PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says times are hard and Government has to make tough decisions which might seem painful but beneficial. Such decisions include the impending importation of power from South Africa which citizens will have to financially contribute to, to cushion the cost. And President Lungu says Government reserves have dwindled, a situation which has resulted in some projects being cancelled or downgraded. Addressing the business community here yesterday, the President said importing power from South Africa’s Eskom will enable the country to have electricity to sustain production.
“When times are hard, you have to make hard decisions, it’s better to have expensive power than none at all. “It’s better to have expensive mealie meal than none. I know people will say he has failed, but this problem [power shortage] is everywhere – in Malawi, Zimbabwe and other countries,” he said. The head of State said Government is exploring alternative sources of energy to reduce high dependency on hydro-electricity.
The President said he will soon be commissioning a solar power plant as a way of mitigating the shortage of electricity in the country. Zesco has applied to the Energy Regulation Board to temporarily increase tariffs to enable it to import power from Eskom of South Africa. On some cancelled and deferred projects, President Lungu said the diminishing government resources have affected implementation of some ventures. He said some projects will have to be downgraded due to inadequate resources.
“If a road was supposed to be upgraded to bituminous standard, it will be downgraded to gravel and it will be tarred later. “We are not ashamed to tell you that resources have dwindled, so some roads which were supposed to be tarred will just be gravelled,” the President said. President Lungu assured agrodealers and transporters who are owed money that he will take it upon himself to ensure that they are paid. He said those owed money have to be paid to enable them to remain in business.
“When I return to Lusaka, I will take it upon myself to find out how many agro-dealers, farmers and transporters have not been paid so that we find money to pay them,” President Lungu said. He urged the business community in Kaoma to take advantage of the 20 percent sub-contracting policy to acquire skills so that they can eventually take over contracts. “This policy should benefit all Zambians and not a selected few. “If you are given a chance to participate in contracts, do your best so that you don’t tarnish the image of contractors because in future you will not be considered for bigger contracts,” he said.
President Lungu further urged the business community to lobby for funding for their projects. He said it has been difficult to take development to Kaoma because Kaoma Central Member of Parliament (MP) Morgan Sitwaka does not lobby Government for funding because the United Party for National Development (UPND) does not allow him to do so. “Until they (UPND) take over government, that is when development will come here. I don’t know when that will be,” he said.
President Lungu also urged youths to be innovative and not wait for Government to employ them. He said most successful people are not in formal employment. The President said he will in the next two weeks empower some women in Kaoma through the Presidential Empowerment Initiative. He also assured that Government will address water challenges and work on some critical roads in the district. Representative of the business community Edson Ngwila said Kaoma has potential to excel in farming, honey harvesting and transport.
Mr Ngwila said the business community needs access to loans from the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission to grow their businesses. He complained of delayed payments to agro-dealers who supply inputs to farmers under the Farmer Input Support Programme. He also appealed to Government to work on roads and address the problem of erratic water supply in the district.