State to review Zesco, Zamtel, Zambia Railways and other SOEs

GOVERNMENT will review state owned enterprises in order to improve their performance and contribution to the treasury. The State has since directed the Industrial Development Corporation to conduct a situational analysis of all the SOEs under its portfolio with a view to recapitalise successful businesses while hiving off ones that are no longer viable. Delivering the 2017 national budget address to Parliament yesterday, Finance Minister Felix Mutati said Zesco, Zamtel, Zambia National Building Society, Indeni, TAZAMA Pipeline, Zambia Railways, and Zambia State Insurance Corporation would be under review in 2017. Highlighting agriculture-specific policies in the budget, Mr Mutati said the State would promote agricultural diversification to cash crops such as cotton, cashew nuts, soya beans, cassava and rice.

He further explained that it would be done through the full migration to the e-voucher system. “The e-voucher system will be used for all beneficiaries under the Farmer Support Input Programme in the 2017-2018 farming season. In addition, the e-voucher system will help reduce excessive overheads and wastage associated with the current FISP arrangement,” Mr Mutati said.

He said the e-voucher system would ensure prudent use of the resources in line with the economic recovery programme. “Mr Speaker, in order to further diversify the agriculture sector, we have launched the Cashew Nut Infrastructure Support Programme, valued at US$55.4 million. The project will target 600, 000 beneficiaries in Western province. “These will include 300, 000 women and 100, 000 youths,” Mr Mutati said. He said in order to bridge the funding gap for emerging farmers, Government would create a Fund under the Emergent Farmer Support Programme to support 1,000 emergent farmers. Mr Mutati said Government had secured US$40 million from its co-operating partners for lending to small holder farmers to promote mechanism of crop production system.

“Mr Speaker, to mitigate the effects of climate change, Government will continue with the construction of multi-purpose dams and promotions of irrigation schemes,” he said. “In 2017, Government will set up the sustainable utilisation of wetland. In addition, irrigation projects will be undertaken using the Public Private Partnership model, particularly in farm blocks,” he said. Mr Mutati said extension services were a critical component of the agriculture sector, adding that Government would utilise ICT to improve the delivery of extension services to farmers. He said policy consistency was important in the agriculture sector as it facilitated stability and predictable access to wider markets.

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