Constitution and Poverty trap

There is a direct relationship between bad governance and poverty.

At independence, as rightly pointed out by the Minister of Finance Mr. Alexander Chikwanda, Zambia was economically at par or even better than most of the Asian Tigers.

Along the way we veered off into an authoritarian mode which marginalized individual enterprise and glorified state enterprise and control.

Instead of ameliorating absolute poverty under which most the people lived, the governance system assumed a life of its own insular and distant from the economic aspirations of the ordinary people.

Progressively more people found themselves living in absolute poverty and very soon disenchantment led to the 1991 revolution that saw UNIP voted out of office.

UNIP managed to override all common sense economic fundamentals and controls because the constitution created an inscrutable leadership that was beyond question, accountability and answerability.

There is no question that good governance and effective administration are absolutely vital to any poverty reduction campaign. Democracy, rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms are cardinal to the creation of an atmosphere that will support economic and social development.

These characteristics can only be respected in a country where the constitution recognized the value, importance and centrality of democratic imperatives.

Zambians are worried that we are going back to the age of strong leaders who totally dominate the governance systems. They dictate the nature of development and the disbursement of resources.

This has become evident as Government has launched massive infrastructure projects which have little bearing on the task at hand, namely to ameliorate absolute poverty. If anything the projects are financed by borrowed money thereby leaving the burden to pay to future generations.

The decision making process has shifted from central planning to State House determination, a factor that has caused the Catholic Bishops of Zambia to raise caution demanding that there must be more consultation in the decision making process.

The Bishops want the concerns and aspirations of the ordinary people dealt with. These include such concerns as improving access to sustainable livelihoods, entrepreneurial opportunities and productive resources.

There is no doubt that both rural and urban societies are in dire need of basic social services that will support them in their quest for economic development and empowerment.

This means that instead of taking money away from subsidizing and cushioning the poor, more money is devoted to projects and programmes that empower and enable access to resources.

The Government has a duty to identify and deal with poverty at all levels of society.

These demand very specific and specialized programmes that recognize the potential society provides.

For example it is common knowledge that poverty can only be eliminated by empowering the poor especially the women who are more prone to fall into poverty and yet have the tremendous potential of turning around their fortunes.

Instead of mega projects the poor must be assisted to engage in productive employment or indeed engagement, which is not possible if they do not have the necessary capital.

It is indeed morally reprehensible that poverty manifests itself within the capital city of Lusaka with malnutrition admission in the university Teaching Hospital at their highest.