.

THE CONTINUED DEPRECIATION OF THE KWACHA

The continued depreciation of the kwacha against the major convertible currencies is adversely impacting on the lives of the majority of our people as the prices of essential goods and services such as mealie meal, water, electricity, transport and housing have kept on rising beyond the reach of the majority of our people. Just yesterday, the Energy Regulation Board gave ZESCO the go ahead to increase electricity tariffs by 24%. At the rate we are moving, we expect the prices of fuel to go up soon. And that will worsen the poverty situation many households are living in.

Last week, The Bank of Zambia told the nation that the kwacha is depreciating because of speculative behavior among players. The Central Bank said people should desist from speculating with the Kwacha to halt the current free fall of the local currency. This is the latest of the many cheap excuses this government has been giving us since the kwacha started its downward spiral. First they told us that the Kwacha was losing value due to the falling copper prices, and then they changed the story and said the Kwacha was depreciating due to their ill-timed Statutory Instruments No. 33 and No. 55. Then the story changed yet again that the Kwacha was losing its value due to the so called capital projects which the government was undertaking. As if that was not enough the government invented another excuse saying the Kwacha was depreciating because of some imaginary cartel. And now the story has changed yet again. Today the Governor is blaming the so called speculators for the depreciation of the Kwacha.

Surely, it is clear to all of us that the Kwacha has continued to lose its value due to the lack of sound fiscal and monetary policy by the PF Government coupled with the ill prepared individuals who are managing our economy. Dr Michael Gondwe, our Central Bank Governor is a lawyer by profession and is therefore the wrong person to have as Governor of the Central Bank.

Can the Governor tell us why the opening rate of the Kwacha each morning is higher than the closing rate of the previous evening? Does he know that the money market does not sleep? Does he know that his commercial banks are taking foreign positions using the few dollars that he has been pumping in the financial market? Does he even know how much foreign currency, trading outposts such as Shoprite, Game Stores, the mines and such foreign firms are taking outside the local money market?

It is plain to all of us that our Governor lacks the basic understanding of the economic matrix, let alone how the financial market operates. It is for this reason that we are hereby requesting Dr. Michael Gondwe to immediately step down as Governor of the Central Bank of Zambia because we as a people no longer require his poor services.

If the depreciation of the Kwacha is not quickly arrested, we will find ourselves in the Zimbabwe or Greek situation because the purchasing power of our currency is evaporating with each day that passes. This is putting pressure on business houses especially small businesses such as car dealers, hardware dealers, fruit traders, cross border traders ( the Tamanga dot com friends) and the like who heavily rely on imported goods. This increased cost of doing business is beyond the reach of many small businesses. Many such businesses are failing to pay their workers or to operate normally hence many are closing or folding up.

 

LABOUR DISPUTES

For the first time in the history of this great nation, all ten public service workers’ unions have declared a dispute with the government for unilaterally imposing a wage freeze and refusing to improve the salaries and conditions of our workers.

If this labour dispute is not quickly resolved it may result into countrywide strikes. The consequences of such industrial unrest are too ghastly to contemplate. The escalating prices of essential goods and services that have been triggered by the depreciation of the Kwacha are eroding the value of the salaries of our workers due to the diminishing purchasing power of the Kwacha. It is for these reasons that we are calling upon the government to immediately lift the wage freeze and honour the 2013 Collective Agreement. We equally urge the government to learn to consult all relevant stockholders and embrace the spirit of give and take before making major policy pronouncements to avoid backlashes. This government has to learn that we are in a democracy and not an autocracy. The government has to learn to deal with our workers in an open and honest manner. We urge the government to deal with these labour challenges with a sober and level headed approach and not the heavy handed approach. We do not want to see what happened with the nurses to repeat itself because the ultimate losers are the poor Zambians who have continued to lack the services of the fired nurses.

As a Party, we fully appreciate the numerous challenges our workers are enduring. The bulk of our public service workers are what may be termed as the working poor. Low wages and poor conditions of service have become the norm for most of our public service workers. Paying for basic needs such as food, shelter and transport is a real struggle for them. Low wages are forcing most of our workers to resort to kaloba and all sorts of loans just to make ends meet.

It is Important to stress that our workers are the engine and backbone of the economy. It is therefore extremely important that the workers are `properly motivated and properly taken care of in order to increase their productivity. However, we want to caution that even if we increase the salaries of the public service workers it will not positively impact on their lives if we do not deal with the falling Kwacha and the general economic mismanagement currently obtaining in our country because the purchasing power of the Kwacha is diminishing daily. We need to seriously work on the fundamentals of our economy which are currently very weak due to lack of sound economic policies and sheer incompetency on the part of some individuals who have been charged with the responsibility of managing our economy.

Thank you.

Prepared and issued by:

Edith Z Nawakwi

FDD President

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