ZAMBIA needs to set high growth targets- Finnish Envoy

ZAMBIA needs to set high growth targets and introduce structural reforms to improve the incomes and quality of life for its people, a Finish envoy advised yesterday.

Pertti Anttinen,Finish ambassador to Zambia, said the southern African nation would need to make consequential but important decisions to advance its economic agenda through accelerated trade and improve the incomes and quality of its people.

Ambassador Anttinen said this at a Civil Society Organization (CSO) and government policy dialogue meeting on trade facilitation organised by Consumer Unity Trust Society (CUTs) international Zambia in Lusaka.

“We need a resilient Zambia which should have effective macroeconomic policy frameworks, good administrations and strong institutions capable of withstanding challenges,” ambassador Anttinen said.

“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 effective markets, based on sound regulatory frameworks, policies and governance systems.”

Ambassador Anttinen advised Zambia to take a leaf from advanced nations like China, India, Korea and Finland which have made tremendous improvements in their social conditions since the early 1990s by simply setting ambitious growth targets and introducing structural reforms.

Finance minister Alexander Chikwanda in May last year said the government would target annual economic growth of eight percent over the next five years and aim to stabilise inflation around five percent in the medium term, Chikwanda said the combination of high growth and low inflation was needed to cut poverty that he said stood at 60 percent in urban areas and 80 percent in the countryside.

“…in this context, measures for trade facilitation are of utmost important if Zambia was to improve its competitiveness through private sector development, said ambassador Anttinen.

Speaking at the same event, commerce deputy minister Richard Taima noted export diversification, border controls, infrastructure inadequacies and non-tariff barriers remain major challenges for Zambia in her quest for more vigorous trade performance.

Tiama said the government was however making efforts aimed at improving the performance of the trade sector by developing and improving both and hard trade related infrastructure.

He cited the one-stop boarder posts, the link-Zambia 8000 project as some of the programmes the government was implementing to improve trade.

Dr Francis Mangani, director of trade customs and monetary affairs at Comesa, said focusing on lifting non-tariff barriers would be an appreciate long term measure to facilitate trade.

Dr Mangani said the future for Comesa member countries and Africa generally was bright hence the need to address trade constraints.

He said by 2050, Africa’s economic growth would increase to US $29 trillion- equal to US and EUs’ economic growth.

Hillary Kumwenda, a trade and investment promotions officer at the ministry of commerce, trade and industry, called for harmonized border formalities to forester intra and bilateral trade among African states to assist achieve the envisioned GDP growth for the continent.

And ambassador Love Mtesa, CUTS international Zambia board chairperson, said Zambia would have to urgently address border management, storage facilities and transportation infrastructure challenges to improve its trade volumes which have been increasing over the years.

Ambassador Mtesa further called for the diversification of the country’s export portfolio. Central Statics Office (CSO) data show that in 2011, Zambia exported goods and services worth US5.2 billion of which US $4.1 billion came from copper.

The Zambia Association of Manufacturers (ZAM) said there was need fora vibrant manufacturing sector for the country to remain a vibrant trade partner.

Nair Sajeer, a ZAM member said, “a health local manufacturing industry is a backbone for the private sector accessing domestic and regional market.”

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