AT A time when the country had been subjected to all manner of propaganda regarding the country’s debt with China, citizens needed answers from President Edgar Lungu’s address to Parliament yesterday.
The address was so important because it also points to what citizens expect in the budget speech by the minister of Finance.
The President rose to the occasion because his speech covered most of the issues citizens had wanted to hear.
In his speech during the official opening of the third session of the 12th National Assembly yesterday, President Lungu gave the national insights into what minister of Finance Margaret Mwanakatwe will next month present in the 2019 national budget.
President Lungu hinted yesterday the budget will build on policies as outlined in the economic stabilisation growth programme and the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP).
President Lungu’s address, whose theme was ‘working together to achieve Vision 2030,’ builds on his Government’s commitment to make Zambia a prosperous nation.
The theme is also an affirmation of our abiding belief that Zambia, Africa and the world at large can be better places for all of their citizens if they work towards achieving common goals.
The theme is also in sync with Government’s development agenda through the 7NDP, which is our roadmap to actualising the Vision 2030 of becoming a prosperous middle-income country.
President Lungu said the choice of this year’s theme bears further testimony to our commitment to the African Union agenda 2063 for the attainment of the Africa we want.
“The theme also resonates well with the aspirations of the United Nations sustainable development goals, the debt stock and domestic arrears of the country have, in the recent past, been topical. It should, however, be emphasised that the contraction of this debt was necessary to support our ambitious agenda of laying a solid foundation for the future growth of our economy. For our people, this is being appreciated through roads, schools and hospitals being constructed, which are critical to their well-being,” President Lungu said.
He assured the nation that his Government is committed to ensuring a speedy return to low risk of debt distress and maintaining the debt within sustainable levels.
“Our vision as a country is to become a prosperous middle-income nation by 2030. We aspire to build a strong and dynamic industrial nation that provides opportunities for improving the well-being of all our people and embodies values of socio-economic justice,” President Lungu said.
He said Government wants to see a Zambia where every citizen has access to safe clean water, food, decent housing, electricity, quality education and health services and decent jobs by 2030.
However, the most eagerly awaited statement was on China in view of the country’s debt to that country.
Social media has been awash with stories about how China will eventually colonise Zambia if the country fails to honour its debt obligation.
The President was on top of things in his response, which has inevitably calmed most citizens’ concerns.
“In pursuit of this vision, we need to transform into a smart Zambia. As an independent state, Zambia creates and keeps cordial relationships with its friends in the broader international community of nations. These relationships are based on mutual bilateral and multi-lateral considerations informed by common goals of making better the lives of our people. In this regard, our right to choose our friendship with one nation is not dependent on making enemies with others,” President Lungu said.
He reiterated that Zambia shall choose her friends on her own terms and that does not mean appeasing anyone with unjustified enmity with others.
“Our friendship with China is mutual, and no amount of reckless propaganda will deter us from entrenching this relationship for the common good of our people. We are proud of our friendship with China, Europe, America and India. We are proud of our friendships within AU (African Union), SADC (Southern African Development Community), COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), and with other individual countries,” President Lungu said.
He implored countrymen and women to ignore the misleading headlines that seek to malign Zambia’s relationship with China by mischaracterising the economic cooperation to mean colonialism.
“China does not have that record; neither does it seek a horse and rider relationship with Zambia,” he said.
President Lungu stated that Zambia is a fully conscious nation, alive to the fact that she needs to uplift the plight of her people with transparent strategic communications.
“I want to emphasise that all forms of bilateral cooperation with China are, and will always be, informed by this noble focus on the need to build a supporting infrastructure to enable our people to build sound and sustainable livelihoods,” he said.
When the President had finished delivering his speech, it was clear that he had addressed people’s expectations – China, debt and state of the economy. He also called for togetherness.