Flirting with utopia

We are right back to the past, to the infamous 1972 economic reforms where strong Government in defence of the poor and exploited masses stands up against the exploitative, blood sucking capitalist roaders.

These were the good old days when Government was truly Government.  Exploiters could be told off and their businesses expropriated without compensation.

Those were the days when Government kicked out underpaying private investors and replaced them with  a new cadre of Zambian managers who introduced better wages and a more laid back management style that took account of all workers concerns and interests.

Old timers remember the days of Zimco, that edifice of perks and first class travel on national Airline Zambia Airways.

Short on efficiency and delivery our utopia collapsed to a devastating screech.

  Between 1972 and early 1980’s the country went on its knees economically.  By 1990 the government was paying US$1 million a day to maintain the mines. Millions more were paid to sustain loss making parastatal. This did not help as shortages become the order of the day.

  The situation was so bad that in the run up to the 1991 elections Zambians cried for pain. They were ready for any amount of pain to change the system and bring back sanity, an so it came to pass that regime change occurred.

Sadly many young people have no idea or conception of Zambia without Coca Cola, a Zambia without bathing soap. To many this is a myth.

They do not believe that it took years of strenuous work and repair to bring back the economy to where it is today.

The truth is that we are back to where we were soon after independence, warts and all.  That there are shortcomings is inevitable.  Every human system has shortcomings which must be addressed.  That is why it is disheartening that government has moved very quickly to prescribe and enforce measures on the private sector starting last year with the imposition of a minimum wage and this year with measures against the mining industry.

By its very nature the government has power and persuasive authority to impose itself on the private sector.  The truth however is that the government needs the private sector such as the private sector needs the government.  Each has a special role to play in the economy and only levelheaded dialogue based on facts and scientific analysis should he allowed to impinge on this very delicate relationship.

There has always been a tripartite body made up of government employers and the union that has served this country well by discussing serious and contentious social economic and labour issues away from the glare of the media.  This is what this country needs today, level headed dialogue that will promote a studious examination of facts to arrive at practical feasible and mutually beneficial solutions.

The current media pandering will neither help the government nor private sector in establishing the confidence that must underpin any viable and mature economy.

It is a common understanding that government has a duty to provide an enabling environment but this does not include running businesses.  The government does not have the capacity, temperament nor indeed organization structure that will deal with intricate and often delicate decisions that must be made by a business concern.

Our appeal to the government therefore is for more restraint on provocative statements and more quiet dialogue on those matters that require cooperative action.

The social and political accountability government has to the people must be tempered against the business expectation of those who put billions of dollars into our economy in the hope of making a profit.  There is no need for the two principles to compete as they can exist mutually.  That is why a stable attractive environment in which employees are happy just as the investors are happy than in an atmosphere fraught with threats, labour unrests and uncertainty.