Of subsidies

The decision by Parliament to reject the reinstatement of subsidies did not come as a surprise. That was to be expected given the composition of the House which is now heavily skewed towards the ruling party by dint of by elections and poaching of opposition members.

The shift in numbers is a matter that is a cause of worry at clearly shows that Parliament is slowly but steadily being turned into a rubber institution dominated by the ruling party.

The debate however still served its intended purpose, namely to clear away the propaganda and misinformation that accompanied Government decision to remove so called subsidies from fuel and mealie meal.

Two distinct were made by the debate. Firstly that the issue of a fuel subsidy was a pure myth, that in fact Zambians were subsidizing Government in its “strange” decision to procure expensive oil and secondly that the poor were the hapless victims of the inflationary economy that has been triggered by the increase in fuel prices.

Secondly and most importantly the de bate raised the issue of public policy enunciation and implementation in a multi party democracy. There was a clear demonstration that Government employed a very faulty  decision making process which did not take account of the widest range of social, economic and political factors.

 The penchant by Government for unilateral decision making devoid of the widest possible range of consultation, was exposed. This resulted in deleterious decisions which have impacted negatively on the poor of the poorest in our society.

One of the most important points made by the mover of the motion Solwezi Central MP Lucky Mulusa was the fact that the Patriotic Front scored 40 percent of the vote in the last General elections, because the majority of the Zambian people- 60 percent voted for other parties.

This fact he said meant that the Government could not afford a cavalier approach which showed little regard for consultation.The concept of majoritarianism is not a recipe for exclusionism.

 Modern democratic governments, it has been observed, although elected by popular suffrage on the basis of rule by the majority is a misnomer because very often Governments in office are the result of coalitions or indeed simple majority arising from a fractured polity as the case in Zambia.

The principle of one past the post is a scheme we have embraced as a nation, but is not the sole and only method of electing leadership. Other modes exists including proportional representation which try to approximate the voting population

 Political scientists have noted: Once an election is over it is assumed that the party obtaining the majority of support will govern. Of course the essence of liberal democracy does not stop there. There are in place numerous institutional and systemic checks and balances to ensure that the government does not get too drunk with power.

There was need, therefore for continued consultation to ensure that the widest possible diversity was encompassed before the enunciation and subsequent implementation of public policy decision.

This demands that consultation on such important national matter as the removal of subsidies should be conducted with the widest range of actors and interested parties.