Observations: The need for a smart Zambian State

By Barbrah Musamba Chama Mumba

Countries that seek development through investment strive to be smart in the way they attract and retain investors. Thus, the essence of a smart government is to attract and retain investment from both locals and those from the outside world.

Zambia is endowed with an array of natural resources which include vast arable land, precious and semi-precious minerals, and a good rainfall pattern suited for agriculture.

The country should not only be used to extract these resources by foreign investors but also that these resources should be churned into finished products locally.

Investors that come in to extract these resources should spend their monies on other services that the country should offer. This can only be done if we create a smart state.

But what does a smart state entail?

In my understanding, it involves provision of attractive incentives, laws, rules and regulations including institutions that create, facilitate and regulate economic activities within a specific territorial and jurisdictional boundary, so as that people are attracted to the country and would want to live in that country forever.

The attractiveness of the country would justify the pull and retention of capital and skilled labour, which in turn facilitates growth and sustains development for a long period.

Once people and capital investment has been attracted to a particular country on marginal profit basis, logically, it would be a disincentive for those investors to seek alternatives elsewhere because of the attractiveness that a given country offers.

Ironically, it will be beneficial for the government to tax investors that are flourishing so much that transfer payments for example; social safety nets will have a solid financial base.

However, easy as it may sound, most developing and undeveloped countries have smart goals for development but fail short of the political will to do pursue them.

Instead, politicians tend to be so short sighted when it comes to the bigger economic picture and the achievement of long-term goals.

Zambia is no exception to these shortcomings but there is a way out of this trap.
In order to accelerate development, Zambia needs to have a functional State with well-equipped professionals.

It also needs to pay allegiance to its people and not to any individual.
This can be made possible by upholding the constitution of the land, which is the supreme law.

Furthermore, patriotism should be to the core of all Zambians regardless of status in society, colour, race or tribe. By being patriotic every citizen has the duty to defend the country from any mischief regardless of political affiliation.

Now I will look at some critical areas that could help attract investment so that sustained development can happen for the country.

Government institutional arrangement; With regards to the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature, the three organs of the state, there is need for the recognition of the separation of powers among these institutions to secure accountability.

Every person or entity should not feel marginalised because they do not have any links to the people in authority.

This can only be achieved if there is a true sense of separation of powers and that once aggrieved, the person will be assured of a fair resolution to his or her problem.

However, I will look at specific structures that fall under the three arms of government and how their capacity can facilitate or hinder investment.

Educational Institutions.

In order to achieve a smart state the government should strive at uplifting the standard of education from early child learning up to university.

Our schools should be well equipped not only in terms of modern teaching materials but also qualified and motivated teachers.

Thus, a combination of these among others ensures that what comes out from schools is a product that is well educated and ready to manage the economy.

Today’s quality of pupils and students can be described as half-baked because there are cases where a grade twelve pupil cannot spell or write properly.

The same happens in higher institutions where some students fail to articulate issues because most of the colleges including our main universities do not have adequate equipment and books.

Such an educational environment produces human resource incapable of running national affairs in a manner that attracts investors.

A good education system attracts students from abroad and also it is one thing that most parents look for in order to live in a country.

Most Zambians who live abroad do so as a result of the bad education facilities that Zambia has among other things.

The government should not only concentrate in building new schools but also provide equipment, books and a good learning environment in the existing schools.

Most old schools are so dilapidated with no desks and crumbling boards and walls thereby inhibiting children’s right to good education.

Health

The next criterion of a smart country is provision of good health services. Existing hospitals should not be conveyor belts to the mortuary but should provide for healing for those that are ill or seek medication attention.

Quality health service provision provides a base for competent labour and also attracts people to live and invest therein.

Security

Every person in Zambia should feel protected by the police and other security wings of the country. The police should be there to protect people’s lives and property and not for political expediency of those in authority.

They should be there to protect the law and those that break it should be brought to book regardless of their political affiliation. Zambia as a state should be the bedrock of their duties.

Finance

Zambia should adopt financial policies that help with attracting investment and business expansion.

Financial institutions and banks should be encouraged to give both business and personal loans at very competitive rates in comparison to those that are pertaining to the outside world.

Taxation

Ironically, most businesses and individuals look at the best taxing systems offered by different countries.

Very attractive rates for corporation tax should be cornerstone for attracting foreign investment.

Political and electoral institutions

Politics should be seen as a duty call to serve the nation and the people of Zambia other than to settle scores or self-aggrandisement to politicians.

Politicians should be elected so that they manage the resources of the nation to the equal benefit of every citizen.

The Law

The rule of law should be applicable in the real sense that no one is above the law, not even the head of state and the police who are law enforcers.

Infrastructure Development

Above all, good infrastructure needs to be constantly developed and maintained. These include roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports and housing.

A clean and constant water supply is very cardinal in the retention of people and investors to the country. This would also include a good electricity supply.

The councils should be functional and provide for various services that they are expected to offer.

Conclusion

The combination and the adoption of these factors help in attracting skilled labour and foreign investment to the country.

The whole essence of a smart state is attracting and retaining skilled labour and capital by offering a quality of life that embodies an assurance to safety of people’s lives and property.