Let's Emulate France
LUSAKA, Nov. 5 - Many things have changed in the world and it will be no longer possible for Zambia, or indeed any other country in the world, to run its economy as if we are still in the 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s.
We need to open up our economy in all sorts of ways, and attract the maximum possible engagement with other economies in the world. But in all this, maximum benefits should be obtained for the Zambian people and not for anyone else including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
As French Ambassador to Zambia Jean-Paul Monchau has correctly advised, the Zambian government in all its economic reform activities should not try to champion the interests of the IMF and the World Bank but that of the Zambian people. And in our efforts to develop our country, we should avoid dogmas. Everything we do should be put on the judgment seat of reason.
As we have already stated, there is no country in this world that can solve all its problems by itself and as such, there is need for engagement with others. But this has to be done prudently.
If France, an advanced and powerful nation, still has parastatals, still hasn't privatised everything, it should make us think twice as we attempt to get rid of our country's remaining few parastatals. France only started privatisation in the 1980s and they are still privatising. And their economy is doing well. It should be noted here that we are talking about one of Europe's most powerful economies and a country whose economy is graded among the world's top seven.
China is another example of a nation that is thriving yet it has not taken the neo-liberal path. It is ranked as the fastest growing economy in the world. It is attracting massive amounts of Foreign Direct Investments under joint ventures and other arrangements with foreign enterprises. China is indeed a great example that privatisation is not necessarily sine qua non - an essential requirement or without which not - for successful economic performance. The story is not different with Vietnam.
A compelling and contrasting example may again be given of China and Russia as observed by one of the then World Bank's own, Joseph Stiglitz, in More Instrument and Broader Goals: Moving towards the Post-Washington Consensus.
Stiglitz states : "China extended its scope of competition without privatising state-owned enterprises... Chinese policy makers not only eschewed a strategy of outright privatisation, they also failed to incorporate numerous other elements of the orthodox Washington Consensus."
Stiglitz a former World Bank vice-president, further notes that if China's 30 provinces were to be viewed as separate countries between 1978 and 1995, they would account for the 20 fastest growing economies in the world. Russia on the other hand, under the pressure of the Bretton Woods Institutions' strategy of forcing through policies was stampeded into a programme of privatisation without any adequate regulatory environment or competition. Stiglitz observed that Russia's output in 1998 was below the level of a previous decade (of Soviet Union). These are real examples of classical failures of the imposed programmes.
Sadly, the failures don't just end in the statistics collected by the IMF and the World Bank, but translate into the current widespread collapse in social indicators and upsurge in poverty. These are the consequences of reforms being driven by ideology rather than common sense. Why don't we learn something from the successful nations like China and Vietnam, and be rational in our efforts to reform our economy. We have to adopt policies and structures that best secure the interests of our people.
As one continues to delve into the issue of privatisation another issue that keeps coming up is the persistent call by the IMF and the World Bank to sell off the Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZNCB). No one has so far come up with convincing reasons why ZNCB should be privatised. All we have heard is the same shallow and arrogant statements from the IMF and the World Bank trying to justify their demands. The government is hardly speaking on this issue.
If indeed the privatisation of ZNCB is so beneficial to the country, let the arguments be heard, let the issue be put on the judgment seat and debated by trade unions, among others. If the privatisation is truly beneficial to the Zambians, we do not think any Zambian would oppose the sale. But the reality as it stands is that ZNCB is being sold to fulfil part of the neoliberal paradigm that propels the IMF and the World Bank that today dominates our country.
In opposing the sale of ZNCB, we are not being narrow nationalists, actually we are not nationalists but internationalists who love our homeland and who recognise that we have a duty, on behalf of humanity, to look after everything well. Everything that falls within the territory and that includes its inhabitants and environment.
We cannot continue to be cheated by agents of neoliberalism. We sold everything they wanted us to sell and we are still experiencing deepening poverty and job losses. It is time for us to wake up and think out things for ourselves, make decisions for ourselves, of course in the light of our engagement with others in the world.
There is nothing wrong with taking this approach. The French are doing it, the Chinese are doing it. Others are even unleashing unjust wars on other nations just to increase and improve their economic opportunities.
The Post / allAfrica Global Media
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