LUNGU-NOMICS: Zambia’s Post-Election Economy (by Hjoe Moono)

By Hjoe Moono, Secretary of the Economics Association of Zambia

History has been made once again in Zambia. Since Frederick Chiluba, President Elect H.E. Edgar Chagwa Lungu is the only president to be elected by a vote of over 50%. Marginal as 50.3% might seem, it speaks volumes, and indeed, congratulations are in order to the Head of State and his party, the ruling Patriotic Front. Continue reading “LUNGU-NOMICS: Zambia’s Post-Election Economy (by Hjoe Moono)”

Everyday I’m shuffling: Sata moves Mwamba again

Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary, Emmanuel Mwamba. Photo source: Zambian Watchdog
Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary, Emmanuel Mwamba. Photo source: Zambian Watchdog

Imagine doing one high-level government job for an average of 4.8 months in a 2 year space? That’s five different jobs in that period! Well, pity Emmanuel Mwamba who has had to face this. President Sata has moved the now former Ministry of Information Permanent Secretary to Cabinet Office in the same capacity, not long after he started at the former. The President demonstrates how NOT to bring out the best in your staff: just as they are getting to grips with a new departmental role, sack them or move them to a different department for vague or unexplained reasons. Such moves have been proved to keep them on their toes and on your side. You are the boss after all and their lives are in your hands. Remind them of that at every 4.8 months on average!

A Lusaka Times reader has helpfully listed Mwamba’s recent jobs since President Sata’s government came to office in 2011. Note how they’re all very recent, all five of them:

2 Nov. 2011 – Northern Province PS – 13 months

30 Nov. 2012 – Eastern Province PS – 7 weeks

24 Jan. 2013 – Western Province PS – 7 months 3 weeks

13 Sep. 2013 – Ministry of Information PS – 6 weeks

28 Oct. 2013 – Cabinet Office PS – unknown.

Government reshuffles rarely exist for good policy-oriented reasons. Put simply, they are the moving around of people liked or disliked by someone powerful (and his/her inner circle) for reasons best know to their clique. It’s bad politics. You would assume that a President would want an effective Permanent Secretary communicating and delivering government policy to the people. It seems not. Bad politics often has the final say.

Such moves come at tremendous financial cost to the country, the precise amount nicely kept away from us adding to the huge governmental waste we seem to have become accustomed to. But there’s also the cost of pulling back the nation’s development process by failing to give staff enough time to understand the particular issues addressed by their ministries. Will anyone tell the President that his methods don’t make sense and demand that he listens? No, because he’s all-knowing. Wisdom belongs to him alone. At least he can now keep a more watchful eye on the ambitious Mwamba. I’m sure we’re all relieved. That is what will provide nutritious food, and education, and healthcare to every Zambian household today. Let’s get real. Note: Emmanuel Mwamba was sacked from his role as Cabinet Office PS after 1 day.

Passing the buck: We the public do it well

In today’s i newspaper, Dominic Lawson comments on the current UK phone-hacking scandal engulfing Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. In his article, Lawson lists the people and organisations that are being blamed for having allowed this sort of behaviour by News of the World journalists to have ever been tolerated. He mentions the organisation’s Chairman Rupert Murdoch, the Metropolitan Police, the politicians and the “generally useless” Press Complaints Commission.

Lawson asserts that while the bulk of the blame should rest with the mentioned persons – and rightly so – the ‘market’ for such insidious journalism would never have taken root had the public simply not gone out and bought these papers. He writes:

“Newspapers, after all, are very sensitive to the moods and prejudices of their readers. It was because such papers as the News of the World knew that their readers were much more interested in eavesdropping on Prince Charles’ pillow talk than bothered about how the snooping was carried out, that they felt able to get away with publishing such stories.”

I have heard a range of public reactions to this story. On the whole, people are appalled. Very appalled in fact. But the question that springs to mind is this: Are we the public justified in our “outrage” and “shock” with the way these journalists conducted themselves when we have often been the ones feeding this deadly gossip machine?

Identifying a similar pattern of “public self-exculpation”, Lawson references public attitudes to the recent credit crunch episode and the collapse of the housing market. In that situation, the public often blamed the bankers – and rightly so – who lent too much to people with bad or non-existent credit records, the politicians for regulating the banks with insufficient vigilance, the central bankers for keeping interest rates too low during the boom and interestingly the Chinese for saving too much, the surplus of which swept like a tsunami of cheap credit through the Western debtor nations.

But yet again, the question arises: Who was it that benefited from the cheap loans that were later defaulted on, subsequently squeezing liquidity in the global financial system? It was us, the public! Yes, we all accept that financial institutions took foolish and unnecessary risks which they should not have done and governments were often lax in their regulation of these institutions. But when you have bankers hell-bent on making a quick buck merge with a public that seems willing to abdicate responsibility for its actions, that is bound to serve as a recipe for disaster.

Similarly, journalists able to get away with publishing sensationalist stories will stop at nothing to feed the public’s obsession with the gossip and humiliation of (often famous) people; even better when they can make some money from it! The News of the World journalists involved in this scandal stooped so low simply because they had a public feeding out of their palms, eagerly awaiting the next eye-catching story.

Lawson’s article got me thinking about one of my greatest passions, my country Zambia, and how we as Zambians so often place all blame and responsibility for our country’s ills at the feet of our politicians. We somehow expect them to work miracles that will translate into development – human, economic, justice, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, it is right to expect our elected leaders to solemnly carry out their public service obligations; after all that is why we elect them to public office. However our attitude to our nation’s political process is intricately tied up with its success. If we don’t value, and subsequently elect, leaders of vision and integrity and consistently hold them to account once in office, we as a people will have to shoulder some of the blame in years to come. We have to view the sort of political leadership we encourage now in light of the impact it’ll have on future generations. Each person has an essential part to play in bringing about the change we want to see in our country.

So if the problem is poor civic education in the country, what are those that have been educated doing about it? If the problem is corruption in the police service are we simultaneously complaining about the problem whilst being complicit in such behaviour!?

I personally have talked and talked and talked, as many of my countrymen and women have done, but talk is nothing until it translates into action. So what are we actually doing to change this? I have recently been challenged by the need for my words to become action.

Much food for thought. God help us!

This piece was originally written in 2011.