Government hails CUTS participation in Zambia’s trade policy agenda

Government says civil society remains an active participant in trade policy formulation and implementation by providing input using the existing public private dialogue structures, undertaking relevant and informative policy research and bringing new perspectives to Zambia’s policy discourse.

Deputy Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Hon Richwell Siamunene said this at the Better Exploration of Trade as a Means for Poverty Reduction (BETAMPOR) project closing meeting hosted by CUTS International Lusaka at Protea Hotel in Lusaka on Friday, 27th September, 2013.

Hon Siamunene said that the government is eager to partner with stakeholders that are serious to foster the country’s trade agenda as he commended CUTS International Lusaka for undertaking the BETAMPOR project and bringing it to a close. The BETAMPOR project was aimed at raising awareness and fostering ownership of Aid for Trade initiatives by bringing trade policy discussions to grassroots producers. Hon Siamunene also officially launched an advance copy of a CUTS research report called “Assessing the Extent of Trade Mainstreaming in Zambia’s Development Agenda.”

And newly appointed CUTS International Board Chairman, Mike Muleba said trade was presently being incorporated in the development agenda of many nations and has been identified as a means of addressing development challenges facing private sector, creation of employment, and addressing poverty. He said transportation infrastructure, border management, storage facilities, administrative bottlenecks and non tariff barriers are some of the various issues that require immediate attention if Zambia is to boost its trade performance in the region and the rest of the shrinking global village.

Meanwhile former Bank of Zambia Governor, Dr Caleb Fundanga said trade was the engine of growth. “Even historically, the most successful nations have been those that were able to export more goods to the rest of the world. Good domestic trade policies can assist a country to succeed in the international market, “he said.

Dr Fundanga further said that what he found particularly positive about BETAMPOR project was the approach of taking trade issues to the grassroots as it was at the bottom of the pyramid that trade has the most everlasting impact.

And former Zambian ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Love Mtesa indicated that having been actively engaged with CUTS since the inception of the BETAMPOR project, he was pleased to see the initiative come to a successful conclusion.

Echoing these sentiments, Finnish Embassy Counsellor, Private Sector Development, Ville Luukkanen said that he was pleased to see the BETAMPOR project up to its completion hoped that similar partnerships would sprout to foster private sector development.

“Zambia needs to make consequential but important decisions to advance its economic agenda and improve the incomes and quality of life in the country. We need to have a resilient Zambia which should have effective macroeconomic policy frameworks, good administrations, and strong institutions capable of withstanding challenges. Secondly, we also need to see a competitive Zambia which enables its firms to reach technological frontiers in key sectors and industries and to create efficient markets, based on sound regulatory frameworks, policies, and governance systems, “he said.

During the deliberations at the meeting, World Bank Lead Economist Praveen Kumar expressed delight in the initiative that CUTS had come up with. He stated that the new CUTS report on trade mainstreaming must be rooted on what should be done with emphasis on the practical day to day trade implementation issues at institutional level. He highlighted some of the weaknesses of the planning process and policy implementation.

Mr Kumar further stated that Zambia has abundant foreign exchange which can be utilized in meeting market demand. He was also concerned with cost of services in Zambia as compared to other countries stating that this cost had a huge effect on the private sector and made Zambia an uncompetitive environment.

Private Sector Development Association Chairperson Yusuf Dodia said trade existed in the country however the challenge was on how to use it. He said the private sector and civil society were important in the trade agenda in that the CSOs carried the voice of prices, choices, quality and feedback while the private sector has the role of implementation of trade mechanisms.

He stressed the importance of a dialogue approach to trade policy formulation in which open discussions with private sector and civil society would then feed into trade policies and programmes. He said that power lies in collective discussions allowing various stakeholders to effectively engage in the process.

And speaking on unpacking the state and role of private sector and civil society in trade policy making and implementation, National Implementation Unit (NIU) National Trade Expert for the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), Kelvin Kamayoyo said that in efforts to strengthen national priorities in the trade agenda the Government functional coordination structures such as the Private Sector Development Reform Programme (PSDRP) Steering Committee, the Sectoral Advisory Groups (SAG) and the EIF National Steering Committee. Mr Kamayoyo said that there was limited appreciation of state and non state actors on trade policy issues thereby making the task of trade mainstreaming a challenge.

The BETAMPOR project closing meeting which was aimed at promoting better understanding of the role of trade in development and state of trade mainstreaming in Zambia; accounting for the political economy aspects of trade policy making process in Zambia and reviewing CUTS International Lusaka’s Interventions on Trade from the inception of support from the Finnish Embassy to date also highlighted how the BETAMPOR project endeavored to increase awareness and ownership of aid for trade and the EIF process in Zambia.