Civil society welcomes the approval of the final first PRSP for Zambia by the World Bank and the IMF. The increasing poverty levels in the country call for immediate action. Civil Society therefore attaches great importance to the 2002 Consultative Group meeting. But the PRSP should not just be a process of resource mobilization for poverty reduction activities, but rather a process for long term development planning to effectively eradicate poverty. Civil Society remains committed and sincere in its partnership with Government, but will continue to speak on behalf of the ‘voiceless poor’ and to critically assess any programmes of poverty reduction.
The formulation of the PRSP in Zambia has largely been consultative, incorporating views from civil society organizations and the people. However, government showed reluctance to include Civil Society in decision making on the PRSP and did not seek consensus with Civil Society on the final PRSP before submission. Civil Society’s participation would also be required in the national budgeting process. The culture of consultation should be extended to other processes, which include among others - Zambia’s participation in NEPAD, Financing for Development, Transitional National Development Plan (TNDP).
For implementing the PRSP, a number of fundamental issues have to be raised:
Civil Society sees education, health, agriculture, and land as key sectors for a successful implementation of the PRSP.
- Government should put in place an effective and proper co-ordination framework for the implementation of PRSP activities.
- It is imperative that government develops facilitative policies that will provide the clarity needed on various government positions (e.g. on the office of the District Administrator).
- Funding of the PRSP, including allocation and effective utilization of these funds, is of utmost importance. Development partners should ensure full and timely funding of the PRSP, especially in core sectors such as Education, Health, HIV/AIDS, water and sanitation, Agriculture etc. Government should also show a strong commitment to a funding of poverty reduction activities from internal resources.
- Civil Society strongly believes that a joint monitoring and evaluation system of the PRSP implementation will be the only way to determine impacts and to continuously improve the process as it is being implemented.
The education and health sectors in Zambia show a significant deterioration in structural set-up and services: The infrastructure is dilapidated, services are cut; there is inadequate staffing and bad working conditions, leading to reduced attendance, poor co-ordination and management. A key element preventing the poor from accessing even poor quality services in education and health has been the “cost sharing” policy. The Zambian people expect that the implementation of the PRSP will lead to an increased access to services for all, especially the poor, and an improved quality of services. For this, appropriate access modalities have to be defined, workers motivated, management improved, equipment provided, and the infrastructure rehabilitated or newly developed.
Priority setting must be based on the most pressing needs of the people. Funding needs require increased and guaranteed allocations to these sectors, combining Government and external efforts. Civil Society will continue to press for, and monitor, the efficiency of the resource utilization. All measures for implementing the PRSP should be properly coordinated according to a strategy that encompasses civil society, government and donors. Participatory monitoring and evaluation of the PRSP activities will help to set priorities, plan and implement the interventions.
In the education sector, donor assistance has been concentrated on basic education. Sectoral concerns of Civil Society include that more attention should be given to all sub-sectors of the education system. In health, emphasis is to be placed on basic health care, rather than on specialized programmes.
The performance of the agricultural sector in the last decade has been quite poor. Detrimental agricultural policies have lead to a decrease in food production which has caused a worsening of rural poverty, hunger and food insecurity. Key constraints to effective development of agriculture in Zambia are a lack of access to farm inputs, agricultural credit, markets, extension advice, an effective farmer organization, and poor infrastructure. As a matter of urgency, agricultural production has to be improved by focusing on food security and diversification, agricultural finance and investment, agro-business and market development, agricultural research and extension, and natural resources management
After 10 years of futile liberalization, Zambia may need to pursue a different route in agriculture. Civil society calls upon the government and the donor community to develop a reform policy framework that includes the reintroduction of subsidies in agricultural production and in which Government plays a key role in regulating the sector. In terms of priorities, efforts should focus on the potentials and needs of the majority of medium and small-scale farmers. Coordination of agriculture support programmes and services is vital, leading to effective management, utilization of resources and proper monitoring. Funding levels to agriculture in the form of well-administered grants should be increased, especially for programmes aimed at improving food production and the small and medium-scaled farming sector.
Poverty reduction in Zambia cannot be achieved without addressing the issue of land. This has not adequately been done so far. The PRSP does not explicitly oblige Government to involve wider civil society in the indispensable review of the 1995 Lands Act. Civil Society urges the Government to review both, the Land Policy and the Lands Act by involving a wide representation of traditional leaders, communities, NGOs, the church, etc.
In order to avoid repeating past mistakes, implementation of the PRSP needs to fully prepare for current and future responsibilities. The core PRSP activities demand instant implementation in an open, transparent and truly participatory manner.