The Minister of Finance and National Planning, Honorable Emmanuel Kasonde officially opened the conference. In his statement, the Hon. Minister of Finance and National Planning:
The Hon Minister, further:
- Expressed his sincere thanks to the Freidrich Ebert Stiftung for organizing this international conference on the theme ‘‘poverty reduction strategy-a new imposed conditionality or a chance for a meaningful development policy?’.
- Observed that the timing of the conference was most appropriate in view of the recent decision jointly taken by the executive boards of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to endorse Zambia’s poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP).
- Noted that the conference grew out of the necessity to improve general understanding of the extent to which parliaments working closely with civil society organizations can cooperate with governments and concerned bilateral and multilateral donors in realizing effective and broad based public participation in the formulation and implementation of ‘pro-poor’ development policies.
- Declared that the new deal government enthusiastically welcomed this initiative because the government believed that members of parliament and civil society organizations have a pivotal role in terms of mobilizing their constituents to fully participate in poverty reduction programmes.
- Further noted, that the ‘New Deal’ government is inclined to the view that the synergies that can be unleashed as a result of government, parliamentarians and civil society working together can significantly enhance the successful realization of the ‘poverty free’ vision enunciated in Zambia’s PRSP.
In providing a holistic overview of Zambia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) covering the 2002-2004 period, the Hon. Minister highlighted the following salient points:
- Observed that the Zambian people and their government considered the repositioning of poverty reduction at the center stage of the international development community’s agenda as a very auspicious development.
- Pointed out that the re-emergence of this focus following nearly two decades characterized by the preoccupation with stabilization and adjustment signaled the emergence of a sobering realization that in spite of the reasonable level of growth during several years in Zambia in the context of stabilization and structural reform initiatives, poverty still remained a formidable challenge.
- Noted that what was even more disconcerting was the realization that the depth of poverty and its severity as measured by the ‘mean poverty gap’ was fast worsening as the majority of Zambia’s citizens continued to consume less than $1 a day. our statistics reveal that the poverty level in the country is averaging 73 percent while the rural regions’ average is above 80 percent.
- Solemnly observed that under such conditions, poverty could slowly jeopardize the sustainability of all the country’s major post-independence accomplishments in the realm of sustainable human development.
In concluding his opening statement, the Hon. Minister:
- Firstly, the country recognizes that economic growth constitutes an important element in poverty reduction and, consequently, a very high premium is being placed on growth-stimulating interventions.
- Secondly and in similar vein, the new deal government recognizes that redistributive policies are critically important in reducing poverty and that growthand equity are not necessarily conflictive. As a country, Zambia maintains that there is no intrinsic trade-off between long run aggregate efficiency and overall equity and, hence, the country’s resolve to approach poverty reduction through the ‘broad-based growth’ approach.
- Thirdly, Zambia maintains that the necessary linkages between growth and poverty reduction can be developed in a sustainable way but only through an approach that allows everyone to equitably share the benefits of sustained growth. Although, under the right circumstances, sustained growth does often result in poverty reduction, rising inequality may trigger adverse impacts and it is in this regard that the role of social safety nets is considered to be an important component in the PRSP.
- Fourthly, a differential approach to poverty reduction would be applied depending on the location characteristics of the poor. For rural dwellers, the emphasis on agriculture recognizes both the fact that the majority of the poor in Zambia live in these locations and that their main preoccupation is agrarian. With respect to the urban poor, support for the informal sector seems logical since it is here where the grassroots’ efforts to cushion against declines in real incomes find expression. For both the rural and urban areas, the improvement of infrastructure is a strategic necessity for better market integration and productive efficiency and this is receiving priority attention in the PRSP.
- Fifthly long periods of neglect in infrastructure maintenance due to, inter alia, the curtailment of development budgets in the interest of attaining fiscal balances has resulted in a regrettable and serious deterioration of transport networks. The major transport arteries that connect the countryside to the market had therefore been focused upon in the PRSP so as to ensure basic minimum connectivity for moving the poor people’s income-yielding commodities over long distances.
- Urged all participants to take advantage of the conference to engage in a candid and constructive debate regarding the challenge of poverty reduction in Africa.
- Advised all stakeholders to correct governments in the event of policy failures as well as commending governments in the event of policy successes detected, and to eschew the persistent tendency to loudly censure governments when policy implementation falls short of desired outcomes and to keep quiet when government policies are fruitfully realized.
- Challenged the conference to generate concrete and realizable policy recommendations that would facilitate the delivery of tangible and measurable benefits to the poor, who in the ultimate analysis are the intended beneficiaries of poverty reduction programmes.